Most of us find ourselves occasionally slipping into habits we know are bad for us. Unfortunately, once we give in to a bad habit, it can be challenging to switch back to the positive routines that keep us feeling strong and healthy. Here are 11 habits that may not seem that harmful but, over time, can ruin your health. Fortunately, with the right mindset, you can overcome these patterns of behavior and replace them with healthful, wholesome new habits.
11. Snacking Between Meals
Turning to snacks between meals to pass the time, fill a void, or soothe your feelings can seem innocuous. However, over time, snacking between meals can add extra pounds. Furthermore, choosing snacks containing empty calories can deprive your body of the nutritious foods you need for energy and good health. Commit to avoiding snacking between meals unless you are really hungry. If you do need nutrition between meals, keep healthy choices on hand. Examples are a handful of raw nuts, apple slices spread with nut butter, or veggie sticks dipped in hummus.
10. Being a Couch Potato
After a long day or a long week at work, it can be tempting to plop onto your sofa and binge-watch your favorite television shows. Your body requires rest to recover from hard work and stress. However, too much time on the couch deprives your body of the exercise and endorphins it needs to keep you fit and happy. If you find you have been lounging on the couch too often, put away your remote and tie on your favorite sneakers. Replace TV time with time spent walking your dog, hiking with friends, or heading out for a bike ride.
9. Eating Fast Food
Fast food is tempting, what with the ease of hitting the drive-thru and speeding away in minutes with a fragrant sack of deliciousness. As tasty as fast food can be, this fare is typically made up of fatty, high-sodium, fried foods. Furthermore, the empty calories can soon leave you feeling hungry again. For food that both fills your tummy and nourishes your body, pamper yourself with whole grains, lean proteins, and nutrient-packed fruits and vegetables. If time is the issue, look for simple recipes with real ingredients like Let the Baking Begin’s recipe for 15 Minute Easy Margherita Flatbread Pizza.
8. Going into Debt
You work hard for your money, and it can be tempting to think this entitles you to spend your earnings on items that make you feel good. However, overspending can quickly find you in debt. Trying to dig yourself out from under a pile of debt can leave you feeling depressed, anxious, and overworked. If you are already in debt, make a plan for living simply while paying down the debt you have accumulated. If you are not yet in debt, take charge of your finances and commit to living within your means.
7. Maintaining a Stress-Filled Lifestyle
Working hard to make your way up the ladder at work or to win the favor of those around you can be a healthy pursuit. However, if you are constantly running yourself ragged trying to accomplish your goals, you may suffer from anxiety, depression, or sheer exhaustion. Make time in your day to engage in activities that revitalize your body and renew your mind. Reading, journaling, spending time with friends, or enjoying nature may help you refresh your mind and keep your perspective clear. Schedule time in your busy schedule to relax and unwind from the stresses of the day.Related: 17 Healthy Living Mistakes and Bad Habits
6. Avoiding Sunscreen
Applying sunscreen may seem like a drag, but overexposure to the sun and experiencing frequent sunburns places you at risk for skin cancer. The Cleveland Clinic warns that your skin can suffer damage from the sun even without a sunburn. Therefore, it is critical to get in the habit of applying sunscreen whenever you are going to be out in the sun. Other ways you can protect your skin are by avoiding the sun when it is at its highest, wearing sunglasses and a hat, and wearing sun-protective clothing. Be sure to reapply your sunscreen every two hours.
5. Overindulging in Alcohol
The excessive consumption of alcohol can contribute to weight gain as well as cause damage to your liver. According to the National Institutes of Health, drinking excessively, whether over an extended period of time or on just one occasion, can cause heart problems. Examples of alcohol-induced heart diseases include cardiomyopathy, heart arrhythmias, stroke, and high blood pressure. Avoid drinking more than two alcoholic drinks per day if you are male. Women should stick to drinking no more than one alcoholic beverage each day. Seek help if your drinking has gotten out of control.
According to the American Heart Association, smoking is the most important preventable cause of death in the United States. The American Heart Association offers five steps to employ when you decide to stop smoking. The first step is to choose a day to be your “quit day.” Step two is to choose a method to help you quit smoking. The third step involves discussing your plan with your doctor. Step four entails making a plan to help you deal with cravings and to keep yourself busy and occupied. Step five is to quit smoking for good.Related: 12 Bad Eating Habits That May Be Hurting Your Health
3. Misusing Medications
Your doctor may prescribe medications for pain, anxiety, or insomnia. If you find yourself overusing or misusing your medications, you may be doing your body serious harm. Overusing prescription medications can lead to dependence on these drugs. Signs your medications may be harming you include excessive sleepiness, confusion, memory loss, and frequent falls. Your doctor can help you come up with a plan to taper off of these medications. Speak with your physician about switching to other medications or using physical therapy or stress reduction techniques to ease your pain or help with sleep issues.
Poor posture may not seem like such a bad habit, but spending too much time slouching can be damaging to the muscles and bones of your back and spine. Maintaining good posture can help prevent or relieve back pain. Harvard Health Publishing offers four tips for improving your posture to relieve back pain. The first involves imagining a straight line running through your body from your head to your feet. The other tips involve using exercises such as squeezing your shoulder blades, stretching your upper body, and stretching each arm across your chest.
1. Skimping on Sleep
When you are feeling a time crunch, sleep is often the first thing to be cut from your schedule. It can also be tempting to put off the proper amount of nightly shuteye in favor of catching up on Netflix or playing video games. However, sleep is a crucial element of good health. During sleep, your body is able to heal, refresh, and re-energize itself. Make getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night a priority. If you have trouble falling asleep, help your body prepare for rest by dimming the lights and engaging in restful activities before bedtime.Related: 16 Lazy Self-Care Habits That Can Ruin Your Health