It's so easy to go through life without realizing you've picked up a few
unhealthy daily habits, much less the negative impact they might be having. And this is especially true if the habits are small and seemingly insignificant. It can be tough to spot them, but once you do, you can take steps towards making a few changes.
"We all have little insignificant bad habits," Vinay Saranga MD, psychiatrist and founder of
Saranga Comprehensive Psychiatry, tells Bustle. Things like rushing around, using your phone before bed, and even venting to friends aren't always a big deal. But sometimes, they can take a bigger toll than you think.
If you do happen to notice these ongoing habits, check in with yourself to see how they're making you feel, and whether or not they're taking a toll. As Dr. Saranga says, you want to make sure they aren't getting out of hand, or overtaking you to the point they are interfering with your well-being and ability to function.
Read on below for a few small daily habits experts say can add up over time and have a
negative impact on how you feel, as well as what you can do instead.
Not Planning Ahead For Lunch
When you don't plan ahead for lunch, it's so easy to eat out, spend more, and opt for less nutritious options to sustain you throughout the day,
Kristen Peterson, MPH, RDN, LDN, tells Bustle.
While it can take some getting used to, this habit can be broken by bringing
simple lunches from home, Peterson says, and having those instead. That way, you'll save money, eat better, and feel better overall.
Treating yourself to the occasional fancy coffee or shiny new book can be a wonderful thing. But in a world where we have everything at our fingertips, "it's hard to restrict ourselves," Peterson says. It's so easy to shop online, swipe a card, and then be surprised by a big credit card bill later on. So try not to treat yourself every day, and
set up a budget instead. You can avoid a lot of stress later on.
If you tend to rush through the day, don't be surprised if you end up feeling stressed and overwhelmed,
Erica N. Reed, LCSW-C, tells Bustle. And if this becomes a long-standing pattern, you may also notice feelings of anxiety and depression, too.
While you can't always avoid rushing, you can break the cycle by taking small breathers throughout the day. "For example, you may normally throw open the door, jump out of the car, and rush into the building as soon as you get to work," Reed says. But pause for a few moments first, and you may notice that you feel a
lot less stressed.
"Expressing your frustration and concerns to a trusted person is a
very healthy process," Reed says. "However, if there are no follow-up decisions or actions after the venting session you may start to develop a negative mindset."
You can also start to feel stuck, which is why you want to vent, then reassess the situation. As Reed says, "Evaluate why this challenge was upsetting to you, how and why it happened, and what steps you can take to remove and/or avoid this challenge in the future. With this shift in mindset you’ve moved from venting to solution-finding."
Whether you're putting off doing laundry or writing an important paper, procrastination is never a good habit to fall into, especially since it leads not just to a longer and more overwhelming to-do list, but also more stress.
"The best thing to help you through procrastination is focus on each task one by one," Dr. Saranga says. "Don’t look at everything you have to do in a day or you will become overwhelmed. Take on the first task of the day and complete it before you move on to the next item."
And don't put it off till tomorrow.
Using Your Phone Before Bed
While it might seem relaxing to look at your phone before bed, doing so can actually stimulate your mind and prevent you from getting good sleep,
Dr. Catherine Jackson, licensed psychologist and board-certified neurotherapist tells Bustle.
And without quality sleep, you'll not only have less energy, but you may even feel anxious and depressed. So make an effort to put your phone away and do something else instead, like reading until you fall asleep.
As Dr. Jackson says, "Discontinuing screen use will tell the brain it is OK to rest, and the brain will begin to go into the natural sleep cycle," which has all
sorts of benefits.
Not Drinking Enough Water
"While we often think of not being hydrated as simply feeling thirsty, hydration plays a huge role in how our bodies function — from digestion, to mental clarity, to chronic pain, and skin health,"
Dr. Kim Peirano, DACM, LAc, tells Bustle. So getting enough liquids is key.
"A good guideline for hydrating properly is half your body weight in ounces/day, which for many is well over the standard eight cups/day," Dr. Peirano says. "It’s a simple solution that can have a profound affect."
"When we do not make time for rest, we pay for it with our health,"
Dr. April Moreno, PhD, tells Bustle. "For example, remaining in a prolonged exhaustive stress state can lead to chronic health conditions, including autoimmune disorders."
Of course, it's OK to be busy and get things done, but it's also important to find time to rest and take care of yourself. This might look like canceling a few plans, going on a walk, or even just taking an hour to yourself to relax.
Sitting For Long Periods Of Time
"Not only can this negatively impact your posture, but it is known that sitting for long periods increases the pressure on the discs in your back, increasing the likelihood of low back pain," Dr. Prakash Jayabalan, MD, PhD, physician-scientist at the
Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, tells Bustle.
A sedentary lifestyle can also increase your risk of
various health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, which is why experts recommend getting up, stretching, walking around, and exercising on a regular basis.
Taking Things Personally
It can be easy to go through the day and
take things personally. A friend doesn't text back, a stranger lets a door close in your face, a barista is grumpy with you, and before you know it the world seems all dark and unwelcoming.
This habit can be tough to break, but you can start to form a healthier outlook. "If we look at the big picture to a situation, we might realize that it wasn't just us that was involved and that something might have happened due to circumstances beyond us,"
clinical psychologist Dr. Ariane Machin, tells Bustle.
People have their own lives, and there are always external factors that help explain crappy moments like these. Learning to not take them personally can make a big difference.
"Sleep is one of the single most important elements in both physical
and mental health," mental health counselor Stephanie Korpal, tells Bustle. And yet it's so easy to stay up late, accept that you can't sleep through the night, or even wake up too early to get a jump on the day.
But you really need to be aiming for at least seven hours of quality, solid sleep. "Learning how to sleep soundly through the night, as well as how to get the adequate amount of sleep each night [...] is pivotal to leading a healthy lifestyle," Korpal says. To do so, try switching up your bedtime routine, and
sticking to a sleep schedule.
Small habits can add up and lead to a long list of negative side effects, but often all it takes to turn things around are a few simple changes. Being aware of these little habits, and then making an effort to
replace them with something healthier, can make all the difference.