You’re in the taxi on the way to the airport, ready for a week of relaxation and carefree bliss. It’s all going well until… Wait, did I lock the door? Did I close the windows? Have I got my passport? We’ve all been there and had those anxious doubts (no matter how many times we’ve already checked). Psychologists have now revealed why this can be counter-productive.
Where’s the harm?
You may feel like double or even triple checking will reassure you that you haven’t missed something important. In reality, going back to check that door handle just one more time may be more dangerous than helpful.
For one thing, repeating behaviours and having to habitually reassure yourself on such simple procedures is the grounding that can lead to the development of obsessive-compulsive behaviours. For some, this can control their lives and leave them spending hours completing routines that have little practical use.
For another, rather than helping us be clear on our past actions, these repetitive behaviours can actually cloud our memory. One study showed that those who checked 10 or 15 times that a cooker was turned off were less confident when recalling if it was now, in fact, off or not than those who checked just once. The more you check, it appears, the less vivid the memory becomes and doubt begins to creep in.
Compulsive checking can be mental as well as physical. The same distrust in memory can mean you keep imagining yourself doing the check. Yes, I’m referring to that annoying moment when you’re sitting in the car replaying the moment when you walked out of the house – and try to figure out if your key actually made it into the lock or not.
Now break free!
If you’re about to go on holiday, you don’t want to spend the journey worrying about whether you locked everything up and switched everything off. Of course, you must make those checks, but do them once and once only. Make a conscious effort as you’re leaving the house to switch yourself off from all the doubts – and let the holiday begin. After all, you deserve a stress-free break!