Let It Go: Taming Soft Addictions
Do mindless activity and bad habits have a hold on you? Get the tow truck, you're in a rut.
Downtime is America's favorite pastime. We zone out via
television, the Internet, shopping, parties, movies, hanging out, and working
out. Sure, some are bad habits; some are "therapy." Most are escapes
from a gerbil-wheel life.
That's when it hits you: Is this all there is?
For Judith Wright, author of Soft Addictions: There Must Be
More Than This, this philosophical crisis occurred when life was a flurry
of activity -- and as her first marriage was ending.
"Something was missing," writes Wright. The crux of the
problem: Her life had become exceedingly superficial, because of what she calls
"Soft addictions are those seemingly harmless habits like
watching too much television, over-shopping, surfing the Internet, gossiping --
the things we overdo but we don't realize it," Wright tells WebMD. "It
seems like normal behavior, but that's simply because everyone is doing it,
Soft addictions can be a problem, Wright says, because life is
to be lived and not escaped from.
It's true, anything in excess can be problematic, says Nadine
Kaslow, PhD, professor of psychology and behavioral sciences at Emory
University in Atlanta. "You need to ask yourself, 'How excessive is it? How
much does it interfere with my life?'"
Not that all mindless indulgences are bad habits, says Kaslow.
There's a place in our lives for pointless conversations, all those Seinfeld
reruns, and mocha- almond fudge. "We do these things to cope with stress in
our lives," she tells WebMD.
"It's legitimate after you have a stressful day, you need
to chill out some," says Kaslow. "But if that's all you do, and you do
it every night, all weekend, that's another matter and it's not good for your
Wright agrees. "It's when they become habitual and we're
just going through the motions that they become a problem," she says.
"These bad habits keep us from living a greater life of meaning and
satisfaction that we really deserve."
Superficial Just Doesn't Satisfy
Upwards of 90% of Americans admit they have soft addictions,
one survey showed. "I actually think it's 100%," says Wright. "I
have not met anyone who doesn't have them. No matter how well off or how
educated they are, everyone has them."
In relationships -- whether you're married or otherwise -- you
think you're relating to each other, but often you're just sharing soft
addictions, Wright tells WebMD. "You think you had a great evening at home,
but you weren't really connecting. That's why relationships don't go anywhere,
why they burn out."
Friendships and social occasions can be stimulating and
nurturing. But they can also be very superficial. "They can be mindless,
gossipy, not-making-real-contact, nonnourishing events -- if there's no depth
to conversations, if you're not genuine, if you're just saying expected lines,
if you're talking about other people. You're not enriching your life."