Everyone develops bad habits as they age. The key to having habits that are detrimental to you, either physically or mentally, is to have a good handle on them. If possible, there are many habits you should eliminate from your life, and 2020 is a good place to start. Here is a look at nine habits to eliminate from your life.
1. Drinking to Unwind
We all know that alcohol isn’t anything the body needs for nutrition or proper functioning. However, many people enjoy an adult beverage from time to time on special occasions.
Sharing a toast of champagne at your best friend’s wedding is likely not a problem. Conversely, having a couple of glasses of wine each evening to cope with stress isn’t a good habit. Drinking to unwind regularly can lead to a full-blown alcohol dependency over time.
The trouble with drinking to relieve stress and take the edge off is that alcohol tends to suppress your emotions and keeps you from truly processing your feelings. Furthermore, research from The Mental Health Foundation has shown that over time, regular use of alcohol will decrease the brain’s serotonin production. Lower levels of serotonin are linked to depression, anxiety, and anger, which fuels the cycle of alcohol dependence.
If you’re in the habit of drinking to unwind, make some changes. Give up drinking entirely for 30 days and see how you’re feeling. It may be more challenging than you expect for the first couple of days. If you find it unbearable, you may have a more serious addiction. In that case, look for a support group in your area or a treatment program.
2. Sleeping Too Little
I’m a big fan of waking early to get a jump on the day. However, getting too little sleep can cause problems like a weakened immune system and weight gain. According to the University of Nevada School of Medicine, “Lack of sleep affects your judgment, coordination and reaction times. Sleep deprivation can affect you just as much as being drunk. The effects include fatigue, lethargy, difficulty concentrating, lack of motivation, moodiness, and irritability. There may also be reduced creativity and problem-solving skills and an inability to cope with stress.”
Make sure you get enough shut-eye by turning out the lights a little earlier at night. Shut off the television and your phone in time to get seven to nine hours on the pillow before you have to wake in the morning. Ditch the habit of sleeping too little this year.
3. Too Much Social Media
Often, we think of teens and young adults when we consider the overuse of social media. Nonetheless, plenty of grownups are hooked on social media updates. They check in several times a day.
Folks who spend more than 60 minutes a day on social media or who log on at least 30 times a week are reporting more symptoms of depression than those who use it sparingly or not at all. Spending time on social media sites is also bad for your productivity. Scrolling through a friend of a friend’s vacation photos is not exactly time well spent.
Try limiting your social media to certain days of the week instead of anytime boredom strikes. I use Tuesdays and Fridays to check-in so that I can stay on top of certain group activities in my real-life community. If there are social media platforms that you don’t truly enjoy, cancel your accounts for those altogether.
If you’re using credit cards to buy items you can’t afford, it’s time to get serious about your spending in 2020. Likewise, if you’re spending money so freely that it’s hard to pay your mortgage on the first of the month, you’ve got to get a budget in place and stick to it.
Narrow down the areas where you are spending more than you should. Get it all on paper or in a spreadsheet. How can you lower or eliminate these expenditures? Is it possible to pack your lunches for work most days of the week instead of buying food out? Do you need all of those streaming services, or could you go down to just one? Are you spending more on personal care services like salons, spas, and massages than is prudent?
Once you can see all of your purchasing habits objectively, you’ll likely have a good idea of how to get your spending under control and break the overspending habit this year.
5. Being Late
Everyone is late once in a while. A traffic accident, illness or unexpected problem can cause even the most punctual among us to show up late on occasion. However, when you’re regularly late to your job, family events and performances, it can add stress to your life. Chronic lateness can also take a toll on your relationships. When you’re habitually late, some people may think that you don’t value their time or that they aren’t important to you.
On the job, lateness can make you seem irresponsible, disorganized and incompetent. When you repeatedly come in late for a meeting or return late from lunch, it can ruin your professional reputation.
Do better in 2020. Being late is a habit you can break. Decide right now that you are going to prioritize punctuality this year. Start by planning to wake up a bit earlier each morning. An extra hour in the morning will give you a jump-start on the day and put you ahead of the game. Another tip is to start earlier at everything you usually do. If you need to be somewhere at 10 a.m., and you normally start getting ready an hour before, change your routine. Plan to start getting ready at 8:30 a.m. or sooner, and you’ll likely find yourself getting there on time.
