We all have bad habits. We pick them up from those around us and we form them on our own without realizing we’re doing it.
There are bad habits we know aren’t good for us but aren’t necessarily bad for us either, like spending too much time watching Netflix or biting our nails. Then there are bad habits that are actually physically and emotionally damaging to our health.
How we treat our bodies and how we interact with those around us are important factors in determining how healthy we are. The tough part about breaking bad habits is that no one else can do the work for us. We not only have to decide we want to break a bad habit; we also have to take action and do the work ourselves.
Here are three unhealthy habits you can stop engaging in today, and a few tips on how to get started on your journey toward breaking them.
1. Not resting when you’re tired
Not going to bed on a Friday night when you start to doze off because you just have to finish that book you’re reading (completely understandable) is one thing. Doing it regularly is another thing entirely.
Unhealthy habits come in many forms, and tend to sneak up on us when we’re too distracted by our busyness to notice.
We live in a time when over-commitment is praised more often than it’s frowned upon. We’re almost expected to be involved in activities outside of work, and students are often required to join extracurricular clubs and organizations to beef up their resumes and increase their chances of getting into college and finding a job after graduating.
The more we’re involved in, the more tempting it is not to rest even when we’re tired. When we have to choose between sleep and spending time with friends or catching up on shows we missed, sleep, more often than not, comes last.
Going long periods of time without getting enough sleep increases your risk of diseases like obesity and diabetes and even increases your risk of dying. Even if you do get enough sleep, prolonged fatigue—working too hard without taking enough breaks in-between tasks—can make you depressed and end up isolating you from family and friends without realizing it.
Sleep when you’re tired. Train yourself to take power naps. Set a strict ‘bedtime’ for yourself if you have to. Let your mind and body rest or there will be both physical and psychological consequences.
2. Publishing all your thoughts and opinions on social media
If a harmless conversation between you and a stranger has ever ended up in a fraying string of complaints, it’s mostly because most of the time we can’t really help ourselves.
As human beings, complaining is just part of social interaction.
We complain about things that bother us. We complain about things we don’t understand, in hopes someone else might be able to offer up an explanation on our behalf. We complain about things we wish we could change, thinking maybe there’s someone around who will stand up and support us.
It’s when we do too much of it, shared with the same people on a regular basis, that these complaints become a bad habit hard to break.
Social media doesn’t help us avoid the temptation to whine about every little problem we face in a day. When we post regular status updates, the same people see them day after day. To those who only see the negative comments we publish online, we start to appear unlikable. Even to the people we call friends in real life.
Buy a journal. Complain to your cat. Anything is healthier than posting every rant, rave and rebuttal for the rest of the world to see. That’s not what social media was created for, and isolating yourself from your friends is not good for your mental health.
3. Eating when you’re not hungry
Nobody likes to be told they’re eating too much, but the reality is, there is such a thing as mindless eating.
We don’t just eat when our hormones signal to our brain that it’s time for a hamburger. We eat when we’re stressed. We eat when we’re sad. We eat when we just don’t feel like doing anything else or we’re craving something we can’t resist.
These kinds of responses to emotional stimuli and stress can lead to overeating, which is mentally and physically terrible for you.
Mentally, consistent overeating—continuing to eat even when you’re past the feeling of being full—can put you in a bad mood, which, as you likely already know, makes everything around you that much harder to deal with.
Physically, overeating in the short-term can give you a headache, make you feel lethargic and can negatively impact the quality of your sleep (see #1). In the long-term, overeating regularly can lead to obesity, depression and eating disorders.
Overeating is another unhealthy habit no one else can break for you. You have to decide to take steps toward controlling your portion sizes, buying less junk food and finding alternative ways to deal with your stress and emotions.
Try to identify the reasons behind your urge to keep eating when you’re full the next time it happens. Are you tempted because that burger just tastes really good? Or are you still eating because it buries some of the leftover stress from work?
Instead of giving into temptation, walk away from the kitchen. Take a short nap. Write your feelings down in a journal. Watch a movie. Just don’t turn to social media in hopes it will solve all your problems (it won’t).
Unhealthy habits, unfortunately, are just part of life. Once we’re able to identify our worst habits and are aware of the ways they can harm our mental and physical health, we can begin to take steps to reduce our negative health outcomes by making positive behavioral changes in our lives.
Breaking a bad habit isn’t easy. But it is possible.