If you have a few bad habits when it comes to your health, don't sweat it. Nobody can be a health guru 100 percent of the time, nor should they try to be. But there are a few small habits that affect your health that are worth paying attention to, and correcting, whenever you can.
That's because some of them, while seemingly NBD, might actually have a pretty big impact on your body as a whole. And experts say some habits can even lead to bigger health issues down the road. But by making a few small changes, and adopting new habits, it's easy to turn things around.
"Any positive lifestyle change will have a positive effect on health," Dr. Susan Besser, of Mercy Medical Center, tells Bustle. "Even if they are only small changes, they accumulate and help." Take flossing, for example. If you don't floss (as you'll see below) you can damage your teeth, and over time, poor oral health can start to impact the rest of your body. But by simply adding a few minutes of flossing to your routine, you can greatly improve your health.
It just goes to show that your whole body is connected, and sometimes one small change can make a big difference. Here are a few little habits that experts say can affect your health, and what you can do to turn them around.
1Engaging In Negative Self-Talk
Most of us have an internal dialogue known as "self-talk" that plays on repeat inside our heads. If it's a positive track (one that says things like "you got this!" or "you're doin' great!") then you're more likely to have a healthy level of self-esteem.
But if your brain is full of negative self-talk, it can really drag you down — and even start to impact your health. "Research suggests that when people are engaging in negative self-talk, or have negative thoughts, that the production of serotonin (the chemical is responsible for happiness) is produced and secreted less than in those who have positive self-talk and positive thoughts," psychologist Dr. Danielle Forshee tells Bustle. And that might increase your risk for things like depression.
Even though it can feel tricky at first, the more you try to switch your negative thoughts to positive ones, the better you'll feel. "We must change our mindset regarding the way we see the world, and the way we see ourselves," Forshee says. And talking to a friend, partner, or therapist is a great place to start.
2Forgetting To Floss
While flossing isn't the most thrilling way to spend your time, it's still important to do it on the regular, not only because it'll help keep your pearly whites healthy, but because poor oral hygiene can start to affect the rest of your body.
"Flossing improves your oral health by breaking down bacteria that can be harmful to your internal organs," Dr. William Phillips, of Park Cities Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Associates, tells Bustle. "It also helps prevent tooth decay and gum disease that could lead to further health complications within the body."
So give your teeth a once over every day. If you hate using traditional minty floss, consider picking up a water pick flosser, which will spray water between your teeth and clean them right up, with no effort at all.
3Missing A Few Hours Of Sleep Each Night
It may not feel like a big deal to miss out on a few hours of sleep each night. But it does start to add up, and can truly impact your health. "With the average person getting close to six and a half hours of sleep, just getting to bed 30 minutes earlier could push you into the recommended range of seven to eight hours of sleep per night," Chris Brantner, certified sleep coach and founder of Sleep Zoo, tells Bustle. "People in this range are less likely to be affected by ... high blood pressure, heart disease, Alzheimer's, depression — the list goes on."
But an adequate amount of sleep can improve your life in other ways, too. "People who get more sleep also tend to be more productive, better-equipped for creative thinking, and problem solving, and just more focused in general," he says. Sounds pretty worth it, right?
4Skipping Breakfast, Or Other Meals
If you're occasionally too busy for breakfast or lunch, or just aren't feeling hungry, that's totally OK. But it's important not to get into the habit of regularly skipping meals. When you do, it can have a trickle affect, and it can start to impact your health.
"Research shows breakfast improves alertness and concentration," Becky Kerkenbush, MS, RD-AP, CSG, CD, a clinical dietician at Watertown Regional Medical Center, tells Bustle. "In the morning, energy stores are depleted by as much as 80 percent from the night before. Without food, your body begins to conserve energy and burn fewer calories." And that can make you feel sluggish.
So have breakfast, have lunch, and grab dinner. "Eating every three to four hours can fuel a healthy metabolism, maintain muscle mass, and prevent hunger between meals," she says. "It also maintains blood sugar and regulates the release of cortisol." This can even help you to feel less stressed, and better overall.
Slouching at your desk, or slumping forward while you walk around, can have more of an impact on the rest of your body than you think.
"Poor posture is contributing to degenerative disc disease and other degenerative neck problems," Alex Bar, a health and wellness coordinator from Back in Action, tells Bustle. "It is easy enough to prevent posture problems and turn a bad habit into a good one. Just follow these simple rules: Consistently check yourself. Make sure your head is not leaned forward too much and your shoulders are leveled. Build posture-friendly habits. Try to memorize the proper way to sit. (You might want to install an app that will remind you to do so.) And practice your new habit until your body adjusts to the new habit."
Good posture can help prevent degenerative diseases, but studies show it can also do wonders for your self-esteem, too. So whenever you catch yourself, try to push your shoulders back and straighten your back, as it can have all sorts of benefits for your health.
6Not Breathing Properly
If you've ever taken a yoga class, then you know most of us breath in a shallow way, from our chests instead of from our stomachs. And yet, doing so can have a pretty big impact on health in the form of extra stress, and all the problems that come along with it.
"A little breath seems insignificant, right? But when you are mindful of your breathing you automatically lower the heart rate and destress the body," yogi Anita Perry tells Bustle. "Just a moment, to breathe in through the nose, hold the breath at the top, and then release can calm the body and mind in so many ways." So try to catch yourself the next time you realize holding your breath a bit, and practice deep breathing instead.
7Not Drinking Enough Water
Did you know that even slight dehydration can lead to healh issues? "In many cases, people get headaches, constipation, and muscle pain when they become slightly dehydrated," Dr. Christopher Calapai, D.O., an Osteopathic Physician board certified in family medicine, tells Bustle.
So make sure you're drinking the recommended six to eight glasses of liquids — like water, juice, or tea — a day. "This is important to keep your body hydrated and make it easy on your kidneys to filter your blood," he says. And, drinking more water can even help you feel more energized.
Sometimes little mistakes — like getting six instead eight hours of sleep, or not drinking enough water — can affect your health in a pretty big way. And yet, by making a few changes, you can easily turn your health around, and feel better.