Linda Gorchels blogs

More Ways to Damage Well-Being

Last month I discussed 10 Bad Habits that Harm Well-Being. Here is another batch of bad habits.

I’m going to start with a memory I have from my mom’s house. She had a plaque in her bedroom which read:

Worry, regret, self-pity

These are the agents of death.

These three agents of death are unlikely to kill well-being immediately. But over time they can weaken and damage it if they become habitual. They’re worth thinking about.

Excessive Worry

We all worry. Is that mole changing? Will the check arrive soon enough to pay the bills? Are my children progressing normally?

Some worry can actually be a good thing. It’s an evolutionary byproduct of maintaining awareness of potentially dangerous situations. And it can sometimes motivate you to make better decisions. Worry, after all, is thinking about the future. This thinking may result in better preparation and planning.

But do you worry about how much time you spend worrying?

Excessive worrying is a type of anxiety. Fretting over everyday issues, or spending too much of your day consumed by “what if” questions, can have negative mental and physical effects.

It’s time to break the cycle of worrying. Make a list of your concerns, think about them only during a restricted “worry hour,” or distract yourself with positive actions.  

For more ideas, check out WebMd’s 9 Steps to End Chronic Worrying.

Unnecessary Regret

Ah, now let’s shift from the future to the past. Whereas worry is about what might happen in the future, regret is about what actually happened in the past. And many of the same comments apply.

First, the good stuff. Regretting something you’ve done in the past can help you learn from your mistakes. And if you can learn from your mistakes you can improve your future.

On the other hand, repetitive dwelling on self-blame for bad outcomes can damage well-being. It can cause you to pull back from a full life, and can impede coping with stressful situations.

If you find yourself stuck in self-recrimination, ask yourself a few questions. Are you personally accepting more blame than is appropriate? Can you reframe the situation as a reasonable mistake? Can you let it go?

Regret is a part of life that should be harnessed for life’s learnings. But it shouldn’t be allowed to fester into a snake pit of poison.


Sometimes regret turns into self-pity. I’m such a horrible person, I’m pathetic and weak, blah, blah, blah. Self-pity is disempowering. It’s self-absorbed unhappiness.

And it’s not the same as self-compassion.  Whereas self-pity devolves into “isn’t it awful?” thinking, self-compassion is about accepting your imperfections with kindness and humility. Self-compassion can be a motivator toward well-being. Self-pity is a detractor.

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

C. S. Lewis

How can you eliminate self-pity? Compassionately redefine who you are. Praise yourself for your strengths rather than beating yourself up for your weaknesses. Embrace self-improvement.

Beyond the three agents of death from my mom’s plaque, I thought of a few additional negative habits to avoid on your journey to improve well-being.

Skimping on quality sleep

The quality of your awake time depends on the quality of your sleep time. During sleep, cells regenerate and the brain forms new pathways to consolidate memories. Rest is necessary to keep your immune system healthy. Lack of sleep can reduce daytime performance and lead to what the National Institute of Health refers to as microsleep, “brief moments of sleep that occur when you’re normally awake.”

While 7-9 hours of sleep per day is the broad average, how well you sleep is just as important as how much. If you toss and turn during the night, or wake up feeling tired, the quality of your sleep may need to be improved. Avoid late-night snacks and imbibing. Clear your mind with meditation at bedtime. Focus on things to be grateful for as you fall asleep. 

Hanging around negative people

Who do you spend the most time with? Are more of them positive, exhibiting optimistic attitudes toward life? Or are they pessimistic, walking around with perpetual clouds hanging over them?

I read a quote somewhere that negative people are like black holes—they suck the energy and life out of everyone around them. These are the people who make you feel drained, demeaned, and depressed.

So, what can you do about it? Here are a few options

  • Avoid them when possible
  • Smile and remain detached
  • Don’t get sucked into arguments with them
  • Change the subject to a buoyant topic
  • Ask them to share a cheerful thought
  • Focus your own mind on something positive
  • Seek out optimistic people and groups

Living on ultra-processed foods

Defining processed foods is not a straightforward process. In general, processing refers to any operations that change foods from their original state, including freezing, drying, packaging, and artificially formulating them. Some processing is minimal, such as washing lettuce and putting it in a bag. Other processing may be more industrial, resulting in convenient mass-produced packaged items that taste good, but are heavy with added salt, sugar, preservatives, colorants, stabilizers and flavorings.

Eating minimally processed foods is healthier for you and contributes to overall well-being. Ultra-processed foods, on the other hand, contribute to a host of potential health problems.

In summary, if you want to improve your well-being, avoid:

  • Excessive Worry
  • Unnecessary Regret
  • Self-pity
  • Skimping on quality sleep
  • Hanging around negative people
  • Living on ultra-processed food