We all have ingrained habits that seem perfectly normal, like sitting at a desk for hours while working, watching TV before bed and enjoying tea or coffee after dinner. Unfortunately, some of the most typical routines can have some seriously negative effects on your physical and mental wellbeing.
So, how do you know if something that seems harmless is actually bad for you? Take a look at this list of common habits you can easily change to live a longer, healthier life.
Don't Sit at Your Desk
People loved to tell you to sit down and not move as a child. Ironically, that’s a terrible idea. Spending hours at work — as well as your leisure time — sitting down has led medical experts to call sitting "the new smoking." It's estimated that the average American adult sits for almost seven hours a day. Over time, it compacts veins, slows circulation and leads to joint problems, high blood pressure, obesity and heart problems.
Don't Brush After Breakfast
Brushing your teeth removes plaque, of course, but it also exposes fresh, vulnerable tooth enamel. If you just consumed acidic food, such as fruit and many sauces, it can break down enamel. If you brush immediately, it could actually make it worse and damage your teeth.
Get Your Hands Dirty
Okay, so don’t walk around with filthy hands, but you don't need to wash your hands quite as often as your mother led you to believe. Over-cleanliness brought on by an unhealthy surge in the popularity of hand sanitizer has caused some people's resistance to harmful bacteria to become very low.
Put Down the Phone
Any use of tech, which includes your tablet, phone and TV, means you're getting exposed to blue light rays. Throughout the day this won't affect you much, but because it decreases the amount of melatonin in your body — a hormone critical to positive sleep cycles — you should cut out tech use at least an hour before bed.
Skip the Alcohol
Alcohol has become such a deeply ingrained part of American life, but it shouldn’t be consumed daily. It’s legally sold across the world, and greeting cards, T-shirts, memes and advertisements all celebrate the fun and stress relief that goes along with enjoying a drink.
Keep the Fruit to Small Servings
Yes, fruit is good for you and provides a fantastic range of vitamins and antioxidants, but it also contains a lot of sugar. Although fructose is a natural fruit sugar, your body doesn’t differentiate it from refined sugar (sucrose). Your body will store any extra calories from fruit as fat, just as it would a cookie.
Always Flush with the Lid Down
It’s not a pretty fact, but when you flush the toilet, the crashing impact of the water sends particles of whatever you deposited in the bowl up into the air. These particles could potentially end up on you, the toilet lid, toothbrushes, towels and any other uncovered items in your bathroom.
Forget About Cotton Swabs
Cotton swabs (or cotton buds) can be found in most bathroom cabinets. While most people think their purpose is to clean ears — kids have been heard calling them earbuds! — they are actually potentially dangerous weapons if you poke them too far into your ear.
Don't Fight Sleep
Most people think it's best to power through the day, fighting off energy dips with caffeine or sugary snacks. Believe it or not, we’re not actually designed to stay awake all day. In fact, we’re the only mammals that attempt to go against an innate sleep cycle by trying to sleep only in eight-hour blocks of time.
Stop Rubbing Your Eyes
Touching your face too much transfers dirt from your hands onto the sensitive skin of your face. This can increase the number of spots and acne you have on your face. It also disturbs the natural oils that nourish your skin and reduce the signs of aging.
Do Eat Fat!
Lots of people think including fat in your diet is bad, particularly those in the Baby Boomer generation, who were raised on advertisements promoting low-fat diets for weight loss. To lose weight, it's much more important to increase exercise and keep sugars as low as possible, including starchy carbohydrates, which your body turns to sugar for energy.
Drink Plenty of Water
It sounds obvious, but it's worth emphasizing that drinking water has innumerable benefits. It's free, accessible and extremely good for your health. It keeps your skin clear, allows your digestive system to work properly, hydrates your muscles and joints, helps your kidneys get rid of toxins and boosts your energy. Not bad for such a simple little drink, right?
Curb Afternoon Caffeine
If you regularly drink tea, coffee or other caffeinated drinks after 2 p.m., it increases the risk of sleep problems at night. Throughout the day, a hormone called adenosine increases in your body. This hormone is responsible for feelings of sleepiness, and by the time you’re ready for bed, there should be enough of the hormone to promote a deep slumber.
