Habits govern our behavior — for better or for worse.
And they can be very hard to break. When you think about breaking a habit, your thoughts will likely turn to changing your behavior around a bad habit — eating or drinking too much, smoking, not exercising enough, procrastinating around getting projects done, etc.
If you don’t think a habit is harmful, though, you probably won’t see a need to change a behavior.
I’ve run across some habits that may seem harmless, although my research shows they can actually take a toll. Writer and engineer Darshak Rana has explored areas that may do just this. When applied to different realms of our behavior, the summary looks like this:
- Financial health damage: signing up for every free trial
- Psychological heath damage: instant purchase gratification
- Social health challenge: lying (without a reason)
- Emotional health damage: Hanging out with naysayers
Signing up for every free trial
Free courses. Free music. Free podcasts.
We’ve all been tempted by them and, no doubt, have succumbed at times. Here’s the thing, though. When it says, “free trial,” that means it’s chargeable when the trial period is over.
“Some trials are so shady,” says Rana, “that they don’t even tell you the end date of the trial period.”
The next thing you know, you have some unknown amount deducted on your monthly statement. Bingo — you’ve actually subscribed to a service you may have even forgotten about.
“I realized this fact when I started paying attention to my subscription plans,” Rana explains. “Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO, Disney, Spotify, Apple Music, Google music, etc., were burning my pocket.
“Ending all the subscription plans helped me save approximately $100 a month, and that adds up to $1,200 a year.”
Instant purchase gratification
Who among us hasn’t made an impulse buy? It may have been from a late-night infomercial — or that current offer coming across your screen.
How many times have you found versions of that very thing you were searching for pop up as a sidebar ad right in front of your eyes? Advertisers know our purchasing trends and target us — at times when we’re most susceptible to suggestion.
It’s human nature to get attracted to new things. So, when you look at them, your mind compares them with your old stuff and prompts you to buy. Then you can end up ordering items without thinking.
Here’s a helpful strategy. Wait at least a day before ordering the items in your shopping cart. “This one-day time frame has helped me convert my want into a need,” says Rana, ”or to eliminate the items.”
Lying without a reason
- “I’m almost there.”
- “I never watch TV.”
- “The subway broke down.’
- “I go to the gym four days a week.”
- “I don’t care about looks.”
- “My phone is about to die.”
These are some of the most common lies we tell others without thinking. But do you realize how hazardous these “innocent” phrases can be?
When you have a casual approach like this, it sets up an internal mindset that can result in a slippery slope. The more you do this, the stronger those connections are within your brain that signal this behavior is okay. Then those “leaky margins” can creep in, and this becomes a habit.
Using earphones for prolonged times
There’s no question that the latest wireless earphones can make you look cool. It’s now become commonplace to see these everywhere — while you’re walking, driving or working out.
This is another habit that’s a sign of our times. While listening to a podcast — or your favorite music — may be stimulating, just take a minute to see what you might be missing.
As your senses become consumed with the stimuli in your ears, you’re blocking out the sounds of nature and could be ignoring the world around you. Over time, you can dull your senses. And, according to some studies, prolonged usage of earphones can even lead to ear infections, tinnitus and hearing loss.
This is not to say these devices are not helpful or beneficial. Just take stock of how often you reach for them — and the tradeoffs involved.
Hanging out with naysayers
As Rana points out, we don’t recognize naysayers until their magic works on us. “Naysayers will be the devil’s advocate to your every new idea,” he says.
“Instead of suggesting a solution, they’ll scare you with possible hazards. You may perceive them as your well-wisher [because of their flattery behavior], but they’re exactly the opposite.”
If you find yourself feeling uncomfortable or irritated when certain people are around, stop to look at what effect they may be having on you. Whenever you’re in the company of anyone, there’s a certain vibe.
If you’re not feeling good about yourself — and you haven’t done anything wrong — it could be the residue of those toxic vibes from naysayers around you.
While our feelings are our responsibility, we’re often absorbing vibrations from the people around us. Unaware. All the time.
“Notice your feelings/emotions after meeting different people,” Rana suggests. “Keep a log. With this exercise you’ll be able to spot a naysayer within your group who is silently sucking your worth. Then stay away from them if your peace of mind is dear to you.”
Speaking of peace, you may want to take stock of these areas in your life. Even a few tweaks could make a big difference.
As author Carlos Castaneda said, “The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same.”