Feeling stuck and don’t know why? Read on to see if you have any of these unhelpful habits (and what to do instead).
1) Endlessly ruminating
So there’s the good kind of ruminating, and the bad kind.
The good kind – reflective ruminating – is where you analyze and consider a problem to find a solution.
The bad kind – brooding ruminating – is defined by the American Psychological Association as “repetitive thinking or dwelling on negative feelings and distress and their causes and consequences.”
When we broodingly ruminate, it can be addictive and feel useful, as if we are solving problems.
But here’s the truth – If you are repeatedly thinking about things that you can’t change, it leads to depression and anxiety.
Point in case: In my early 20s I dated a full-on narcissist, who spent years putting me down and all of that fun stuff! After we split my life was in a bad way for various reasons, including him.
On my daily commute, I would listen to music and consider how he had wronged me, and how everything bad in my life was his fault. (Spoiler alert: he was despicable and totally messed with my head, but my life also had other unrelated problems).
At first, I thought that I was doing something positive by being introspective.
But after a while, I realized that these ruminations were making me feel worse. So I started reading books on the way to work instead. Result? I got three hours a day of my life back and I felt a lot better.
What a relief!
Do you find yourself ruminating?
If so, make intentional efforts to:
- Become aware of your thoughts
- Change your thoughts, (perhaps like me, by reading books, or by getting interested in new projects) or
- Seeking a therapist to help you
These things can make a huge difference in your life and get you out of that rut!
Doomscrolling is endlessly scrolling through social media, looking for bad news. It’s become such a known phenomenon that it was actually named ‘word of the year’ in 2020 by the Oxford dictionary.
Watching the news is unhealthy, especially for those prone to anxiety.
I stopped watching the news about 15 years ago, after reading Tim Ferris’s best-seller ‘The 4-Hour Work Week’. He explained how much time and energy it saved him by cutting this out. I could see that news was making me feel depressed, and yet not empowering me to make social change.
Ferris asks trusted friends who do watch the news to let him know what’s going on. I do the same and it works well.
1 year later, enter the rise of social media and the terrible invention of the endless scroll. Showing us bad news, not just at set intervals, but 24 hours a day if you want it.
Then add to the mix reading the angry back and forth comments, or as comedian Emily Bernstein puts it “a bunch of psychopaths insulting other psychopaths.”
For most of us, we do know this takes a toll on our health (I mean, the clue is in the name!)
So why do we do it?
It can be weirdly addictive, and psychologists, like Tess Brigham theorize that it gives us the illusion of safety and being in control. But in reality for most of us, doomscrolling leaves us disempowered and stressed.
Ultimately social media is not inherently good or bad, it’s how you use it. But it’s designed to be addictive, so you need to use it mindfully.
If you want to stop doomscrolling, try these tips:
- Don’t click on negative things, the algorithm will catch up with your likes soon enough!
- Try using an app timer and blocker. (My personal favorite – Block for Android – designed for parents, but hey, sometimes we need to parent ourselves!)
- Unfollow friends or influencers who post stressful things
- Seek out some good news to counteract the bad such as the website Positive.news
- Put your phone down and do something else!
- Remember that the media sensationalizes things; if you look back at any time in the last 50 years there will have been some kind of ‘crisis’ at the time.
3) Complaining too much
Now don’t get me wrong. We all need to vent. Not doing so when you need it, is unhealthy and can lead to toxic positivity. Mental breakdown anyone? No thanks.
But complaining all the time, or even most of the time, is going to end up reinforcing the negative beliefs that you have. And it can leave you feeling exhausted and drained.
According to Dr Guy Winch, author of ‘The Squeaky Wheel: Complaining the Right Way to Get Results, Improve Your Relationships, and Enhance Self-Esteem’, one way to check if you’re complaining too much is to review your recent conversations. If you are about 80/20 in favor of positivity you are doing fine. 50/50? Not so great.
As numbers can be arbitrary, other signs are:
- Your friends are pointing it out, or worse, avoiding you. (Don’t get paranoid though, just ask them if you suspect this is an issue!)
- You feel helpless and depressed after complaining.
- You regularly feel irritated.
What can you do if you see yourself in this picture? Just as you may have rewired your brain to see the worst, you can rewire it back again. How? With things like gratitude journals, changing your life habits and even changing your friends, (if the friends that you have constantly complain as well).
Tip: If you’re going through a tough time, it’s important to talk it out with someone, a friend, family member or perhaps a coach or therapist (or all of the above), but if you find that complaining has just become a habit, it’s time to change things up.
4) Always seeing the worst in things
Similar to complaining all the time, and one thing can lead to another. The difference is this: It’s not just about what you say, but also what you do, due to your limiting beliefs.
Here’s some examples:
The pessimist, who hears good news about her business and says “Sure, the company made a profit, but who knows how long it’ll last? It’s probably just luck.”
The cynic, who looks on at a charity event and says “I bet they’re just doing it for publicity. No one’s genuinely that generous.”
The catastrophist, who rejects a day out saying “What if the car breaks down? What if we get lost? It’s safer to stay within familiar boundaries.”
Or the disillusioned dreamer who has given up, “Why bother pursuing my hopes and dreams when they seem forever out of reach?”
Again, for those who are very depressed, seeing a therapist may be the best solution, but a step you can take to change this behavior, is to try and find the good in things, no matter how small.
For example, although I don’t subscribe to the work of ‘Abraham Hicks’, (which will send you insane if you follow it, trust me, I have tried!), Elaine Hicks made some good points amongst the madness.
In one exercise she encourages you to try to find something positive about your day, no matter how small. The example she gives is buying a candle.
- First, admire the candle and its packaging or design.
- Then light it and notice how beautiful it looks, and how the room has a wonderful ambience.
- Listen to the crackles that it makes, and notice any special smells.
- Then keep going, thinking perhaps about when you will use the candle in future and how it will create a nice atmosphere when a friend comes to visit.
It sounds simplistic, but by practicing this you will be amazed at how many good things you can find from everyday things.
5) Ignoring your feelings
As much as we don’t want to complain too much, it’s vital that we feel our feelings.
If we keep stuffing our feelings down, we will eventually go numb (warning sign), and then most likely explode. This can come out as depression, anxiety, rage, helplessness and more. This video from the School of Life shows ways we can deal with this.
If you’ve been through a traumatic event, then a trauma-informed therapist can help you gently and safely unpack your feelings.
6) Eating the same thing every day
This might sound odd, but eating the same thing every day can have negative effects.
When I was vegan I noticed that after a while my restrictive diet meant I didn’t want to try new things, even healthy things. Before that I had always been very exploratory.
For some people, who have dietary restraints or other valid reasons, it can be unavoidable. But for those who can, eating a diverse diet is healthier for your gut (and therefore for your brain).
7) Doing the same thing every day
Let’s take it a step further.
Do you find that every day blurs into one? And that your time feels like it is slipping away? If so, that’s probably because there isn’t enough variation in your life.
There are many ‘big’ ways to add change into your life, such as joining a new class, going to a new restaurant, starting a new hobby or making new friends.
But you can also start the change today: Take a different route to work, try something new for lunch, or go into a different shop.
As well as adding a bit of variety it might result in something nice along the way, like seeing a new view or flower, meeting a new person, or discovering a new passion!