These daily habits are not the healthy habits you’ve thoughtfully curated like meditation, going for walks or brushing and flossing your teeth. These are painful habits that developed slowly maybe without you even knowing it. Now they weigh you down on a daily basis even though they might feel like second nature, as if you couldn’t stop them if you tried. The good news is that none of these painful daily habits are personality traits. They are habits and patterns. They are what you do, not who you are.
One of the easiest ways to avoid change is to think, “that’s the way it’s always been” or “this is what I always do” or worse, “this is just who I am” because none of these habits are who you are are. They reflect your behavior and habits and with self-awareness and an interest in shifting these painful habits, you’ll find relief when you let go of them.
5 Daily Habits That Are Causing You Pain (and how to let go)
1. Engaging in the drama of other people’s thoughts.
A drama-free life is a happier life. Whether you are engaging by responding to what you think someone is thinking, or something they said or did, getting mixed up in this kind of drama rarely ends with mutual understanding or you feeling good about your actions. Instead, engaging in drama is a painful habit that depletes you. You may make a habit of getting mixed up in drama that is your business or drama that has nothing to do with you, or a little of both.
How to let go of the painful habit of engaging in drama: First, notice how your body responds when the bait of drama awaits. Next, before you do anything, ask yourself what your intention is. What results are you hoping for? Then, ask yourself if the actions you have planned are likely to end in your desired conclusion. If not, delay your reaction. See what happens if you do absolutely nothing this time. Repeat forever.
2. Getting lost in guilt and/or regret.
Turning your attention to guilt and regret on a daily or consistent basis robs you of gratitude, joy and the present moment. Author, Dan Pink suggests optimizing regret instead of minimizing it. He says, “There’s a reason we experience negative emotions. They’re useful if we treat them right. Regret, you don’t want to wallow in it. You don’t want to ruminate over it. But if you think of it as a signal, as information, as a knock at the door, it is a powerfully transformative emotion.”
How to let go of the painful habit of getting lost in guilt and/or regret: First, notice when you are spiraling or getting lost in these negative emotions. Next, instead of allowing your mind to take over, write down what’s bothering you. It’s easier to see what’s really going on when you see it on paper vs. chasing it around in your mind. Remind yourself that you have paid enough and by holding on, you are missing some really good parts of life. Then, fold up your paper and ceremoniously, let it go.
3. Pleasing others by disappointing yourself.
This one might be the hardest because by pleasing other people, you may actually believe you are doing the right thing. It’s wonderful to do nice things for other people but when you continually sacrifice your own time and energy, disappointing yourself to please others, it’s time to check in on your motivation. What do you get from the pleasing part? The most painful part of this habit may be the dishonesty of saying one thing and thinking another. Also notice who may be taking advantage of your need to please. This reminds me of the saying, “The only people upset about you setting boundaries are the ones who benefited from you having none.”
How to let go of the painful daily habit of pleasing others by disappointing yourself: First, identify how you feel when you please someone else. How long after you feel good do you feel resentful or exhausted? Are you outwardly joyful about doing something for someone else and upset on the inside? Next, set boundaries to protect your time and energy especially with the people who don’t respect your time and energy. Practice saying no, even when you aren’t busy doing other things. Then, start replacing your people pleasing with a daily simple pleasure. Please yourself to nurture your time and energy so you can be more thoughtful about how and when you give it away.
4. Projecting your fears on other people.
It’s natural to have thoughts and feelings about what others are doing based on our own life experiences. We look at the world through this lens. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that someone else may have a completely different experience trying something that didn’t work for us or that we don’t approve of.
How to let go of the painful daily habit of projecting your fears on other people: First, don’t take other people’s personal life choices personally. Next, practice celebrating and lifting other people up instead of weighing them down with the fears you may carry from your experience. Then, consider how you can share potential pitfalls and offer helpful tips (if asked) while being supportive.
5. Doing one more thing.
Doing more things doesn’t make you a better person, it makes you a tired person. Still, you keep trying to do one more thing. You may practice this painful habit right before bedtime, delaying sleep as you check one more thing off your to-do list. The problem with this is that there is always one more thing to do.
How to let go of the painful daily habit of doing one more thing: First, create a closing ritual to remind yourself that you are done doing things. For instance, after dinner, wipe down your counters and brush your teeth as a signal that it’s time to stop doing and enjoy being. Next, as part of your closing shift, write down all of the “one more things” that are on your mind. You can revisit the list tomorrow. Then, choose a bedtime that you will honor. Half the battle of getting a good night of sleep is simply putting yourself in bed.
Simplify your life and feel better by letting go of these painful habits. At first, letting go and changing your patterns may feel uncomfortable but with practice, you’ll notice you have more time, space, energy and attention for your life. First, notice if these daily habits are painful for you. Next, shift your behavior. Then, celebrate your amazing progress. You deserve that.