Start Today: Break These 10 Habits for a Better Year

Updated December 2, 2019 by Eric Schram

We all have bad habits.

Bad habits can impact our lives in myriad ways, from our health to our relationships, to our work. But the one thing all bad habits have in common is that they’re usually pretty tough nuts to crack. Bad habits come in all shapes and colors and can often wreak havoc in our lives without us even noticing.

It’s because they’ve stuck with us for so long and become so habitual that they can range from annoying to downright pernicious.

It’s because they’ve stuck with us for so long and become so habitual that they can range from annoying to downright pernicious.

For those looking to improve 2019, whether a minor course correction or doing a true 180, take a look at the following habits and see which ones are getting in the way of a better version of you.

1. Caring what other people think of you

This is a really difficult one to overcome as it’s typically hardwired into us. Sure, we all know someone who acts like they don’t care, and most likely says they don’t care, but deep down, we all care. At least to some extent.

Humans are social beings and we seek and thrive in communities and at our core are terrified of ostracization from the group. Unfortunately, worrying about what others think is counterproductive and usually a complete waste of energy. Most people don’t think about you when you’re not around them, so ruminating before bed on that awkward water cooler conversation or snide social media comment is an exercise in self-flagellation. Sound advice is that what others think of you is really none of your business.

2. Worry, worry, worry

There is perhaps no greater thief nor more sinister mental terrorist than the bugaboo we know as ‘worry’. Worry is the proverbial snowball rolling downhill that morphs into an avalanche given enough time and focus.

Typically, we worry about what has already happened and can’t be changed, or what hasn’t happened yet and therefore is not even real. Worry can also include things as serious as personal financial problems or crises around the world, to things as seemingly minor as a new haircut we don’t love yet.

Rather than dwell on these things, focus on what’s going on right now, in the moment you are in. Don’t live in the past or the future. Take action on the things you can, when you can, and let life and its solutions unfold naturally.

3. S.T.E.P.

(Stop taking everything personally.)

We often react to what another person does or says as though they shot that arrow at us with intent. The truth of the matter is most people don’t put enough thought into us to do that. They’re operating on their own agenda and are so involved in what they need for themselves they haven’t bothered to consider you.

The number of times that someone is trying to send you a subtle, coded message through the way they set down their computer at your meeting is vanishingly small.

It’s not about you and almost never is. Act accordingly.

4. Avoiding gratitude

This one seems obvious, but it’s so often overlooked because it seems so obvious. One of the surest ways to develop a less than pleasant perspective on things is to focus on what we lack instead of what we have.

Most of us who are able to read this article online right now have electricity, internet service, and a device that likely cost more than most of the world’s population makes in a month, perhaps in a year. When you see it from that perspective, you shift from the desire to have the newest Apple laptop to being thankful you have the one you’ve got.

There is no shortage of research that demonstrates that people who express gratitude often feel happier and more fulfilled. If you want a better 2019, stop avoiding gratitude or paying it “lip service” but not really feeling it.

If you feel stumped about how to start immersing yourself in gratitude, begin with baby steps. When you get out of bed in the morning, be grateful for your legs or a carpeted floor upon which to walk. Be thankful for the ability to make your own coffee, clothes that keep you warm, and hot running water. Once you get the idea, start noticing things every day, perhaps even keep a journal about these things

5. The blame game

This is a biggie for many of us. When our day, our week, or our life is going sideways, we want to pin it on someone. Someone who is responsible for things not working out as we’d hoped, as we feel we deserved — and that person just *can’t* be us, can it?

The problem with this strategy for coping with life is that it means you forfeit your agency. When all the problems in your life are caused by other people, it puts you in a position of powerlessness. But the truth is, you are the one in control of your life.

Change your mindset, change your outcomes.

6. Bad eating habits

There’s an old saying: garbage in garbage out.

