While most people know that a steady of potato chips and running on four hours of sleep a night consistently are unsustainable habits, many other sneaky bad habits can also creep into our routines and wreck havoc on our bodies.
Some of these habits can be hard to recognize, especially if we seem to do them on autopilot. You may not notice any deleterious effects right away, but over time they can really get in the way of our success. That said, here are a few practices to rethink and replace with healthier ones:
1. Using Self-Criticism
Constantly beating yourself up and putting yourself down only leads to poor self-image and possibly depression. Self-compassion, on the other hand, is correlated with greater psychological health and resilience. It takes work but curating a kinder inner dialogue can pay dividends.
2. Mindlessly Scrolling Through Social Media
It’s called Doom Scrolling for a reason. Studies show that the more time people spend on social media sites, the more feelings of isolation they reported. And social isolation can spell trouble for mental and physical well-being. Too much time spent online can result in fear of missing out (FOMO) and jealousy.
At the same time, some people are afraid to deactivate their accounts because they want to stay in touch with friends, family and colleagues. You can get the same payoff from investing your time and energy in in-person interactions. For example, schedule lunch with a friend, host a party or even volunteer to feed off people’s energies.
3. Watching TV
You probably already know that an hours-long Netflix binge isn’t great for your body, but research shows watching too much TV is also bad for your brain.
A 2016 study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that high television consumption and low physical activity in early adulthood were associated with worsen mental acuity and speed later in life. In other words, our bad habits can catch up with us even years later.
Swapping TV time for physical activity could be key to brain health. So rather than zoning out in front of the TV after work, try to go for a brisk walk or even hit the gym. You’ll feel better and your mind and body will thank you.
4. Eating When You’re Not Hungry
Do you find yourself reaching for a snack or a second portion when you’re not actually hungry? You’re not alone. Emotional eating, nighttime eating, or societal pressure are reasons why you might over-indulge.
Such a habit will catch up with you sooner than later — consuming extra calories may cause you to become overweight. And carrying a few extra pounds increases the risk of a variety of health problems such as type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and even cardiovascular diseases.
To keep your weight in check, it’s important to choose nutrient-dense foods that fill you up, instead of “empty” calories associated with processed foods. It’s also a good idea to really check in with yourself when you’re tempted to eat when you’re not actually hungry.
Just like limiting TV time might be hard at first, it’s not impossible to trade unhealthy habits for ones that serve you and your waistline. For instance, practicing yoga can help you better cope with uncomfortable feelings and be grounding so you’re not reaching for a candy bar every time something upsets you. In the long term reducing caloric intake can mean a longer lifespan and improved quality of life.
5. Sitting Too Much
If you have an office job there’s a good chance you spend a lot of time sitting. They say sitting is the new smoking, so lack of activity will catch up with you sooner than later. Sedentary behaviors have been associated with an increased risk of the same physical health issues associated with overeating.
But there’s more to it than the physical. Spending too much time ideal can spell trouble for your mental health, too. Studies show people who sit too much are at a higher risk of depression.
The good news is that committing to an hour of vigorous activity each day can help offset the negative effects of modern office culture. A standing desk is a great alternative to a traditional workstation. It’s also important to get up for a few minutes every 30 minutes to stretch your legs. And if your boss and team are open-minded, you might even consider walking meetings.
Good health is the sum of our daily habits. If you have concerns about a specific facet of health, we’re here for you. Integrative medicine tries to recognize that each individual is unique and is facing unique circumstances that may be impacting their health and wellness. We believe that promoting the health of the body takes a complete approach to lifestyle, nutrition, addressing physical activity levels and sleep quality, and looking for any allergies or intolerances. If you’re fed up with traditional medicine and want answers (maybe not found online), that’s exactly what we offer. Give us a call at (703) 822-5003 to make an appointment.