Set phone reminders to alert you a couple of hours before you have an event approaching. When you hear the alert, do something to prepare for the event. It could be putting all the things you need to take with you by the door or laying out the shoes you plan to wear. This will help you get in the right mindset for leaving and arriving when you’re expected.
Start planning for tomorrow tonight. Before bed each night, make a list of the things you have planned for tomorrow. Next to each event or activity, list the items that you’ll need to bring along or use. If it’s possible, lay those items out so that they’re easy to find in the morning. Planning ahead will make it easier for you to get out of the house on time.
Ditch the habit of saying yes to everything in 2020. Have you ever had a full load of things to accomplish when a friend calls to ask you for a favor? It’s often difficult to say no to a loved one who needs your help. However, saying yes when you don’t have the time or energy to help can lead to high stress and even resentment.
First of all, it’s important to know that you don’t have to give an excuse or explanation for not attending an event, helping your cousin move or babysitting for your neighbor’s child. Many times, people agree to a request that they’d rather decline because they don’t feel that they have a good enough reason to say no.
Instead of trying to come up with an explanation as to why you can’t attend your co-worker’s housewarming party, just let him know that a particular day or time doesn’t work for you. You don’t need a reason, and it’s unlikely your friend will even ask. It’s far better to decline politely than to overcommit and show up out of a sense of obligation or duty.
Also, look over your current commitments. Do you need to take a few things off of your plate in the new year? If there are certain regular events you attend that don’t fit into your life anymore, consider eliminating them from your schedule. Overcommitting is no good for you.
I once heard a story about a monk who got out of the habit of complaining by putting a small rock in his mouth each time he uttered a complaint. He carried the rocks around until the end of the day. After only a couple of instances of carrying rocks in his mouth, he began considering his words and eventually stopped complaining entirely.
Complaining is a habit ― an ugly one. When you complain, it takes energy and also reinforces negativity in your brain. You can get out of the habit. It takes some focus, a willingness to change and possibly some pebbles in your mouth.
One effective way to stop complaining is to make yourself say something positive every time you catch yourself saying anything negative. Ask your family and friends to help you with this and keep you accountable for your complaints. This kind of behavioral modification technique helps you retrain your brain to see the good.
8. Neglecting Loved Ones
Do you know one thing that your siblings, parents, neighbor, father-in-law and nephews all have in common? They each have a birthday. Additionally, they would all most likely love to receive cards on their birthdays from you.
We know you’re busy. So, here’s some good advice. Swing by your local dollar store and browse their greeting card section. Pick up a variety of birthday cards ― some funny ones, sweet ones, some for kids and some more masculine cards. Keep them in your desk drawer along with a book of postage stamps. When a loved one’s birthday comes up, you’ll have a card ready to send out.
If you aren’t quite sure of certain birthdays in your clan, call up the family matriarch. She’s likely got everyone’s birthday on a master calendar and can help you out. For friends and neighbors, ask them when their birthdays and kids’ birthdays are. Then, start 2020 by writing all of the birthdays down on your wall calendar so that you’ve got a visual reminder to send out cards as needed. If you forget one, send a belated card right when you remember. A pastor friend once told me, “It’s never too late to send a card.” In our society, when so much of our communication is done electronically, a handwritten envelope in the mailbox is a welcome sight, whether on time or a couple of days late.
Photo Credit: Amanda Wynant
9. Giving Up
2020 is the year to stop giving up. Set goals and follow through this year. Push yourself to do better and keep doing it. If you’ve given up on too many projects, areas of self-improvement or professional ambitions, get out of your own way.
Find some inspirational quotes and post them in places where you’ll see them often. It might sound silly, but it’s a terrific way to remind yourself to keep pressing toward your goals and persevering when things get difficult or uncomfortable.
Ditch Your Bad Habits This Year
You’ve got an entire year ahead of you ― 366 opportunities (because it’s a leap year) to make better choices and ditch habits that haven’t served you well. Leave these destructive, useless practices in the past and don’t bring them on your journey through 2020.
Alcohol and mental health. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.mentalhealth.org. uk/a-to-z/a/alcohol-and-mental-health
What are the risks of not getting enough sleep? (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.sharecare. com/health/healthy-sleeping/risks-not-enough-sleep