I don’t know about any of you lot but I’m continually doing things which are either unhealthy or a total waste of time. Worrying about factors that are totally out of my control or stuffing my face with Doughnuts when I should be on a low carb diet.
It’s normal, I’m human and I’m as far from perfect as it’s possible to be.
One thing that I like to pride myself on is the ability to recognise where my failings are and to act upon them. I don’t need a punch in the face to tell me that I’m acting a certain way just as I don’t need a wide berth around me to let me know I require a change of clothes.
I would like to think most people share similar thoughts but it’s easy to fall into other less obvious traps that make up a part of our everyday lives.
The following list is a collection of harmful activities and behaviours that I have caught myself doing recently that I personally want to minimise as much as possible.
1. Putting your own opinion towards a fact
Picture the scene; you recently attended a job interview and the very nice chap who grilled you for an hour and reduced you to a quivering wreck promised that you would hear from him before the weekend.
That was 3 days ago, and it is now 8pm on a Friday night.
While you like to think of yourself as a wildly optimistic person, you’ve all but given up hope of ever receiving that call.
Damn him! Damn that company and damn the world!
You bad mouth him to your friends and you tell everyone via Facebook what an incompetent bunch of liars work at that company. How dare they not even give you courtesy of a rejection call.
I think everyone has experienced this scenario at some point but the problem is we have absolutely no idea why that call hasn’t arrived. The person in charge of hiring may not have decided yet, or they are totally swamped with work and are planning on doing it Saturday morning.
The point is, you have no idea. You are taking a fact, (the call hasn’t arrived) and are putting your own opinion to it, (they are incompetent).
How the hell do you know?
We do this all the time. We just love putting our own spin on factors that are not in our control. Maybe you arranged a date with someone and at the last minute they text you to cancel. Most of us would immediately wonder if they ever liked us at all.
“Oh how lame; leaving it to the last minute to cancel. Why couldn’t they just admit it from the beginning?”
The chances are that they simply had a genuine reason to postpone the date.
The funny thing is, we never put our own spin on a fact and turn it into something positive. It is almost always negative. Take the above example and change the opinion to something neutral.
“Oh they probably cancelled because they have been called into work.”
Now turn it into something positive.
“They probably cancelled because they were too nervous and need a bit more time.”
Each of these scenarios is just as likely as our original negative opinion so why do we do this?
There was a situation last year when a colleague of mine informed me her mother had died. Aside from being upset with what had happened, she actually seemed more upset that she had apparently missed a phone call that same day.
She had convinced herself that it was her mother attempting to have one final ‘goodbye’ conversation even when there was absolutely no evidence that pointed to this.
I spoke with her and she eventually realised how irrational this was but it goes to show how much we search for answers to explain anything we do not understand. It’s almost as if it doesn’t matter what the conclusion is, as long as we have filled in that gap.
Like I mentioned above, it is unhealthy as almost always the spin we put on these facts are negative and they serve no purpose apart from tormenting us.
2. Watching way too much TV
I need to stop watching my TV.
It sits there, merely 10 feet away from me but it may as well be inside my head. It’s like that annoying person on the bus who could sit anywhere they want yet decide to park themselves next to you. Then the small talk starts and your journey went from being a nice peaceful experience of watching the world pass by to a stress filled ear pounding that you cannot escape from.
At least the TV doesn’t smell right?
The main problem with Television is that 99% of it is worthless rubbish that you simply have no interest in. Yes that wonderful little box of horrors is the reason why Breaking Bad exists, and for that I am eternally grateful but it brings with it some of the most idiotic things we will ever witness.
Reality TV, awful music, depressing news stories, badly acted and factually incorrect dramas, the list goes on and on.
It does corrupt our minds.
When watching the news we become ‘experts’ and think we know everything about a particular country or region. By watching cheesy soaps we become conditioned that behaving a certain way will always get the girl. Listening to (not even watching) commercial breaks influences how we shop and what products we think we need.
Free will doesn’t exist these days, the television is our God. It tells us how to behave and what we need to do.
