While most of the time, we look at bad habits such as eating junk food, smoking, or not exercising, we rarely pay attention to what these bad habits might do for our mental health.
Just as bad habits can be harmful to your physical health, some bad habits can negatively affect your mental health. These habits can increase your risk of depression, for example, or cause you to feel more anxious or stressed out.
“Modern life is not good for mental health.” – Jean Twenge, sociologist
THESE COMMON HABITS HURT YOUR MENTAL HEALTH AND WELL-BEING
Here’s a list of fifteen bad habits we all have that are messing with your mental health. Change these simple, everyday routines to live a happier life.
1. POOR EATING HABIT
The field of nutritional psychology is revealing the effects of food on our psychological well-being. For example, eating a lot of processed food (like cookies, chips, bread, etc.) substantially raises the risk for depression.
This also includes under- or over-eating, not having enough of the healthy foods we need each day, or consuming too many types of food and drink, which are low in fibre or high in fat, salt and/or sugar.
So, if you live with depression, you may find some relief simply by improving your diet. Recommendations typically include eating more vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, fish, healthy fats like olive oil, and other minimally processed foods (the “Mediterranean diet”).
2. BUYING STUFF WE DON’T NEED
We are easily influenced by the habits of those around us, and sadly, many of us buy things we really don’t need, whether out of habit or to try to fill a void in our life. However, studies have shown repeatedly that more “stuff” can’t ever buy happiness. In fact, accumulating too many things we don’t need can cause anxiety and stress. Research shows that buying experiences, not things, can increase happiness, because people connect more to things they do rather than things they can use.
3. LACK OF EXERCISE
A sedentary lifestyle is bad for our waistline, our heart and, as it turns out, our mental health. However, we should refer to exercise as “nature’s mood enhancer.”
Regular exercise may ease depression by releasing endorphins and other “feel good” chemicals, suppressing immune system chemicals that worsen depression, and increasing body temperature to create a calming effect. Exercising regularly can also give you confidence, distract your mind from worries, improve social interaction, and help you cope with life stresses in a healthy way.
Bad exercise habits that affect your mental health include exercising irregularly or not at all, exercising to the point of exhaustion, practicing bad form, and engaging in only one form of exercise.
4. SEARCHING FOR PERFECTIONISM
The pursuit of excellence is a healthy habit. However, when your search for perfectionism turns negative, it can exacerbate anxiety, stress, and tear down your healthy boundaries. When we’re focused solely on being perfect with no boundaries on how to get there, it’s easy to get lost. Try practicing mindfulness to steer your perfectionism to the positive side.
5. NOT GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, sleep is key for our mental health. Creating poor sleeping habits — sleeping all morning, napping and then not being able to sleep at night.
Sleep deprivation has its ways of showing you the importance of a good night’s sleep. You guessed it: lack of sleep and anxiety/depression have a direct link between each other. We absolutely need quality sleep in order to function, but modern life doesn’t emphasize sleep very much.
Make sure you are getting at least seven hours of restorative sleep each night. Edit your bedroom to help you sleep better, have a sleep routine, and find sleeping tips that help you reach a calm state. Your body and mental health will thank you.
6. OVERUSING SMARTPHONES AND TECHNOLOGY
It comes as no surprise that when mobile technology began to increase, we saw an increase in mental health problems, too. Studies found that people who spend extended periods of time on social media are more likely to develop depression.
Before smartphones, people would talk face-to-face more often and have deeper conversations, because they didn’t have so many distractions right in front of them. Now, we have more distractions than ever, and are less present and mindful in the real world. Because of our constantly plugged-in world, we are less connected with ourselves and the people around us. This disconnect between ourselves and reality has led to an epidemic of anxiety and depression, unfortunately.
7. TOO MUCH SOCIAL MEDIA
Overusing of social media is promoting anxiety and lowering self-esteem in teenagers. The mental health issues resulting from social media use can also affect adults. There was held a survey of 1500 adult Facebook and Twitter users in which 62 percent of participants reported feelings of inadequacy and 60 percent reported jealousy from comparing themselves to other social media users. Thirty percent said using just these two forms of social media made them feel lonely.
Using too many social media sites may be dangerous to our mental health. Studies link the use of multiple social media platforms with an increased risk for depression and anxiety.
Right now, the news can seem overly negative and downright overwhelming. While it’s important to stay up to date with what’s going on and how to keep yourself and loved ones safe, try to limit the amount of news you watch each day and your overall screen time.
8. CONSTANT PROCRASTINATION
Call It whatever you want, procrastination, doing things later, or taking a break – procrastination is not your friend. It’s easy to blame it on stress, exhaustion, or any other event that happens. But, not tackling things when you need to only makes the stress and anxiety worse once the deadline hits you.
Having poor time management skills has many downsides that can impact our personal and professional life. Find ways to incorporate good time management methods in your routine and kick procrastination to the curve.
9. ISOLATING AND STAYING IN BED ALL DAY
Isolating ourselves from everyone, staying in your room, not showering for days, not doing your housework, feeling guilty, just hoping for the day it will pass – all this only worsens our mood and depression, even though we do not realize it.
“Isolating when I’m in ‘a mood’ because I don’t want anyone else to have to deal with me. This is toxic when you’re always in ‘a mood’ and never spend time with the ones who could help you get out of ‘the mood.’” — Jenni Y.
10. SPENDING LITTLE TIME OUTDOORS
Just as it’s easy to sit all the time, we can also spend entire days without setting foot outside. A lack of sunlight means less Vitamin D in your body, an essential nutrient that helps regulate your mood and immune system, among other things.
Being outdoors — especially in natural environments like parks — is linked with improvements in mental health. It can also be an effective way to calm your nervous system, and to enjoy socializing with the people you run into.
Take a short walk outside after lunch. Focus on the experience as you take in the sights and smells and feel your body move.
11. COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS
With everyone on social media sharing the highlights of their lives, it’s easy to compare yourself to others all the time. Before you know it, you’re second-guessing every decision because you keep comparing yourself to someone else’s success. One will sit on social media and scroll on Instagram or Facebook, constantly comparing his life and see how others are out traveling or doing fun things.
Forget about the highlights, remember that not many people are sharing the behind-the-scenes of their journeys. Beware of developing imposter syndrome, it can significantly impact our mental health and self-image.
12. LIVING IN CLUTTER
When we’re surrounded by clutter, we’re keeping our mind in clutter. There’s a reason why some people found so much joy in tidying up, it’s actually a huge stress reliever.
If you put off dealing with the mess, you might find yourself feeling quite a bit of stress. Mess causes stress by making you feel “out of control,” creating conflict with loved ones because your ideas of cleanliness may not match, and offering a tangible representation of the disorder you might be feeling inside.
Set aside some time each evening to tidy up and disinfect so that you can start the next day in a clean and serene environment.
13. KEEPING TOXIC RELATIONSHIPS
We don’t necessarily associate our relationships with our mental health, but they are. People who stay in toxic relationships tend to dismiss their mental health and focus solely on the other person.
Most toxic relationships are filled with sabotage and abuse, whether we see it or not. When you’re ready, try forgiving toxic people so you can move on and start focusing on your mental health. Also, don’t think toxic relationships are face-to-face only, make sure you’re unfollowing toxic people from your social media as well.
14. OVERINDULGING ON ALCOHOL
15. NOT PAYING ATTENTION TO OUR POSTURE
Having poor posture does more than mess with your spine’s health and overall wellness. Adopting a healthy posture is linked to reduced symptoms of depression. The same study found that people with better posture have better self-image and mood.
When our body is aligned, everything works as it’s supposed to reducing fatigue and giving us a more positive attitude.