How to Evaluate Unhealthy Habits
When we hear the term “addiction,” most people immediately think of illicit drugs, followed by alcohol. Addiction to substances is prevalent, affecting 10% of the population by some estimates. But many, many more people are affected by addiction to other things.
If we take an expansive definition of addiction, almost everyone is an addict, writes Cenk Matalon, a clinical counsellor with Sunshine Coast Health Centre, a non 12-step rehabilitation center in British Columbia. Matalon defines addiction simply as “an unhealthy reliance” on a substance, person, or habit. What’s unhealthy? Well, it depend on how the side effects of that reliance show up, and how the thing we are addicted to keeps us from feeling alive, independent and autonomous.
When you think of addiction in these broad terms, many common habits can be seen as addictive. Here are the ones that you should evaluate in your life.
- Social Media
Social media addiction is almost ubiquitous with modern life. Many people would admit that the first thing they do in the morning is reach for their phones and check social media. In fact, 40% of people surveyed in a 2019 poll said that they felt addicted to social media.
Ask yourself, do you feel in control of your social media use? Do you use social media mindfully, or as a way of escaping? What could you be doing instead? Perhaps you could be engaging in conversation with your loved ones, or allowing your mind free time to reflect?
Only you can decide the right level of social media use for you. Just taking a step back and thinking about how you use social media and why can help you set the groundwork for a healthier relationship.
Sex is a normal and healthy part of live for many adults, but it can also become an unhealthy coping mechanism. This risk is intensified when the escapism of pornography and even hook-up apps are added in.
As with social media, it’s a good idea to step back and evaluate how you use sex. Does it make you feel more connected and alive with your partner? Or are you using it to seek validation or simply get a much-needed dopamine hit? Do you need sex in order to feel dominant or desired? Answering these questions can help you create a sex life that is fulfilling and healthy.
Are you constantly worked up about a new concern? Maybe there’s a political cause, or a health concern. Perhaps you’re fretting about your finances or your children’s futures. While some worry is understandable, it’s easy to let worry take over our lives, Matalon writes.
Ask yourself why you are ruminating on a particular worry. Does it affect your life? Is it something you can change? Too often, worry is just a way of spinning your wheels, unable to make progress against a perceived threat. If you find yourself spiraling for no reason, evaluate why you’re focusing on this worry, and what you could be thinking about instead.
- Gossip and Complaints
Just like we make small talk about the weather, it’s easy to fall into the habit of creating conversations around gossip or complaining. On the surface, these conversations provide a way to bond: you can join together with your neighbor railing against people who drive too fast, or with fellow parents against a school-board change that you’re against.
Too often, though, focusing on trivial gossip or complaining becomes a habit that prevents us from making real, genuine connections with the people around us. Instead of defaulting to negative conversations, try asking someone how they are — and really encourage them to be honest. Or, share something vulnerable about yourself. If you resist the urge to reach for the low-hanging fruit of conversation, usually something negative, you’ll likely find yourself forging a deeper connection with the person who you’re talking to.
If you are addicted to substances, it’s often easy to see where you need to cut back and make changes to your behavior. However, when you’re addicted to unhealthy habits, the evaluation can be more nuanced. Social media, sex, worry and complaints might not have massive negative consequences in your life the way excessive drinking or drug use can. However, they can erode your connection and vitality over time. If you can kick these habits, you just might find yourself feeling more alive than ever.
Sunshine Coast Health Centre is a non 12-step drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in British Columbia. Learn more here.
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