When we think of health offenders, the simple and obvious triggers come to mind. Eating foods with a lack of nutrients, lack of exercise, and smoking are at the top of the list. However, beyond these clear influences that can negatively affect our health, there are everyday, lesser-known evils that can be harming your minds and bodies and overall wellbeing.
As a certified health coach, I work with people on freeing themselves of ill habits that can be negatively contributing to their health issues, mental states, and physical performance. We often reach an "aha" moment, as I like to call it, where they truly understand the relationship between their less healthy behaviors and discover misconceptions about perceived, healthier lifestyles. However, by boosting awareness and striving to implement positive changes, it's easy to start feeling better in your own skin.
While eating clean, managing stress, and fitting in exercise are all critical for optimal health, it's important to think of the smaller things that affect us, those of which we don't usually consider when thinking of the bigger picture. If you find yourself to chronically be feeling blah, there are resources to help you feel healthier.
Here are eleven things that can be leading to poorer health, according to experts, and tips on how to overcome these obstacles in pursuit of greater happiness.
1. Sleeping Over Nine Hours
We always talk about the dangers of getting inadequates amount of sleep, but we usually forget to mention the caution regarding too many hours. Sleeping too much or too little can really sabotage your health," says Susie Lemmer, running coach and blogger at Suzlyfe, over email with Bustle. Sleeping between seven and nine hours will enhance health and productivity. If you're older than 65, sleeping between seven and eight might be a bit better. Aim for these ranges and stick with a set schedule for optimal wellbeing.
2. Desk Jobs
"Sitting is our generation's smoking," says Lemmer. While it's not recommended to up and quit your job, unless of course you find that it makes you miserable and unfilled, try and take breaks between sitting during the day. Research shows that sitting can increase risk of heart disease and diabetes, even if complemented by regular exercise. Do some stretches, take water breaks, or make visits to co-workers during the day to stay more active.
3. Not Thinking About Nutrient Timing Or Pairing
While eating well is important, so is the proper timing of consumption. "Nutrient timing is important for optimal health," says Lemmer, "You can eat all the right foods but at the wrong times and thus not see the results you want." Maximize absorption of nutrients to reap major benefits. For instance, pair veggies with healthy fats, such as olive oil, to allow the body to better absorb the vitamins and antioxidants. Also, consume protein after working out to speed muscle repair.
4. Too Much Exercise
Exercise is great, right? Well, yes, it is, as it leads to greater productivity, mood, confidence and overall health. However, too much of a good thing can exist. "If you notice yourself becoming overly anxious, if you’re not able to exercise on a certain day, altering your diet drastically if you miss an episode of exercising, or exercising even when you’re sick, you may be experiencing symptoms of 'excessive exercise,'" says Chicago-based therapist Chelsea Hudson, in an interview by email with Bustle. Research shows that too much exercise can decrease health, thereby messing with our metabolisms, emotions and hormones. If you find yourself tired, inflamed, emotionally unstable or chronically sore, these could be signs that you are overtraining.
5. The Internet
Social media is supposed to connect us with our network, and if used properly, it can make us feel happier. However, there's also room for abuse and negative self thoughts. "When we’re aimlessly scrolling through friends’ posts, we might find ourselves starting to wish we were the ones falling in love, getting married, having a baby, graduating college or eating at 'that new trendy restaurant,'" says Hudson. It's important to remember that social media doesn't show the negative days that people experience, but merely "the best snapshots." By feeling jealous or inadequate, your immune system shuts down and cortisol spikes, warns Hudson. Enjoy social media, but ban comparisons.
6. Cold Weather
If you're someone who loves building snowmen, baking holiday cookies, and breaking out the furry, wintry hats, all the power to you! Unfortunately, many people don't get too excited about the cold weather, and the lack of sunlight can make us feel sad and lonely. "Sunlight plays an important role in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in the experience of a happy mood," says Hudson. "Depression is associated with an increased risk for substance abuse, insomnia and chronic pain," she cautions. Invest in a light box during the cooler months to boost your happiness.
7. Not Cleaning Your Fridge & Containers
Leaving fruits and vegetables open in fridge compartments without regularly cleaning them out can allow germs to spread, thus weakening your immune system. Contamination leads to bacterial infections and a host of diseases, so it's important to make sure all food waste is removed in the drawers and that your kitchenware and containers are all properly cleaned right after use, as well.
8. Taking Over-The-Counter Meds
Popping an ibuprofen or sleeping aid every now and then to relieve sore muscles or combat a stuffy nose is fine, and can definitely help in speeding recovery. However, regularly abusing over-counter-meds can backfire, leading to complications with hormones, mood levels, and sleep cycles. These meds are meant for short-term use, and if used for long-term, the effects will wear off and unleash scary consequences.
9. Toxic Relationships
Having a close network of friends who uplift you and encourage you to feel your best, most healthy self is awesome for emotional and physical wellbeing; however, a toxic relationship can be draining and debilitating. "Angry, negative, critical people can harm your self-esteem and attitude," says healthy lifestyle coach Liz Traines, over email with Bustle. Make sure to only stick with people who bring you up and can enhance your health.
While it's important to take note of the things that can improve your health, such as eating a diet full of nutritious foods, staying hydrated, minimizing stress and breaking a sweat, it's equally important to consider the greater picture and avoid health hazards that are sure to creep up on you. Most are not that obvious, so by staying in tune who your body, mind, and overall state, you'll be better able to target the signs of these sneaky offenders.
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