Toxic Behavior

We have all likely known or have had relationships with people who exhibit toxic traits (habits, behaviors, or ongoing actions that harm others). When toxic behaviors are inflicted on you by others, the effects can be immediately noticeable and have cumulative and lasting consequences. But what about when you are the one who possesses the toxic patterns and attributes? How does that affect your health, ability to heal, your relationships, and overall happiness?

Our thoughts, words, and actions carry a lot of weight. When those thoughts, words, and actions are toxic, our psychological and physiological wellness can suffer. The good news about toxic behaviors is that they can be unlearned.

What Is Toxic Behavior?

Toxic behavior is any behavior that affects you or others negatively. For example, lying and dishonesty are toxic behaviors. You can lie to others, lie to yourself, or be lied to—but regardless of who is lying and who is being lied to, the outcome is always negative (loss of trust, hurt feelings, disillusionment). Identifying your own toxic behaviors isn’t always easy, though, and requires a degree of self-awareness (the ability to reflect on your behaviors, actions, thoughts, feelings, and areas of self that need improvement). Everyone is capable of becoming self-aware—the first step is deciding that you are going to be completely honest with yourself as you evaluate your current true nature. And remember, no one is perfect (nor will anyone ever be).

24 Toxic Traits (Any of these feel familiar?)

  1. Argumentative
  2. Arrogant
  3. Bossy
  4. Condescending
  5. Cruel
  6. Cynical
  7. Dishonest
  8. Fearful
  9. Gaslighting
  10. Impulsive
  11. Jealous
  12. Manipulative
  13. Need to always be right
  14. Negative outlook
  15. Not take responsibility (for your actions or words)
  16. Overly competitive
  17. Overly sarcastic
  18. Passive aggressive
  19. Reckless
  20. Rude
  21. Self-centered
  22. Talk/think negatively
  23. Unapologetic
  24. Unresolved anger

How Does Toxic Behavior Affect Your Immune System and Ability to Heal?

Negative feelings and attitudes can generate chronic stress (keeping the body in a state of fight-or-flight), which can damage the immune system, perpetuate chronic inflammation, and upset the body’s hormone balance. When we are in a state of unbalance, our ability to heal is compromised. To maintain health, we must support our body’s natural cycles and functions, and this support includes emotional support. Trying to operate optimally while we talk negatively to ourselves, repress anger and stress, and act passively-aggressively or impulsively creates a level of toxicity in the mind and body that can disrupt the natural cycles and functions in place to keep us in tip-top shape.

As Vanderbilt University professor of psychology Oakley Ray so perfectly expresses, “Our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and hopes are nothing more than chemical and electrical activity in the nerves of our brains.” Toxic activity (chemical and electrical activity that we influence) can contribute to sickness, while positive activity can actually promote healing. Stress and a pessimistic outlook upset the physical equilibrium our bodies are trying to maintain. The same is true of other negative or toxic habits.

According to the creator of Quantum Resonance Crystal Healing Bed, Shin Keough, it is our deep-rooted and limiting beliefs that get us sick in the first place and get in the way of our recovery. We have been conditioned to believe that we are bound to grow old, get sick, and pass away and that only traditional medicine can provide adequate care. It is this negative outlook and even self-talk (often subconscious) that gets in the way of our innate healing potential.

We know that when someone (maybe even a loved one) is condescending, cruel, manipulative, or rude toward us, it makes us feel belittled, hurt, taken advantage of, or offended—so why wouldn’t you experience adverse effects when those behaviors are self-inflicted? When healing, we must become our best cheerleaders and biggest supporters. We need to shed all toxicity so that we can recover and return to a healthy way of life.

How to Unlearn Toxic Behaviors for a Healthy and Happier Life

Toxic behaviors are nothing more than simple behaviors which we can control and change. We can decide to stop talking negatively to ourselves, confront and release repressed anger, pump the breaks on impulsive decisions, and take ownership of our actions, words, and thoughts. But to make any changes, we must first identify our toxic behaviors. This is an important part of self-care and mental health.

Reflect and Introspect

It is no easy feat to take an honest look at yourself in the figurative mirror and confront your flaws (which we all have). Admitting that you are a bit self-centered, argumentative, bossy, cynical, or negative (in self-talk, attitude, or outlook) is the first and likely, hardest step of your toxic behavior detox and reset. Self-reflection and introspection require quiet space, time, and patience. You must really tap into your deep inner self to identify the root causes of these unhealthy behaviors, which is the next step.

Dig Deep to Identify the Root Cause(s)

The band-aid approach to health doesn’t work—if you only treat the symptoms, you’ll always have the root problem. The same applies to this—if you want to eliminate the toxic behavior for good, you have to identify and address what causes you to act that way in the first place. Why are you so competitive or feel you always have to be right? Why do you make impulsive decisions or think the world is out to get you?

This is hard work, and sometimes getting to the root cause(s) requires some objective help and guidance, such as from a therapist instead of just the self-help approach. Journaling is another helpful practice when trying to reach your roots and purge behavioral toxicity from your life.

Toxic Traits

Uplevel Your Thoughts, Words, and Actions

As Shin Keough explains, we can shift our consciousness and rewrite our habituated thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. Simple practices like reciting healing affirmations and meditation can help promote a parasympathetic state (opposite of fight-or-fight), which is the state we need to be in to rest, digest, and heal. Our deep-rooted, self-limiting behaviors (i.e., fear, jealousy, negative self-talk) get in the way of us living our healthiest and happiest lives.

Following introspection and identifying the root causes of your toxic behaviors, the next step is to re-learn positive behaviors and uplevel your thoughts, words, and actions. This takes practice and a conscious reframing of behaviors and inner dialogue. A good technique is to practice the opposite of what you are used to doing.

For example, if your toxic behavior is self-centeredness, instead of dominating a conversation, try asking the other person questions and practice the art of listening instead. This can be applied internally, too. Meditation can be a particularly beneficial practice to learn to quiet your inner chatter (especially negative self-chatter) so that you can really listen to your inner truth.

What to Expect When You Detox Your Behaviors

Following honest introspection, some deep digging, and replacing burdensome toxic bad habits with positive, healthy behaviors, you will not only start to feel lighter and more energetic but will also start healing and possibly find your true purpose and flow. We often don’t realize how much toxic behaviors weigh us down until they have been lifted away. Also, once we confront our unhealthy traits, we may even start to notice the toxic behaviors of those around us and in our lives. This is another type of detox we may need to undertake—a toxic relationship detox.

Life is too short to live in toxicity! It is up to us, though, to make the change. That change will change everything, though—for the positive!


Disclaimer: The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any products or treatments mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please consult a licensed medical practitioner for medical advice.

At Innovative Medicine, we believe in transparency. We want you to know that we may participate in affiliate advertising programs pertaining to products mentioned herein.

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Meet the Author

Jenn Parker

Originally from Florida, and after ten years of thriving in Costa Rica, Jenn Parker now lives on a small tropical island on the archipelago of Bocas del Toro, Panama. She is an avid surfer, nature photographer, environmental conservationist, traveler, yogi, and self-educated nutritionist and wellness advocate. She has long adhered to a plant-based diet, and full-heartedly believes in the power of nutrition. She has been working full-time as a professional wellness, travel, and lifestyle writer since the start of 2015. Passionate about sharing what she has learned along her journey and through extensive reading and research, she hopes to inspire others to lead a more mindful, environmentally conscious, happy, fulfilled, and healthy lifestyle.
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