How many of these toxic habits are you stuck in?
We all want to live happy, carefree lives. Every single one of us. Right? I mean, I sure do! I want to know that I’m doing every possible thing that I can to live my best, most joy-filled life. It’s a major goal of mine, for obvious reasons.
So what if I told you that I sabotage myself and muddy up this simple, awesome goal every damn day?
You see, I wake up every morning to a fresh new day, full of opportunities to experience joy in all its fullness. Sure, there are less-than-ideal circumstances hanging over me a lot of the time, but I’m really working on seeking out that inner happiness despite a lot of the circumstances that have the potential to bring me down.
My circumstances aren’t the main problem. My habits are.
I’m far from perfect. I’ve got some bad habits. I bite my nails. I shout at my kids sometimes. I buy too many takeaway coffees. I eat my kids’ leftovers.
(Not the chewed up bits. Just the clean pieces they leave on their little plastic Ikea plates. Don’t look at me like that.)
I recognise these bad habits for what they are. But if I dig a little deeper, I realise that actually, I’m just scratching the surface here. I have boatloads of bad habits. Bad habits that are so ingrained in me that I don’t see them for what they are. Bad habits that are working against me and stealing my joy.
Toxic habits are sneaky, because they often manifest as personality traits.
And personality traits don’t feel all that changeable, do they? However, once you bring those joy-stealing habits into the light and see them for what they are, of course you can work on changing them. Even the ones that feel ingrained in your personality.
Because the more you can acknowledge them, and work on them, the less power they hold. And each joy-stealing habit that you diminish leaves room for joy to start seeping in.
I’m not going to lie – it takes work to a) beat these habits, and b) keep yourself from slipping back into them. But you CAN do it! The peace and simple happiness that will come from beating these habits will be well worth the work.
So what are toxic habits?
Honestly, they could be anything! It’s important to do a bit of soul searching and work out what repetitive attitudes and behaviours are holding you back in life. But here are some of the most common ones…
Sure, it feels somewhat satisfying to open your mouth and have a whinge. But here’s the truth about complaing: It’s unproductive. It’s habitual. It’s boring. It’s a waste of energy. It taints the way people see us. It’s a choice (yes, a choice!) to focus on a negative that is often outside of our control. And it perpetuates negative feelings, rather than providing relief from them.
The more you complain about something, the more stuck you get. When something bothers you, change the way you respond to it. Move on. Quit empowering it. Claim back your joy!
We all know that procrastination is a thief of productivity (I mean duh), but have you considered that in turn, it’s also a thief of joy? When you’re supposed to be achieving something, but you’re not, that thing hangs over you like a dismal little grey cloud. Procrastination is easy to engage in, but does it feel good? Heck no! Never!
3. Making Excuses
Excuses are a defensive mechanism; a way to save face when something goes wrong or we fall short. Whether we’re making excuses to others or to ourselves, the result is the same – we’re avoiding blame. We’re giving ourselves permission to under-perform, to low-ball the expectations placed on us. Which ultimately low-balls our worth.
So quit making excuses, and push yourself to do that little bit better next time.
4. Holding Grudges
When someone does the wrong thing, it can taint our opinion of them forever. And you know what? There is nothing wrong with keeping a toxic person at bay, or deleting them from your life entirely. Often it’s the healthiest thing you can do for yourself.
But you can do this without holding a grudge. Get all Taylor Swift on ’em, and simply forget that they existed. Count them as a lesson learned. But don’t allow yourself to harbour heavy negative feelings against them for the rest of your life – that will hurt your soul. Because spoiler alert: that grudge only hangs over your head, not theirs.
5. People Pleasing
If everything you do serves to please someone else, and not you, babe – you could be a people pleaser. Like you almost definitely are. And it’s not as noble as you think. Because over time, your people-pleasing ways will feel less like you going out of your way for others, and more like you’re a grubby old doormat that everyone walks all over. So then the resentment sets in. And doing something for others with a resentful heart isn’t doing anyone any favours – not you, not them.
The healthiest thing you can do for everyone is to put up boundaries. This way, when you’re doing something for someone, it’s on your terms. No resentment required.
6. Chasing The Wrong Highs
We all want that quick-fix to help ourselves feel good. And those little quick-fixes do feel good… for a little while. But if we keep turning to them as our only consistent way to find happiness, we actually end up pretty empty.
The retail high. The mellow-ness you get from drinking a bottle of wine in the evening. The delicious satisfaction of stuffing your face with a bucket of fried chicken. The ego-boost of flirting with someone when you have zero intentions of taking it any further. These things feel good at the time, but the only way to harness those good feelings is to keep repeating them, over and over. Thus creating a cycle. You will never achieve a lasting inner joy by being stuck in such a cycle. Instead, you will create a situation in which you feel like you need that behaviour in order to feel good, which is a scary place to get to.
