We all have habits. Some are helpful, like brushing your teeth or reading before bed, while others, like smoking or self-sabotaging, aren’t necessarily the best. In fact, the latter falls into the category of bad habits that affect your health. But like everything in life, there is a solution. You can learn how to kick them to the curb for good and uplevel your habit game.
8 Bad Habits That Affect Your Health and How to Break Them
1. Too much screen time
How it affects your health: While watching Netflix every day or scrolling may seem harmless, they actually aren’t. In fact, excessive screen time can cause several consequences.
- It motivates us to follow a sedentary lifestyle
- The blue light disrupts our circadian rhythms, causing sleep problems
- Depression, anxiety, poor self-esteem, and poor cognitive functioning are all risk factors from overuse
How to break it: Breaking any habit requires you to remove the temptation. For example, make your phone hard to reach in the morning to reduce the urge to scroll first thing. Or if you get distracted by it easily, place it in another room while working – an out-of-sight-out-of-mind approach. Also, discover your triggers. If you feel more compelled to scroll while socializing, perhaps as a coping tool to manage social anxiety, try leaving it at home for a night and instead bring sensory tools in your purse like gel beads or a stress ball to alleviate your stress. Thankfully, there are several tips and hacks to reduce screen time to help you become less attached.
2. Biting your nails
How it affects your health: If nail-biting is your bad habit, you may not even know you’re doing it. Indeed, it is often a subconscious response to anxiety. Yet, overuse can quickly lead to a host of side effects
- Damage to your nail bed, surrounding tissue, and cuticles
- The passing of bacteria to your mouth (Think about everything we touch throughout the day)
- Dental problems, including chipped teeth, jaw pain, tension headaches, and recessed gums.
How to break it: Often, nail-biting is a stress response. So, determine the root cause of your stress while enlisting alternatives to alleviate the source. For example, carry another oral fixation tool like gum in your purse for when you feel the urge and use coping tools like meditation, journaling, and other stress management techniques that actually work. Yet if this habit doesn’t apply to you and you’re a parent with a child who does, there are various hacks to help your kids to stop biting their nails.
3. Poor posture
How it affects your health: Many of us tend to slouch, often subconsciously. But doing so can misalign our musculoskeletal system, decrease our flexibility, and disrupt our balance. Yet maybe the most surprising consequence is that it affects our breathing. Breathing requires muscles around your neck and collarbone, and poor posture inhibits these muscles from functioning adequately.
How to break it: Improving your posture can feel awkward at first. To ease the discomfort, relax your shoulders, keep your elbows close to your body, and pull your stomach in. And if sitting, switch positions often and take brief walks. As a more permanent solution, follow primal movement works to build strength and stability, and when in doubt, prioritize yoga…always.
4. Not managing your stress
How it affects your health: One of the notoriously bad habits that affect your health is stress. Yup, stress is often a daily part of our lives. And while it’s hard to escape it, too much of it causes severe consequences:
- High blood pressure
- Disruptions to your sleep
- Lack of sex drive
- Panic attacks
- Compromised immune system
- Impaired work performance and relationships
How to break it: First, determine the root cause. Are you overextending yourself and need to set boundaries? Determining the cause will help you create a plan to minimize it. Secondly, enlist coping skills to help you. For example, perhaps you learn how to use rain meditation to manage anxiety throughout the day. Or you pick up a few stress-relieving hobbies like painting or journaling to give you an outlet. Experimenting and finding your preferred tools will help you respond better to stressful situations.
5. Eating too much processed foods
How it affects your health: Our mothers were right when they told us to eat our vegetables. Doing the opposite and following a diet rich in processed foods leads to several problems. Firstly, they cause us to eat more than the recommended amount of salt, fat, and sugar. And these sneaky agents that taste delicious cause heart disease, obesity, brain fog, depression, anxiety, and digestive problems.
How to break it: Often, our first meal of the day can dictate the rest of our eating habits. For example, if you skip it, your blood sugar levels will drop, causing you to want an easy fix to feel better: Processed food. To avoid that, eat breakfasts high in protein, fiber, and healthy fat to regulate your blood sugar and kickstart your day. Also, follow meal prep hacks and ideas to save time and motivate you to choose healthier choices.
6. Not drinking enough water
How it affects your health: If you don’t like the taste of water, you’re not alone. But your distaste is preventing your body from functioning properly. Indeed, the simple act of not hydrating can lead to brain fog, headaches, weight gain, dry skin, digestive problems, muscle aches, and fatigue, to name a few.
How to break it: As mentioned earlier, a popular reason why many forgo water for other liquids is the taste. If this resonates, learn how to drink more water when you don’t like it by adding fun fruits and ingredients to jazz it up, and then, ask your trusted smart phone for help. For example, set periodic timers throughout the day to remember you to achieve the recommended daily intake of 11.5 cups or 2.7 liters.
7. Not prioritizing enough sleep
How it affects your health: We all know neglecting our sleep can cause annoying issues like fatigue the following day and a slower pace than usual. But did you know sleep deficiency is linked to more serious problems?
- A weakened immune system
- Poor cognitive functioning, problems concentrating and remembering, and your likelihood of making consistent mistakes increases
- Physical conditions like heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.
- Mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, chronic stress, and burnout.
How to break it: Luckily for you, we love to address the effects of sleep deprivation and how to cope. We know improving your sleep needs a holistic route. This means following a consistent sleep-wake cycle, avoiding electronics before bed, reducing caffeine intake, and conditioning your brain for sleep by following calming nighttime routines to reduce anxiety.
8. Avoiding necessary medical checkups
How it affects your health: Going to the doctor can be scary. Who wants to see their dentist, get an annual pap smear or go in for checkups? No one. But this level of avoidance can be harmful. In fact, early detection of any condition is key to optimizing your health and increasing your longevity. And consistently ignoring your email or text reminders about your upcoming health appointments could lead to a series of “Should of” moments you can’t undo.
How to break it: Firstly, ask yourself why you’re so intent on avoiding your appointments. Are you worried about the worst-case scenarios? If so, take a deep breath and remind yourself that attending them will protect your health. Then, discuss your concerns with your doctors. They will provide reassurance to calm your nerves.
While this list of bad habits that affect your health provides tips for addressing each one, it’s important to remember to take it slow. Pick one to start that you want to change and follow a recipe of dedication, rewiring your mindset, risk/reward, and consistency. Over time, you can unlearn bad habits for good and create ones that positively enhance your life.
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