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10 Bad Habits That Can Make You Healthier, Happier, And More Successful

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10 Bad Habits That Can Make You Healthier, Happier, And More Successful

There’s probably something you do that you class as a cringeworthy bad habit. Relieve your guilt and stop your self-flagellation by reading about the good sides to ten common bad habits, and how you can use them to your advantage.

1. Being Disorganized Enhances Creativity

People who are messy may sound like they’re making up lame excuses for their bad habits by pointing out how disorder helps them to be creative. It turns out they’re telling the truth, and scientific research backs them up. Chaos does indeed encourage people to think outside the box and come up with novel solutions. Volunteers in a study at Northwestern University were faster at solving puzzles when they were in a messy room as opposed to a tidy one. They also drew more creative pictures in a messier setting.

Since disorder has such a powerful effect on the mind, you may want to save your mess for the right context. Keep your accounts tidy and orderly, but allow clutter in spaces where you need more creativity.

 2. Watching Cute YouTube Videos Can Make You More Productive

What could be a bigger waste of time than trawling the internet for cute animal pictures or amusing videos of pets doing daft things? Plenty of things, surprisingly. Studies have shown that, as counter-productive as it seems, this common habit can actually help your brain to focus and complete tasks accurately. Researchers at Hiroshima University found that viewing images of cute baby animals triggered care-giving instincts, making people take more care on subsequent tasks.

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Now that you can guiltlessly surf the web for cute animal images, bear in mind that it’s even better if you can find a video of a puppy or kitten doing something hilarious. Laughter reduces blood pressure, relieves pain and makes the body more resilient to stress.

3. Biting Your Nails Boosts Immunity

Nibbling on your nails is considered a bad habit, but only because of social convention. Back before we had nail scissors, humans would likely have bitten their nails for two reasons. First, it keeps them from getting too sharp and from injuring us, and second, it exposes the immune system to bugs. Research consistently shows that small exposures to bugs will help boost immunity.

If you’re not a nail-biter, rest assured, you don’t have to start. Follow the principle that small amounts of exposure to bacteria are health-boosting, so don’t sterilize, scrub or scour your body too much.

4. A Good Gossip Boosts Your Mood

Talking about other people seems to be a global fascination. People can’t resist a good story or secret, and there are whole magazines devoted to celebrity gossip and members of the public telling tales. Sharing other people’s news has a whole range of mood-boosting benefits. Researchers at Brown University found that most people’s mood improved for up to four hours after spending just 20 minutes gossiping with a friend. 96 percent of people were able to reduce tension and anxiety this way.

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The benefits of gossip are really about bonding and connecting with others. Use gossip positively, and not as a way of judging, criticizing, or ostracizing other people.

5. Swearing Relieves Stress

Your mother may have told you that cursing is a sign of a limited vocabulary but using a little blue language can actually make you feel better when you’re subjected to stressful experiences. Swearing may be particularly useful in the workplace, especially in times of crisis. Swedish scientists have revealed that employees who suffer unfair treatment at work, and don’t find ways to express their anger, double their risk of having a heart attack. Researchers at the University of East Anglia found that swearing at work helps employees to cope with stress and frustration, and cursing can encourage team spirit.

Make sure you let off a little steam when you’re suffering from stress, including an odd choice curse or two if it helps to lower your blood pressure. Make sure you only use naughty words in front of people who are unlikely to find it offensive, and be aware that certain words may prove too fruity for most ears.

6. Sleeping In Protects Heart Health

You may have been led to believe that ‘early to bed, early to rise’ was the best way of organizing your sleep, and may have come to think that having a lie-in is a bad habit. But research by Japanese endocrinologists shows that people who wake up before 5am may put themselves at risk of cardiovascular disease. Hardened arteries, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and obesity were more likely in people who got up earlier, scientists found. These findings held true, even though the amount of sleep was the same. Research at Stanford University previously concluded that the most restorative sleep occurs between 2:00 a.m. and 6:30 a.m.

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If you have to be woken by an alarm clock, this shows that you haven’t got enough sleep. Respect your natural sleep cycle, by going to sleep when you’re tired and letting yourself have as much sleep as you need.

7. Fidgeting Improves Alertness

Fidgeting may seem like a sign of restlessness but when you’re doing it, you’re actually trying to make the brain more alert and focused. Just as you yawn when tired to bring more oxygen in to keep the brain awake, when you fidget, you’re trying to self-stimulate in order to boost mental and physical alertness. And fidgeting is a really effective way of increasing attention. Studies show that this particular habit improves your working memory performance. If you’re not convinced by that, then consider that fiddling and fidgeting also speeds up your metabolism, helping your body to stay fit.

If you feel bored, tired, or your attention to a task is waning, try doodling, twiddling your thumbs, or tapping your foot to bring your focus back.

8. Throwing Tantrums Reduces Tension

Angry outbursts can be habitual for some people. They seem to always throw a wobbly if they don’t get their own way. Expressing small amounts of anger can help to relieve tension and stress in a healthy way, and can help you stop bottling up your frustration and turning it against yourself. Unexpressed anger can turn into anxiety or sadness, and researchers at Carnegie Mellon University revealed that anger is a healthier emotion because it produces less cortisol than fear.

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Keep your tension levels low by expressing anger in healthy ways; a mini-rant, punching a pillow, or pounding the streets during an angry run, are all good ways of letting out stress.

9. Social Media Keeps You Accountable

So many people have the bad habit of checking social media sites at every opportunity. But having a social media presence can help you behave better and stick to your goals. Research shows that announcing intentions on social networking sites allows an individual to more easily stick to their plan. And if you’re checking social media often, you’re helping others to stay on track, too.

If you have an important goal you want to achieve, announce it on Twitter and Facebook so others can keep you accountable and cheer you on.

10. Daydreaming Helps You Solve Problems

Sometimes if you focus too hard on a problem, you can end up more confused and stuck than before. Using conscious thought means you can become too rigid and limited in your thinking. While daydreaming is sometimes thought of as a form of procrastination or non-commitment, researchers have found that it could actually help you to think outside the box to solve tough problems. Scientists at University of British Columbia scanned the brains of people when they daydreamed and found that the habit activated brain regions linked with problem-solving abilities.

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The reason why daydreaming is so powerful is that the thoughts you have come from your unconscious mind. You can encourage your unconscious to be activated by using hypnosis or performing a task you know so well that your mind is free to wander.

Featured photo credit: bark via flickr.com

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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