Ooooo, I know this is a hard habit to break. I know it is. Worry feels natural. But it’s an indulgence. Allowing yourself to worry constantly means that you’re allowing yourself to wallow in an unproductive thought process. Worry doesn’t change the outcome of a situation. It wastes your time, your brain space, and your emotions.
When I feel worry begin to creep in, I combat it by writing my worries down. It feels smaller when it’s written down, and it buys me back some headspace almost instantly. Then I force myself to focus on something else instead. And not just in a think-happy-thoughts kind of way. I usually turn to something productive, like making plans or getting some work done. Try it!
8. Comparing Yourself To Others
Theodore Roosevelt famously stated “Comparison is the thief of joy.” And he hit the nail on the head. Listen, it’s impossible to line up all of your circumstances and efforts and talents and good luck and abilities in the exact same way that somebody else has. Impossible. So to compare yourself to someone who achieves something you would like to achieve, or seems more talented than you, or has a shinier car than you. or a cleaner house, or quieter children, or more perfectly decorated cupcakes, is SUCH. A. WASTE. OF. TIME.
Instead of unproductively letting comparison and jealousy bring you down, you can either peacefully accept your own circumstances, or push yourself to work toward the things that you want.
9. Staying Up Too Late
Sleep deprivation is an obvious joy-stealer – because who can be truly happy when they’re walking through life in a constant state of mild fatigue?
Most people head to bed when they realise that they’re close to dozing off on the couch, or when they’re so physically exhausted that they can’t keep doing whatever it is that they’re doing. But if you reach this point, you’re actually already up way too late! Instead of relying on exhaustion-cues to send yourself to bed, you should be relying on a set, regular bedtime and a simple nighttime routine.
10. Negative Self-Talk
Let’s get one thing straight. You can nail absolutely everything else on this list, but if you still get caught up in negative self-talk, you will never be completely happy. How could you be? If you are constantly sending yourself messages that you’re not good enough, that you’re unworthy, that you’re super lame… you’re guaranteed to be down in the dumps.
Negative self-talk is a HUGE toxic habit. So when you feel it begin to creep into your internal dialogue, combat it by reminding yourself that actually, you’ve got a lot going for you. Take the time to mentally list the things you’re good at, and the good things in your life, and bash that negative Nancy out of your brain space.
11. Judging Others
When you judge someone, it doesn’t change them in any way. All it does is allow you to dwell on a bunch of negative energy that you don’t need in your life. Judgmental people just ain’t happy people.
So try to see the best in others. Try not to focus on flaws or terrible first impressions (here are some tips). Let them be who they’re going to be, and use that precious mental space for good things instead.
I know first-hand what a toxic habit this one is. I am a classic over-thinker! I read into everything. My goodness, when Chris and I started dating (after I had been in love with him for a loooong time!), I was a ball of nerves. I couldn’t sleep. I was so overwhelmed from reading into everything he said, every text he sent, that I missed out on seeing a lot of those sweet, simple, awkward, new-relationship moments for what they were.
If you’re an over-thinker, break this habit now. When you get trapped in that downward spiral, stop. Breathe. Count to ten. Force yourself to be distracted by something else. Just don’t let your wayward thoughts dominate your entire day.
13. Living In The Past
I think back to my early 20s a lot. Newly married. Tons of friends. Carefree pre-kids lifestyle. Double full-time income. “Those were the days,” I think to myself. Because when I look back, I glorify that time in my life. I skip over the parts that sucked and I just bask in the memory of it being a fun, light-hearted era.
I always balance that reminiscing with gratefulness for how far life has come since then. Appreciation for the season that was, and appreciation for the season that now is. Because whether life is better now, or whether it was better ten years ago, this is the time you’re living in. This is the time you need to make the best of. You can’t go back to the way things were, and it’s downright depressing to wish that you could. Let the past be the past, and give yourself over to the present.
Are you ready to start claiming back your joy?
Truly, the best thing you can do for yourself is to keep addressing these toxic habits. Be on the look-out for when they pop up, and smash them back down. It might not feel natural at first, but as you create more space for joy, you’ll be creating a whole new set of healthier habits that will serve you so much more.
Make sure to pin this article on Pinterest, so you can keep referring back to it every month or so and see how you’re tracking. You can do this by tapping on one of the images and selecting the red “P” icon that pops up.
Before you go, check out my tips for living your best life RIGHT NOW – even if you don’t have everything in your life together yet.
Because I believe that your best life is within reach – you might just need to tweak a few things to find it.
PS If you’re on a bit of a soul-searching journey, be sure to follow my Pinterest board, Live a Happy Life!