Having the Television on late at night will impact your quality of sleep. That bright light will play havoc with your brains ability to correctly release melatonin and thus your ability to wind down and nod off is impaired.
3. Living your life vicariously through others
Hands up if you regularly visit a blog or website just because you like reading about the fun and games of some person whom you have never met.
Yeh we all do it.
Some of us read dating blogs, other read travel blogs, others read health and fitness blogs. It doesn’t matter what the subject matter is but what all of these websites have in common is that the blog owner is describing a life that many people wish to live.
Take travel blogs as an example. This person writes about their adventures and experiences as they travel around the world, offering insights into different cultures and some of the crazy things they get up to. If you’re even slightly into travelling there is a chance you could become addicted to reading.
You refresh the page every day checking for the latest post, itching to find out where they are going next.
Of course you’re stuck in your cubicle at work sneaking a peek during your lunch break and you just wish you had the time and the money to go travelling yourself.
But you can’t.
So you do the next best thing and try to experience the travelling lifestyle through someone else.
Okay it can be inspiring and I think that is the point of the author but many of us get stuck living vicariously through this person and never actually have the oomph to get out there and live it yourself. The brain is easily fooled and while you know that you’re just reading words and looking at pictures on a screen, the brain can be tricked into thinking that you were there too.
It’s not very good at distinguishing between reality and imaginary.
4. Believing everything that you read
As a flipside to what you have just read above, the worst thing you can do online is to blindly believe everything that you read.
If information looks legit and is presented well we can be fooled into believing that it is always correct. Some blogger writes something and because they have a nicely designed website and a pretty picture on the front we give them an air of authority and think that they must know what they are talking about.
Yes I see the irony.
Take everything that you read with a pinch of salt, question anything that seems ludicrous but at the same time don’t assume that because something sounds intuitive, that it must be true also.
This doesn’t stop at blogs either. News websites are particularly bad at providing unbiased impartial views and stories. The Daily Mail and The Huffington Post whilst being 2 of the 3 most popular news websites in the world are essentially tabloids and are news aggregate sites. That is they find their stories from other more legitimate sources and then quickly rewrite them usually leaning toward a particular bias opinion.
The way they write headlines should set alarm bells ringing but still, many people see the brand name and assume that the information contained within must be true. We are brainwashed to believe that providing false information is somehow illegal (in some cases yes) so we read an article and we form a belief that is hard to shake off later on.
Question everything. Cross check anything that sounds bizarre or dubious.
5. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result
We’ve all heard the phrase “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result” – coined by some bloke called Einstein apparently.
But of course, we do it.
Over and over and over again.
Nothing really changes.
Anyone who regularly goes to the gym will notice the same people pounding away on the treadmill day after day, year after year yet they look exactly the same. We see the same scrawny armed kid doing bicep curl after bicep curl but nothing actually happens to his physique.
Factory workers will meet up once their shift ends and go for a quick pint, telling each other how much they hate their jobs and how this time next year they will definitely be doing something else.
The nice quiet girl who always goes after bad boys yet complains when they end up messing her around will often seek out the same type of person again and again for future relationships.
Life is Groundhog Day and the only way Phil Connors escaped from the cycle was to drastically change his behaviour.
If you keep doing the same things and they don’t seem to work, why the hell continue? It makes no sense.
- If the weight isn’t coming off then something obviously isn’t working, figure out what it could be.
- If you’re having no luck on first dates then stop doing whatever it is you’re doing. Take the next person somewhere different. If you’re a joker then try acting more mature. If you’re too serious, try injecting humour into the proceedings.
- If you keep getting turned down for jobs then your CV/resume needs to change, so stop sending in the same one again and again. If you’re failing at the interview stage then ask for some feedback and then go about actually implementing that advice next time.
- If you keep getting into fights on your nights out and you’re baffled as to why everyone seems to pick on you then maybe you should stop drinking.
Do something different, do something scary. Challenge yourself to get off your backside and make a change somewhere in your life. Change your job, change your relationship, change your mind set.
So what potentially harmful things do you find yourself doing on a regular basis? How are you planning to change your habits? Let me know in the comments!
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