5 Deadly Habits You Need to Change Today

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Everyone has bad habits. I don’t believe there is a human being alive who doesn’t.

In everyday life, most of these aren’t a big deal. You’re not a bad person if you have a weakness for chocolate. So you forget to put your shoes away, no one is going to die from that. Maybe you just need a closet organizer.

Survival situations, however, are different from real life. A poor habit that may simply be an annoyance to your spouse on a regular day could have severe consequences in an emergency.

In this article, we’ll examine five bad habits, why they will kill you when your survival is on the line, and also some suggestions for establishing new healthier habits.

image: dead body lying on ground behind crime scene tape because of bad habits

Why Will These Bad Habits Kill You?

Overall, poor habits can:

  • impair your physical and mental abilities,
  • reduce your preparedness for emergencies,
  • and increase your risk of harm or even death in emergency situations.

Plus, they can lead to the development of a lot of other bad habits.

Therefore, it’s important to identify and address these habits to ensure you’re best equipped to handle any unforeseen circumstances.

Ideas for Forming New Healthier Habits

Forming new healthier habits takes conscious effort as we’re creatures of habit, but it’s an important step toward improving your overall ability to respond to emergencies. Here are some ideas to help you form healthier behavior patterns:

  1. Start small: Instead of trying to tackle all of these bad habits at once, focus on making small changes to one of them. For example, if you want to start exercising more, start by going for a 10-minute walk every day and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your exercise over time. When you’ve established that new habit AND have been increasingly challenging yourself, choose another unhealthy behavior to focus on. But again. Start small. Small successes snowball.
  2. Set achievable goals: Make sure your goals are realistic and achievable. Setting goals that are too lofty can be discouraging and make it harder to stay motivated.
  3. Find an accountability partner: Partner up with someone who shares your goals and can help keep you accountable. Whether it’s a friend, family member, or a professional coach, having someone to check in with and provide support can help you stay on track.
  4. Celebrate your progress: Celebrate your achievements, no matter how small they may seem. Reward yourself for making progress towards your goals and recognize the positive changes you’ve made in your life.
  5. Make it enjoyable: Try to choose healthier habits that you enjoy and that fit into your lifestyle. If you don’t like running, try swimming or biking instead. If you don’t like cooking, try finding healthy meal delivery services or prepping meals in advance.
  6. Use positive reinforcement: Instead of focusing on what you’re doing wrong, focus on the positive changes you’re making. Use positive affirmations and self-talk to reinforce your new habits and boost your motivation. Mindset is sooo important.
  7. Be patient: Forming new habits takes time and effort, so be patient with yourself. Don’t get discouraged if you slip up or miss a day. Remember that every day is a new opportunity to make progress toward your goals.
  8. Stay committed: The key to success is consistency and perseverance, so stay focused on your goals.

One of the best books I’ve read about how to establish new habits is Atomic Habits by James Clear. It’s not necessarily new information, but it’s packaged in a very readable, easy-to-follow format.

The Five Fatal Habits

Now let’s move on to those habits you should eradicate.

1. Eating out

It’s no secret that eating out too often is detrimental to your health and your wallet. It’s much more expensive to eat at a restaurant than it is to cook your own food at home. New York Times columnist Mark Bittman breaks it down in this article.

He calculates that a trip to McDonald’s will set you back $28 for a family of four, whereas a home-cooked chicken dinner with vegetables is only $14. And, it’s not only the expense. It’s also much easier to overeat at restaurants because portions tend to be larger.

Then there’s the issue of making healthy food choices, something that may be difficult in a restaurant setting. Even when you ask for nutritional information, you still have no idea about the additives in the food. And note, this article is from 2011, and with inflation, eating out like this costs even more now.

But here’s the biggest reason to reduce eating at restaurants…

But here is the biggest reason why the habit of eating out too much can be a bad thing. Even if you choose an establishment that primarily serves healthy food, an over-reliance on outside sources for the preparation of your meals can make you less likely to develop cooking skills and habits of your own.

Even if all you have in your food storage is freeze-dried, ready-to-eat, just-add-water meals, what will you do when they run out? Do you know how to cook from scratch, and are you comfortable enough with the process that you could do it every day?

READ MORE: With the money you don’t spend eating out, you may be able to save money with the 52-Weeks Savings Plan; you can start it any time of the year!

2. Being out of shape

An emergency situation, whether in the short-term or in a long-term SHTF scenario, will put a significant strain on your body. It is impossible to foresee the specifics of what that strain will entail.

Difficult circumstances might require:

  • Walking long distances
  • Lifting heavy objects for an extended period of time
  • Going without the comfortably large amounts of food or water to which we are accustomed
  • Doing hard, manual labor all day, every day

A fit person who exercises with some regularity is much better placed to meet these challenges. That doesn’t mean you should sign up for the Marines’ wilderness survival training, even though I am sure it wouldn’t hurt.

