Many of us have busy lifestyles in which we are constantly trying to care for our work projects, homework, relationships with family and friends, physical health, and more. Oftentimes, while we try to juggle all of these daily responsibilities, caring for our mental health can end up on the backburner.
So how do you start prioritizing your mental health? Learn how to improve your mental well–being by identifying these five bad habits and kicking them to the curb.
1. Having a Sedentary Lifestyle
Being a couch potato can be fun – Netflix marathons, tasty snacks, and the comfort of your home. But when lounging around goes from being a way to unwind every once in a while to becoming your everyday lifestyle, it can start to affect your overall well-being.
Research shows that a sedentary lifestyle takes a tremendous toll on your mental health. Those who spend most of their time sitting and do not exercise have a higher risk of experiencing depressive symptoms. A lack of exercise has also been linked to an increased risk of developing dementia.
Tip: Incorporate Physical Activity into Your Daily Routine
Integrating some form of exercise into your life is important. Being active helps reduce stress, release endorphins, improve self-confidence, alleviate anxiety, and boost brainpower. Studies show that exercise can provide many health benefits such as protecting against heart disease and diabetes, improving sleep, and lowering blood pressure. Remember, exercise isn’t limited to cardio sessions or weightlifting at the gym. Going for a walk outside, thirty minutes of yoga, or even dancing to your favorite song when no one’s watching can help too. Try different things until you find what works for you.
2. Spending Too Much Time on Your Phone
There’s almost nothing that your phone can’t do. The ability to order lunch, call an Uber or adopt a cat named Marshmallow is literally in the palm of your hand. And while technology is great at making your life easier, it can also negatively impact your mental health.
Various studies have linked the overuse of social media to an increase in anxiety and depression. And it’s not just teens being affected. Adults who regularly use social media report feelings of jealousy, inadequacy, and loneliness. Although social media is meant to connect people to one another, in reality, many people are so focused on how they appear on social media that they miss out on forming genuine in-person connections.
And if you’re thinking that your phone isn’t damaging to your well-being because you don’t have TikTok or Instagram, think again. Tasks you might think of as harmless such as constantly checking your emails or receiving news alerts on your phone add to your stress levels and can lead to excessive worrying, lowering your overall quality of life.
Tip: Replace Phone Usage with New Hobbies
Now, we are not suggesting that you throw away your phone and move to a cabin in the woods Thoreau-style, but reducing your electronic usage can do wonders for your mind. Start small and set some phone-free time aside every day. Use that time to try a hobby, read a book, go on a hike with friends, and challenge yourself to not instinctively reach for your phone. Pretty soon, you’ll realize that being unplugged can easily be a part of your daily routine.
3. Suppressing Anger and Other Strong Emotions
Do you pride yourself on your ability to internalize your emotions and put on a smile no matter the situation? While keeping your cool when things get rough is often necessary, studies show that suppressing emotions, particularly anger, can be detrimental to your mental health. Neglecting your emotional needs can make it more difficult for you to say no, establish boundaries, and form healthy relationships. And overtime, bottling up your anger makes you a ticking time bomb that can be set off by the smallest inconvenience.
You don’t want to be the person aggressively yelling at the cashier because they won’t accept your expired coupon, but you also don’t want to be constantly biting your tongue. Finding a happy medium with your anger is key. Remember, anger isn’t a problem if you manage it properly.
Tip: Express Anger in Healthy Ways
Some healthy ways of expressing your anger include venting to a friend, pouring out your feelings on paper, channeling your anger into other activities such as sports, music, or art, and of course – talking it out with the person you have a conflict with. You can de-escalate a situation by regulating your emotions. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “When angry, count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred.”
4. Living in a Messy Environment
Being surrounded by clutter could be holding you back from living your life to the fullest. Whether it’s your bedroom, kitchen, or office, messy environments exacerbate anxiety and hopelessness, reduce motivation, weaken decision-making skills, and lower productivity. Cluttered environments can also make it difficult to focus on important tasks.
Tip: Start Decluttering to Reduce Stress
Tackling a disorganized space is probably the last thing you want to do during your free time, but if you chip away at it in small intervals it won’t feel so overwhelming. Start small, pick an area you want to work on, blast your favorite music, and get to it. If you are low on energy, you can set a timer and clean for 20 minutes and then take a break.
Remember, getting rid of clutter doesn’t mean throwing everything into a large bin and shoving it in the attic. For decluttering to really work, you must get rid of stuff you no longer use or need. Donating items can be a great stress reliever. And while decluttering your home might be a project that takes a few weeks to complete, you’ll feel like a weight has been lifted once you’re done.
5. Putting Your Partner’s Needs Before Your Own
Taking someone’s feelings into consideration is essential for healthy relationships. But when you begin to neglect your own feelings to appease another’s, you could find yourself on a slippery slope into a codependent relationship—where one person is giving and giving as their partner is taking and taking. One moment you’re in a balanced relationship, and the next, you’re only doing things they enjoy, spending all holidays with their family, doing what works with their schedule, and forgetting about your own needs.
Tip: Set Boundaries and Rediscover Your Passions
Who you are and how you feel about yourself shouldn’t depend on someone else. If you feel that you aren’t being heard in your relationship, vocalize your boundaries using statements reflecting your needs (“I would feel better if…”, “I get triggered when…”) and avoid accusing your partner of anything. Being vulnerable can be challenging, but over time you and your partner can develop healthier communication strategies.
Moreover, rediscover who you are and what you’re passionate about. This can look like starting a mindfulness journal, getting a massage, cooking something that nourishes your body, and hanging out with friends – and any other self-care practices.
It can be easy for our mental health to slip through the cracks during our daily routines. Improving your mental health requires patience and dedication, but there is no better time to start than today. Whether you are looking to change a few behaviors or dive deep into your mental health journey, eliminating these negative habits can set you on the path to success.