Stop Wasting Your Energy on Negative Mental Habits

Mental habits condition your energy levels, motivation, and mood. Find out which ones can lead to emotional exhaustion.
Stop Wasting Your Energy on Negative Mental Habits
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

You know that your energy is limited, and that, if you exercise too much you’ll end up feeling exhausted. However, on a psychological level, you’re not always aware of this dynamic. Nevertheless, your mental and emotional resources aren’t infinite, and every day you must choose where to direct them and in what to invest them. If you make the wrong choice, you end up feeling sad, exhausted, and apathetic. In this article, we’ll talk about some negative mental habits that waste your energy.

You may not even have realized that the feelings of desire and motivation you should be enjoying have disappeared. That’s because you’re used to living on autopilot. Therefore, it no longer surprises you that one day is much the same as another, a monotonous routine that ends with a tremendous desire to go to sleep and disconnect both your body and mind. If this is happening to you, you may need to identify your wasted energy and put a stop to it.

Negative mental habits that waste your energy

Mental habits are the thoughts you tend to resort to frequently. They’re psychological places that are comfortable and familiar to you and to which you dedicate a large part of your time. Nevertheless, they don’t always offer you good results.

Like any habit, these are automatic tendencies. You don’t deliberately choose to do them, but they continue to perpetuate themselves day after day. These are some of the most common.

A man worrying.

Worry

Worrying may be unavoidable, but it’s also a useless and wearing habit. You may think that by worrying you manage to solve the problem or reduce its severity. However, in reality, all you achieve is to exhaust yourself and to generate feelings of great emotional discomfort. Problems or adverse situations exist in order for you to deal with them and to act, if possible. Endlessly turning them around in your mind is extremely harmful.

Excusing yourself and apologizing

Reflecting on damage caused and offering a sincere apology is always a positive move to make. Nonetheless, you shouldn’t ever feel the need to explain yourself to others, to apologize for being who you are, or for not being able to give more of yourself. This tendency, which denotes a great lack of self-esteem, depletes your energy and leaves you vulnerable.

Remember that you have no obligation to please anyone or conform to what others expect of you. If you don’t feel like going to a certain dinner party, don’t invent excuses, feel free to decide for yourself. If someone gets mad at you for setting boundaries, for not always being available, for not being what they want, don’t feel the need to apologize. Your goal is to be at peace with your own actions and decisions. If you know you’ve done well, trying to make others understand will just waste your energy.

Resisting change

Accepting change is one of the most difficult tasks for us. That’s because, as a human, you seek and prefer the predictable, the known, and the stable. However, life flows constantly and there’s no way of stopping it. If you try to hold on to the world as you know it, tirelessly fighting to sustain the unsustainable, you’ll only end up hurting yourself.

Change has to happen and, sooner or later, will take place with or without your consent. Therefore, wouldn’t it be preferable to open up to that new reality, to let go and focus on the opportunities ahead of you?  This is certainly the best way if you don’t want to waste any more of your energy.

Trying to change others

People around you have a tremendous influence on your well-being. Consequently, enjoying healthy and harmonious relationships with positive and like-minded people fills you with joy and enthusiasm, improves your self-esteem, and even protects your health. On the contrary, harmful bonds slowly destroy you.

You have the right and the ability to choose those links, to end those that no longer flow, and to start new ones at any time. What you can’t do is to change people. If you try to do this you’ll find yourself swimming against the tide. Furthermore, you won’t always be successful.

Of course, an individual can change, but they’ll do so when they feel like it and not when you need them to. They’ll do it based on their own convictions and by their own means. Your insistence and effort to do this work for them won’t be fruitful and will only lead to frustration and wear and tear.

Mentally criticizing yourself

This last negative mental habit is one of the most damaging and exhausting.

Imagine that you had someone constantly hounding you and judging your every step and action. This person, at every possible moment, highlights your failures and mistakes and what you could do better. They call you inept, mediocre, worthless, and inadequate. Wouldn’t that be awful?

As a matter of fact, there’s a good probability you’re living with the same kind of infinite critical voice in your head. In fact, you’ve become so used to it that you no longer even question its presence. Therefore, if you frequently feel tired, apathetic, and unmotivated, start by observing how you talk to yourself and what you think about yourself. These messages drive your mood and can either give or take away your momentum.

A woman worrying, a negative mental habit.

Changing the negative mental habits that waste your energy

Have you recognized yourself in any of the above? If so, you need to know that every day you’re wasting your energy, you could be investing in your own well-being, in making your mind a pleasant and positive refuge and an engine that moves you to action.

Now that you know how to identify this damaging type of thinking and attitude that drains your energy, you can start to change it. However, to start with it won’t be easy. Because you’ll have to pay close attention to your internal dialogue at all times. In fact, you’ll have to be able to stop it and replace it with other types of words and thoughts when you find yourself falling back into those old negative mental habits. In effect, you must unlearn the way you learned to think and generate new, more positive and functional mental pathways. Fortunately, the only things you need are time and perseverance.

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  • Froján Parga, M. X., & Calero Elvira, A. (2011). Guía para el uso de la reestructuración cognitiva como un procedimiento de moldeamiento. Psicología conductual.
  • Kaufman, G., & Raphael, L. (1984). Relating to the self: Changing inner dialogue. Psychological Reports54(1), 239-250.

The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.