However, if you live a mostly sedentary lifestyle, it is never too late to become more active. Even the smallest amounts of exercise are better than nothing. I’ve used these versatile resistance bands to build muscle and burn calories.

This is linked to eating out also. If you’re making less healthy food choices and not caring for your physical health, then fatigue, inflammation, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and many other medical issues could become your dear friends. Those are not the friends you want in an emergency, right?

READ MORE: Learn how to create your own prepper fitness plan here.

3. Panicking

This is probably the most difficult part of emergency preparation. In our modern life, our fight-or-flight response may kick in when we’re doing mundane things, like sitting in a meeting. You might feel like an idiot at the time, but no one (to my knowledge) ever died by being unprepared at a board meeting. Yet, in a survival situation, the stakes will be much higher.

My favorite example of why you should not panic comes from the movie, Jurassic Park: The Lost World. There’s a scene where all the main characters are hiding from the T-Rex on the other side of a waterfall. Suddenly, a snake slithers down the shirt of the sympathetic, unshaven scientist.

Close inspection reveals that the reptile in question has stripes of red touching black, which, as the old Cub Scout rhyme tells us, means this snake was not venomous. Still, the guy freaks out and gets eaten by the dinosaur. Here’s a clip if you want to watch it.

Moral of the story: Don’t be that guy.

Train yourself to not panic

But how then do you train yourself not to panic when your emotions can be overpowering?  It’s not a quick fix like ordering a few cases of food storage from the internet. It requires a change of mindset, which is tough.

First, decide well before you are faced with a severe emergency that you will take a deep breath and assess the situation before you panic.

Second, identify the real dangers (the carnivorous dinosaur) and the aspects that pose no real threat (the non-venomous snake).

Finally, based on your assessment, choose the best course of action.

READ MORE: Learn the 16-Second Survival Breath to help you overcome the automatic panic response.

4. Having a vice

We all have our little addictions.  Most of our vices are relatively harmless: chocolate, Facebook, video games, french fries. (Although we know there are smartphone and video game addicts.) But what would happen if suddenly they were taken away? As an example, here is how supply chain disruptions are affecting your cup o’java.

If you have a serious thing for coffee, you could make green coffee beans part of your food storage like buckets full of wheat and rice. That would soften the blow in the event of a shortage, but if coffee became impossible to buy ever after, you would eventually run out of the coffee in your storage and would have no choice but to find a way to cope with a coffee-free life or coffee-alternative life.

Keep in mind that this would be in a SHTF scenario, wherein you would already be coping with who knows what. You would be under enormous strain already; if you are one of those people who can’t function without your morning coffee, you can forget about everything else.

Of course, this applies to other vices, large and small. If you can wean yourself away from them, you’ll be better able to cope in truly dire times.

READ MORE: Read about more ways our beliefs (like our NEED for coffee) threaten our self-reliance.

5. Being sloppy/ disorganized

My husband is going to laugh when he sees that I wrote this part. My failure to put away my shoes with any regularity is a constant thorn in his side. I have to admit, it does get annoying when I can’t remember where they are in the house and we have to leave the house in five minutes.

I am under no illusions that it will be much more serious when we have fifteen minutes to evacuate the house and I still can’t find my shoes, the kids’ socks, or, heaven forbid, other important and life-saving equipment.

READ MORE:  This post has tips to help you be more organized.

Final Thoughts About Killing Bad Habits

If you have a bad habit, the important thing is to resist the urge to throw in the towel and proclaim, “I just have bad habits and there’s nothing I can do about it.” There is always something you can do. Part of being a prepper means you don’t just lie down and let bad things roll over you.

No! You stand up and do something about it!

I’ve been trying to kick my nail-biting habit for decades, but I’ve finally made some progress: I haven’t bitten them in nearly four months! If I can quit biting my nails, I can probably find it within myself to put my shoes away, too.

The thing with emergency preparedness is that you can’t predict when emergencies will happen. Waiting until tomorrow to abandon bad habits may be too late. But that doesn’t mean you have to change completely today. Start small at first, then work your way towards the bigger things. You’ll be glad you did.

What bad habit do you think could kill you in an emergency?

Originally published September 3, 2015; updated and revised by Team Survival Mom with contributions by Beth Buck.

26 thoughts on “5 Deadly Habits You Need to Change Today”

  1. I teach my kids that things like coffee, black (fermented) tea, tobacco, and alcohol are means of enslavement. Using them means that, sooner or later, you will be owned by the substance. It’s always best to learn how to get along without your ‘vice’, if possible. OTOH, I suspect that coffee will be a very valuable bartering item when SHTF, along with salt, sugar and soap. At least we’ll be able to make soap, unlike the others.

