5 Small Habits that Might Be Secretly Sabotaging You

Admit it.  You've wondered.

Why does that person have more money, fitness, productivity, love, success...(fill in blank with whatever you most want here)...than I do?

While we often look at our major life choices when evaluating our trajectory, it is the smaller, incremental actions that have the most impact.

Here is a look at five seemingly insignificant habits that may be secretly sabotaging you from becoming the person you most want to be.

1. Hitting the snooze alarm. 

Productivity guru, Jeff Sanders, writes, "Snooze buttons are the greatest metaphor for beginning your day backward...Snoozing inadvertently becomes a reactive choice, which leads to further reactivity. When you begin the day reacting to your environment instead of proactively shaping it, you find yourself on the defensive.  Everything is a fire to be put out, a problem to be solved immediately, and in a very short timespan you can find yourself overwhelmed, stressed out and behind schedule."

When our first act of the day is saying "no" to it, we start a pattern of rejection which can subtly undermine our ability to welcome the things that come our way.

Not only that, but that extra nine minutes can actually ruin the sleep you get.  Robert S. Rosenberg, the medical director of the Sleep Disorders Centers of Prescott Valley and Flagstaff, Arizona is quoted as saying that when we press the snooze button we start to put ourselves through a new sleep cycle which we don't give ourselves enough time to finish, resulting in persistent grogginess throughout the day.

We can break the pattern. Decide the night before what action you are going to do first thing in the morning. Then when the alarm goes off, think about that action, put two feet on the floor, and embrace that action with gratitude.

2. Saying you are broke. 

"Thoughts become things," writes Bob Proctor in You Were Born Rich.  "If you see it in your mind, you will hold it in your hand." 

How we view ourselves shapes our experience. The reality is that most of us who have access to computers, smart phones and the internet are rich compared to most of the world. But that isn't even the most significant negative thing about using the term . Broke is an adjective which describes a noun...yourself...which ultimately influences the way we see ourselves and impacts the way we act.

There is a difference in saying "I can't prioritize that purchase right now" and in saying that we are broke. One is a temporary condition and the other a pejorative judgment.

Tony Robbins writes, "The words we attach to our experience become our experience. Words have a biochemical effect on the body. The minute you use a word like 'devastated' you’re going to produce a very different biochemical effect than if you say, 'I’m a bit disappointed.'”

Changing our language can have a major impact. (And this works with more words than just broke.)

3. Leaving your bed unmade. 

After all, you are just going to be back here in 12 hours...right?  

Admiral and former Navy SEAL William H McCraven, in a commencement speech at the University of Texas states: "Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter. If you can't do the little things right, you'll never be able to do the big things right. And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made. And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better."

Skipping an act that takes so little time and yet has such major visual impact creates a sense that our personal space isn't worth giving effort to. And in an odd twist, we might be missing out.

Charles Duhigg writes in The Power of Habit, "Making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget. It’s not that a family meal or a tidy bed causes better grades or less frivolous spending. But somehow those initial shifts start chain reactions that help other good habits take hold.”

Still not convinced that making the bed is a worthwhile task? Well, it is a habit found effective in addiction recovery.

JD of Step One Recovery, writes, "The significance of bed-making lies in its symbolism. Making your bed will not actually solve all your problems and keep you off of drugs and alcohol. But making your bed every morning demonstrates a person’s willingness to do whatever it takes to get clean and sober....People in recovery will tell you that making your bed is important because it symbolizes the creation of new habits to create a new person."

4. Watching reality television. 

What's the harm with a little mindless reality TV?

Well, a recent study by Bryan Gibson, PhD of Central Michigan University shows it actually increases aggression like bullying, exclusion and manipulation, and a study by the Girl Scout Research Institute shows that young female viewers "accept and expect a higher level of drama, aggression, and bullying in their own lives as well." They also become more focused on the value of outward appearance.

While it can be fun  to watch some of the ridiculous scenarios that reality TV offers, the entertainment value lies in the conflict.  The gossiping, competition and full-on fist fights subtly shape the way we see interactions in our own lives.

Even though a part of us knows that reality TV is anything but real, our brains pick up the patterns of interaction which influence our behavior.

Another challenge with reality TV is the time factor.  While it may be relaxing to burn an hour on a show, there are other relaxing activities that have positive benefits.  A conversation with a friend, a walk outdoors, prepping a meal for the next day, soaking in the bathtub or other options are absolutely free and can help you unwind and feel at home.

5. Checking Facebook before bed. 

Our sleep cycle is connected to light and scientists—in studies like this one—are exploring what the bright lights from our screens are doing to our melatonin levels.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, our biological clocks are controlled by a part of the brain called the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN), a group of cells in the hypothalamus that respond to light and dark signals. From the optic nerve of the eye, light travels to the SCN, signaling the internal clock that it is time to be awake. The SCN signals to other parts of the brain that control hormones, body temperature and other functions that play a role in making us feel sleepy or awake.

Having a routine where we dim the lights closer to bedtime makes us feel sleepy, but the bright lights from our computers can confuse our brains to send the signal to be awake.  So enjoy your smart phone, but start to disconnect from it an hour before you want to be asleep.

Get fired up about small changes

While the big, bold move may get all the press in getting from where we are to where we want to be, it is the small, daily things that make us who we are.

The best part? It isn't a one for one equation. Changing even one habit can spark positive change not only in one place, but in other areas of our life as well giving you exponential results.

Besides, since it is small, you can experiment to see if it really works.  So try it.  Stop one of these small habits for two weeks and do something different. You might be surprised by the positive result. 

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© Random Cathy
Maira Gall