Energy and joy can make the difference between living in survival mode and a life well-lived. But our modern world with all of its chaos, demands, and expectations often leaves us struggling to get through the day with the hope that we'll regain our youthful energy tomorrow, next week, or next month. We can recapture the joyful zest we remember from childhood, but only if we come face to face with bad habits that rob us of our well-being.
It's time to ditch daily behaviors that are bad for you and recapture your joie de vivre!
1. Forgetting to drink water
Too many of us rely on coffee, tea, and sugary drinks for energy. But caffeine and sugar are a temporary fix that, in the long run, exacerbate dehydration and exhaustion. Drink lots of water and your body will thank you with clear skin and added energy.
2. Skipping meals and snacking
Looming deadlines, hectic travel schedules, and family demands make it easy to skip meals. But skipping breakfast or lunch often sets in motion a series of bad habits, such as unhealthy snacking and overeating later on. It's unrealistic to expect your body to function well without adequate fuel. If you have to skip a meal, carry raw vegetables, nuts, and pieces of fruit with you. They'll provide an energy boost—and, of course, the long-term health benefits are enormous.
3. Sabotaging sleep
We often wear our lack of sleep like a badge of honor, but zombie warriors are neither joyful nor energetic. Working through exhaustion can backfire by making it hard to fall asleep later. Don't undermine your rest by eating or drinking late at night, and don't let yourself fall asleep while watching TV or working. If you feel sleepy at night, seize the moment and go to bed!
4. Exercising inconsistently or obsessively.
Work to integrate a regular exercise routine into your schedule. The human body was designed to move, and exercise stimulates endorphins, which feel great! Try out different options until you find a routine that brings you joy, but make sure to mix it up. And remember that when it comes to exercise, too much of a good thing can be counterproductive, as obsessively working out doesn't give muscles any time to recover.
5. Ignoring nature
It's next to impossible to feel energetic and joyful if you are always cooped up inside and removed from the natural world. Beautiful scenery reduces stress, and the simple act of taking a walk can enhance well-being, research shows. Many of us move from home to work and back again without taking time to appreciate the great outdoors. So go outside, walk, and breathe!
What's holding you back?
If you're like me and fall prey to these bad habits even when you know better, it's time to take a deeper look at what's getting in the way of taking the steps needed to change. Do you have psychological habits that reinforce unhealthy physical habits? Here are five common problematic tendencies that make it very difficult to achieve the goals of well-being, energy, and joy.
1. Unrealistic goals
Aiming high is not a fault in itself, but establishing nearly impossible goals sets you up for failure. Nor is it wise to try to break every bad health habit at once. Start with one, and build slowly. Each bad habit you overcome will build confidence and energy for the next. Carve a path based on many small achievements, and the joy of success will follow.
2. Perfectionist tendencies
Are you someone who wants to be spectacularly successful at everything you do? Breaking a bad habit requires self-forgiveness when you go off track. Perfectionists are so hard on themselves that they will abandon a project or goal if they slip up. But healthy habits aren't all-or-nothing propositions. Learn to pat yourself on the back for the days you did well and be forgiving on the days you struggled. Simply reset your goal and move forward. Sometimes no matter how well-organized, motivated, and well-intentioned we are, a good night's sleep, for example, isn't in the cards—and that's OK!
3. Trouble saying no
Whether it's a boss asking for more hours, a neighbor needing a hand, or a friend offering a second helping, some of us have a hard time saying no. People-pleasing is a lovely goal, but not if it comes at the expense of our well-being. Being healthy and energetic requires saying no to activities that you feel pressured to participate in and expectations thrust on you. True joy comes from actions that are self-directed and without obligation. Say no to the things that sap energy, and you'll be able to say yes to activities that bring joy.
4. Work obsession
Hard work is highly valued in our society, but if you work late every night, on the weekends and on vacation, it's time to reexamine your motivation. Working nonstop takes a significant toll on your well-being. Namely, it's exhausting, and you can't maximize interpersonal connections when you're laser-focused on work. If you're guilty of overwork, impose time limits and take time off. You won't be disappointed by the results since researchers have found that taking time off actually increases our productivity!
Some folks see the world through dirty, scratched glasses, always expecting the worst. This psychological habit of betting on a negative outcome makes it extremely difficult to make positive change, as pessimism and joy rarely coexist. By contrast, an optimistic approach to breaking habits is proven to yield better results. If you tend to be pessimistic, take note of the times your negative thinking was wrong, and start retraining your brain to take in data about positive actions and results. Take a chance on optimism. Believe in yourself!
Bad habits are often a coping mechanism for the pressures of modern life. There are only so many hours in a day and we feel pressured to prioritize work and family over our own self-care. Fortunately, recognition is the first step toward change. You may never completely rid yourself of certain psychological tendencies, but you can lessen their impact on your well-being. With a little physical and psychological tinkering, joy and energy are yours for the taking!