  2. I should’ve mentioned: Tobacco plants come in many decorative-appearing varieties. It is completely legal to grow them, in your yard, or as indoor plants. I’m imagining that tobacco would be worth its weight in gold, maybe more. Just a thought. 😉

  3. I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life, never partaken of illegal drugs, or legal drugs for that matter…but I am an absolute slave to coffee. Coffee owns me, and I am at a loss as to how to live without it. Coffee is life!

    1. While I am not a slave to coffee, I certainly am less grumpy with it. I have seen coffee trees/shrubs for sale and have often wondered if what it would take to grow them. The question then becomes, how many coffee shrubs do I need to keep me in coffee?

      1. I’d be interested to know. I know they grow best in tropical climates, so if you live in the temperate zone you’d have to put your coffee plants indoors or in a greenhouse.

        1. I found the plant in Logee’s catalog. Its says zone 10 and 55 degrees seems as cold as it can get. But when the swing set comes down, a green house will go up and I will have to see it I can keep it that warm. Its worth getting one or two to experiment. I am famous for my “experiments” in the garden. Usually starts with “I wonder….”

    2. An addiction to an illegal drug is pretty much a no-brainer; it’s the little things like coffee (but it could also extend to chocolate and refined sugar) that we don’t think much about.

    3. I know this is ‘way later and don’t know if anyone will see it but from one coffeeholic to another, it’s not the coffee but the caffeine. FYI, get to know the yaupon holly tree (bush really). It is north america’s only indigenous caffeine supply. Latin name known as Ilex Vomitoria. (okay the vomitoria is because the Cherokee used to make a very very very strong concoction of it for young braves to “purge” before going on vision quest to be a man.) There are a lot of “Ilex” hollies, some of which make nice or medicinal teas….but yaupon is the only one with caffeine. Grows like scrub brush weed in maritime and southern forests but can survive places a coffee plant can’t. While it isn’t a cup of coffee, it still has the kick. I’m trying to cultivate some camelia sasangua that came with the house and add some camelia sinensis for tea-as-we-know it, green and black. It grows in all but the most northern climes.

      1. @Beth Buck:
        Even then, they won’t survive. I bought 2 on a whim from a farmers market. I did everything, but they both died in about 3 months. I live in Oregon, it was the heat of summer and they were upstairs with filtered sun and I misted them daily, just as they would grow normally. Dead.
        Maybe CA. or Fl., but not here!

      2. @mickie b
        yaupon, yuk!
        I tried it. It was tasteless and what flavor I DID get from it was tree bark.

  4. On the subject of eating out; another way it could kill you is very literally. Every time you eat out or eat a prepackaged meal (TV Dinners, etc) you are putting your life in someone else’s hands. Most of the time it’s not a problem, but we all have read Idunamany news articles about outbreaks of food poisoning that are traced to a restaurant.

  5. William Ridgeway

    Another bad habit that people have is trust. Because when SHTF trusting someone may cost your means of survival or your life. Make sure you can trust those around you. Because people will change drastically.

  6. Another bad habit is Procrastination. I have a bad habit of telling myself that “I’ve got time” and then going and watching the idiot box. this ties in with several of the other habits (getting in shape, getting organized). We may think we have time but we never really know, do we? “It” may happen a month from now, a year or two or ten from now, or it may happen tomorrow.

    Procrastination can be a killer.

  7. Pingback: 5 Habits That Will Kill You | Michigan Standard

  8. Choosing a man in a movie as an example of someone panicking and getting killed is ridiculous. I knew it was a woman who authored this article the instant I read that. It was too predictable.

    1. Almost as ridiculous and predictable as a man thinking that panicking is solely a woman thing. Because men never panic in real life, right?

    2. Really? The male example is what gave away the author’s gender on on a blog called “survival mom,” featuring a women in a toolbelt as a logo and a byline of “Beth Buck”? I think #6 on this list should be flexing one’s power of deductive reasoning. Obviously some of us need the practice before we have to use it in a dire situation.

  9. Lets see now. I eat out a couple of times a week, Definitely out of shape as I stopped going to the gym a year and half ago. I don’t panic so its not a problem. I do go to the casinos (gamble vice) too much and I will admit I am not the neatest person in the world as I see from the mess on my desk. So 4 out of 5 bad habits. Is procrastination good or bad for you. However I am a planner, I know what when where how and why I do things. I take care of my personal hygiene try to eat healthy and dress neatly and try to keep my brain occupied and I believe my personal medical and mental health is pretty good. I have friends and engage in non physical sports (golf bowling pool darts) I try to enjoy life. I don’t as a rule practice my religion but think of myself as a spiritual person. So does my good points overcome my bad points. I’m a retired male.

  10. I’m doing ok as far as this list goes, except #2. But there’s not much I can do about that.
    Btw-instant coffee is still coffee. And caffeine tablets are cheap, small, and have a decent shelf life.

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