Everyday Habits That Can Hurt Your Mental Health

by Carina Wolff

It's nice to think back when we were younger and didn't have a million things on our mind. As we get older, we get bombarded with more responsibilities, and to cope with this increased burden, we sometimes take on habits that are bad for our mental health. Whether we are aware of them or not, it's important we recognize these unhealthy urges and eradicate them head on.

"Habits that are bad for our mental health usually have an overarching effect on other areas in our life, be it on relationships, our own motivation or even self worth," says Marriage and Family Therapist Talia Wagner over email. "There are habits that we do again and again with little to no awareness on how it impacts the bigger picture."

Changing the patterns of our day, how we think, and how we view the world can help have positive effects on our mood, our relationships, and even our behavior. Experts suggest that changing your habits is like strengthening a muscle: the more you work to change the habit, the stronger you become.

If you feel like your mental health could use a little boost, try ditching the below seven habits, which can have a negative effect on your brain.

1. Not Knowing How To Say No

It can be tempting to feel like you always have to please people by taking on their favors, but sometimes you just have to say no to free up your time and declutter your mental resources. "Not being able to say 'no' makes most people feel bad, which isn't good for their mental health," says motivational speaker and life coach Steve Siebold over email. "The key is to be generous, yet selective with your time. Don't feel guilty about saying 'no.'"

2. Cramming Too Much Into The Day

"Americans are known for always being on the go and keeping a packed schedule," says Siebold. "This lifestyle makes you mentally and physically fatigued." Studies show we need around seven hours of sleep to function optimally, and adding in some daily-recommended exercise can help boost your brainpower and energy. You may be surprised to realize you're more productive when your body is on its A-game.

3. Constantly Checking Your Phone

"A hurtful habit practiced all day long by most of us is the automatic viewing of our phone, without any allowing ourselves to sit with our thoughts," says Psychologist Dr. Greg Kushnick to Bustle over email. "Mindless checking of our screens promotes the expectation of immediate gratification and a difficulty handing negative states of mind organically." A recent study by De Montfort University also found that checking your phone constantly can make you more distracted and forget things more easily.

4. Spending Too Much Time Indoors

Spending all your day inside can not only make you stir crazy, but it can also increase your risk for depression. "Lack of sunlight and vitamin D can contribute to depressive symptoms," says Psychotherapist Sharon Martin, LCSW over email. Along with light, outdoor exercise, even light walking, has been linked to better mental health, from your mood, to concentration, according to Harvard Health.

5. Negative Thinking

It's easy to get caught up in cranky moods, but having constant negative thoughts and ruminating about them can take a toll on your mental health, increasing symptoms of depression and anxiety. "Negative thinking works to undermine our confidence, achievements and relationships with others, among other things," says Wagner. "Although difficult to do, changing the way we think and see the world is possible. As with any habit, it takes work to change something that has become automatic in our behavior or our thoughts."

6. Going Over Tomorrow's To-Do List In Bed

It can be tempting to organize your thoughts at the end of the night, but this can have negative repercussions."A lot of people do this and it's a big reason they feel anxious and unable to go to sleep at night," says clinical psychologist Charles Schaeffer over email. "Over time this leads to chronic sleeplessness that literally takes away your brain's ability to focus, regulate negative emotions, and tends to increase anxiety."

7. Beating Yourself Up Over A Mistake

"People tend to say 'Oh, I'm such an idiot!' when a mistake is made or something is forgotten," says Therapist Kathryn Gates, LMFT. "Being in the unconscious habit of telling ourselves we are dumb, stupid, or an idiot decreases a person's base feelings of competency and worth.

Everyone makes mistakes and has a rough day or two during the week. No need to feel worse about it by berating yourself.

Image: 49889874@N05/Flickr; Pixabay (7)