How to Break up With Bad Habits for a Happier, Healthier Life

It’s a mantra as old as the hills: life is about the journey, not the destination. If you’re always focused on the next step, the end goal, or what you currently define as “successful,” you’re likely to find yourself fighting, dragging, and pushing your way through today in order to get there. And, naturally, if today is an obstacle in the way of getting to tomorrow, you’re likely to find unhealthy ways to cope with your current struggles. In other words, you’re likely to form bad habits.

But the truth is, it really is possible to break free from the self-inflicted pressure of worrying about the future along with all of the bad habits that it brings along with it. From mental stress to biting your nails and everything in between, let’s break down a few common bad habits and go over some steps to address each one.

Breaking the Habits

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Before diving into individual bad habits themselves, it’s important to take a moment to step back and consider what you’re about to do. Before you scan down the list looking for some quick fixes, take a moment to address your attitude. If you’re going to truly find success with your endeavor and a healthier, happier lifestyle as a result, you need to make sure that you actually want the change in the first place. That doesn’t just mean you want the habit gone. You need to work up the motivation to truly pursue a real change.

You’ll find that many of the habits in this article focus on mental thoughts and processes, as they are often at the root of the habits that we form. If we can address the way we think, it often makes the side effects of those thoughts — the habits themselves — much easier to deal with.

It’s also important to keep in mind that you’re going to want to pace yourself. A smoker doesn’t typically quit in a day, and the same holds true for most habits we struggle with. Finally, consider creating a system of accountability to help keep you honest as you go about making changes.

Some Bad Habits Worth Addressing

Here are a few major bad habits as well as ways to go about addressing them.

The Invincibility Mindset

In a world where everyone is hyper-aware due to sensational reports of worst-case scenarios thanks to things like the internet and the 24-hour news cycle, it’s easy to fall into a habit of thinking that “it could never happen to me.” But while the odds of your catching Ebola may, indeed, be slim to none, that doesn’t mean you’re invincible.

Consider STDs, for example. According to the CDC, millions of new infections occur every year in the U.S. alone. And yet, unprotected sex still continually takes place in casual situations all of the time. Unlike a cold or the flu, STDs won’t just go away with a little rest and time — you have to get treated for them, and some are permanent. Taking the time to protect yourself isn’t complicated, but the commitment to do so requires a deeper understanding that you’re not invincible.

Of course, the examples go far beyond STDs. The important thing here is to remember that it’s important to take the time to make wise, thoughtful decisions throughout life. Allowing habits of reckless and emotional decision making to influence our lives may provide temporary thrills, but the repercussions can be detrimental in the long-term.

Worry, Worry, Worry

A good follow up to the last point would be the added encouragement not to have a worried mindset. With so many risks and dangers in the world, it’s important that we take the time to address our own inner cares and concerns on a regular basis in order to make sure that they’re not turning into unhealthy mental distortions.

Cares and concerns are a normal part of life, but if we allow ourselves to catastrophize, jump to conclusions, or reason emotionally, it can make it very difficult to feel happy and healthy. Here is a list of cognitive distortions that are worth looking out for.

It’s also easy to fall into a victim mentality. When we live to please others, spend time worrying and fretting over past mistakes, agonize over negative experiences, or daydream continually about how things could be better it can suck all of the beauty out of the present. Once again, it’s important that we take the time to mentally focus on the here and now. Only then can we begin to appreciate our lives.

Of course, for the 18.1 percent of Americans who live with mental illness, a change of mindset isn’t always doable. Especially for those with generalized anxiety disorder, worrying and being overwhelmed by stressors is something they can’t control. In these cases, seeing a mental health professional can help to manage these anxieties though therapy, medication, or a combination of both.

Getting That All-Important Rest

It’s easy to excuse late nights and early mornings with the thought that you only live once.

But it’s also critical to remember the importance of giving your body the sleep it requires to properly function. If you allow yourself to become sleep deprived, it can lead to things like irritability, depression, feeling sick, disorientation, and even hallucinations. Make sure to structure your schedule to get as much sleep as your body needs to function. The results will speak for themselves.

Taking Care of the Small Stuff

Finally, while we’ve focused on many deeper bad habits on this list, often there are many smaller habits (some of which are direct consequences of larger bad habits, like sleep deprivation or distorted thinking) that can easily be addressed and can add up to a significant difference in our health and happiness.

For example, sleeping with your contacts in can increase your chance of eye infections by as much as 15 percent. Eating large portions at every meal can affect your weight. Constantly checking in on social media can quickly become an addiction and be detrimental to you mental well-being. Here’s an ultimate list of habits that are worth looking over to see what else you can weed out in order to free up your mind.

Whatever the habit, remember that it’s worth taking the time to focus on the bigger picture as you prepare to take steps to break it. If you seriously commit to both looking for and then addressing your bad habits, chances are you’ll find yourself living a healthier, happier lifestyle before you know it.

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