You Don't Always Need Breakfast
Ready to kick the common habit promoted by moms everywhere? We're led to believe breakfast is a vital start to the day, but there are a few good reasons to hold off on eating. Your digestive system enjoys a break. It helps gut bacteria proliferate, which benefits everything from immunity to brain function. Plus, fasting for 12-16 hours increases energy and weight loss.
Don't Eat Lunch at Your Desk
We're all guilty of it. Busy lives and the desire to get more done mean we sometimes don't take time for a lunch break. This often leads to eating lunch at your desk or skipping it altogether.
Cook with Canola, Not Olive
Olive oil is good for you, no doubt about it, but cooking with it destroys the antioxidants due to high heat, and harmful compounds can form. The best oil for cooking is canola oil, as it has a high smoke point.
Get Your Sponge Out of the Sink
Many people are guilty of this, and it's a surefire way to increase bacteria in the sponge. A wet, warm sponge with particles of food on it is a breeding ground, harboring 150 times more bacteria and mold than the average toothbrush holder! Not a nice thought if you use your sponge to wipe down your countertop.
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
It's easier said than done, but keeping calm is so essential for keeping the body and brain healthy. Chronic stress increases levels of the hormone cortisol in your body. Over time, this has all kinds of negative effects, including high blood pressure, brain fog and increased visceral fat — better known as belly fat.
Walk as Much as Possible
It's so easy to jump in the car or catch a bus to go shopping or visit pals, but if you're only going a short distance, get in the habit of walking. Numerous researchers have said we should take at least 10,000 steps a day for optimum benefits. Those benefits include lower blood pressure, lower stress levels, healthier joints and, of course, weight loss.
Wear Sensible Shoes
Sorry to sound like your grandmother, but well-fitting shoes are really important. Of course, fancy shoes and high heels are good for special occasions, but even then, it's important to make sure they hold your feet firmly (but not too tight), support your ankle and allow your toes to stay aligned.
Actively Work to Avoid Boredom
There's a lot of truth in the saying "the devil makes work for idle hands." Letting yourself become bored on a regular basis is a common cause for low mood, decreased energy and sedentary behavior, all of which lead to excessive snacking and weight gain.
Be Wary of Medication
If your doctor recommends a prescription for you, do a bit of research before you take it and question whether you really need it. For example, many people are prescribed a course of antibiotics for issues that may well clear up on their own. In particular, the common cold and associated ear infections often don't need antibiotics.
Fill Up on Fiber
Eating plenty of fiber has numerous benefits for your health. It helps keep you fuller for longer, meaning there is less chance you will needlessly snack. It also keeps your digestive system healthy, so you don’t become constipated.
Switch Off Social Media
People can become so consumed with social media that it's actually considered one of the fastest growing addictions around the world. In fact, "digital detox" events and retreats are popping up everywhere to combat the problem.
Resist the Weekend Laze
After a busy week, it’s very tempting to stay in the coziness of your bed or lounge on the couch when Saturday rolls around. Regardless, in order to keep your energy levels up during the day and your sleep solid at night, it’s best to stick to a regular sleep cycle.
Don't Rush Your Dinner
With so many distractions and things to do all the time, we often find meals to be rushed affairs. This can lead to disrupted digestion — mainly indigestion and bloating — not to mention flatulence and belching.
Watch Out for Emotional Eating
We've talked a lot about the benefits of good eating, but habits related to food can be negative sometimes. A lot of people are prone to emotional eating, which often entails grabbing something high in sugar or salt for a "quick emotional fix."
Cut Down on Negative Vibes
If you have a habit of attracting negative, critical or gossipy people, then it might be time to get choosy about hanging out with them. Pay close attention next time you spend time with someone. Do you feel drained of energy or in a low mood? Perhaps you don’t speak much, or you spend all your time listening to what the other person is saying?
Save Steak for Special Occasions
A lot of conclusive evidence indicates that eating too much red meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer. Research is ongoing as to whether it also increases the risk of other cancers, such as esophageal, lung and pancreatic cancers.
If you find yourself fidgeting, scrolling through social media or reading articles like this (wink, wink) instead of getting on with a chore or project that needs to be completed, then it's time to reign in the procrastinating.