Your body is a complicated piece of hardware and your brain runs it all. To do so efficiently, it needs fuel. Sure, you can get through a day eating Skittles and drinking Red Bull, but it’s not recommended. Neither is daily indulging in huge salty, fatty meals that taste great, but don’t give your body the nutrition it needs to run.

Finding a proper diet is as tricky as it is necessary. Due to decades of one-size-fits-all food pyramids and insidious diet-culture advice, we all may need some tweaks to our personal calorie consumption.

However, a few things are truly universal. Not getting the fruits and vegetables you need is a losing strategy. So is overindulging in deep fried foods, processed snacks, and anything high in sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

Breaking a bad eating habit is among the most difficult tasks, and we almost all have them in some form or another. Our bodies, and our minds, often become addicted to certain foods or the chemicals produced when we eat them, which only reinforces the behavior and the habit. The reward centers in our brains can cause problems just as surely as they can help.
The goal is to break the bad habit and replace it with something healthy. Always easier said than done, but very possible. Take baby steps, get advice and accountability from your friends or family, and be gentle with yourself.

7. Screen time

If you spend a good chunk of your day arguing with people you’ve never met and likely never will meet, it’s time to rethink how you might use that time in more productive ways.

Likewise, if you’re getting sore in your neck from staring at your computer or phone screen, that’s a sign that you’re getting a LOT of screen time — and your body could use a break.

We all are told constantly that we need to put down our phones and rejoin the real world. Easier said than done, when we all work and communicate on-the-go now, but it is worth considering. If you’ve ever felt like you were addicted to your phone or just couldn’t spend less time on it, that’s a sign that you are actually addicted. The apps we use every day are designed with addiction in mind; the developers want you to want to use them all day.

So if you need a break, consider this your permission slip. Take a break from the screen. I promise it will still be there when you come back.

8. Gossip

Many of us were told as children that if you don’t have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Sadly, a lot of us forget to heed this sage advice.

Oftentimes gossip is used to elevate our own self-image at the expense of someone else. Gossip is the lowest form of storytelling, and those who indulge in gossip may find themselves sooner or later the victim of it. Even if you aren’t gossiped about yourself, talking about other people is not a good look. It doesn’t make you look smart or trustworthy; the people that you gossip with are probably wondering what you say about them behind their backs.

The best move is to avoid it altogether. A fine rule of thumb is to remember that small minds talk about people, average minds talk about events, and great minds talk about ideas.

9. Isolating yourself

When life grinds us down, many of us tend to withdraw and isolate ourselves. We think this is what we need most. We tell ourselves we need to recharge, reassess, regroup, retreat, or some other justification for getting off the court and sitting on the sidelines.

Unfortunately, this sort of self-imposed exile can actually against us and serves only to deepen our bad feelings by giving us nothing but time to focus on our problems. In these times we must do what is counterintuitive and usually very uncomfortable: we need to get out there and interact with the world.

Use your support system—friends, family, coworkers, or any other community to which you belong—to help lift you up and buoy your emotional state. Exercise, go out with friends, take a class. Be open and share, and you’ll be amazed at what benefits you may derive by being in action.

10. Being cheap with sleep

Not getting a proper night’s rest affects everything: your emotional state, your cognitive function, your energy levels, creativity, etc. Study after study reveals how vital getting enough sleep is to our health and well-being. While we still don’t know all the particulars about why we need sleep, why we dream, and why the proper amount can vary from person to person, we do know that not getting enough is problematic. Simply papering over it with caffeine is not a long-term solution, either.

One of the best ways to break poor sleep habits is making sure your schedule is consistent. Go to bed at the same time every night and train yourself to get up at a consistent hour each day. There are many apps which now track sleep patterns and habits, if you feel you need some help or want to get baseline data on how you’re sleeping right now.

Make sure your mattress and bedding are conducive to good sleep as well as is your sleep environment, i.e. don’t have the TV on, or too much light in the room, etc. When you go to sleep, just sleep.

We hope one of these suggestions will inspire you to make the rest of 2019 your best year yet. Let us know what bad habits you want to break and how you plan to overcome them!

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