Four Habits that Are Affecting Your Physical and Mental Health
The key to good health lies in habits — the things you regularly do on a daily basis will shape your long-term results. Unfortunately, according to research, you probably have some bad habits that are affecting your health in a negative way. Here are four of those potential habits, and what you can do to turn the tide.
You Don’t Exercise Enough
Only 1 in 3 adults gets the recommended 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week, and 80 percent of adults don’t get the recommended two days of strength training each week. Are you part of this group? If so, you might be interested to know that brisk walking counts toward your aerobic exercise target. If you can squeeze 20 minutes of walking into each day — for example by getting off the bus a stop early, or parking at the back of the lot, you can get close to the 150 minute target with minimal disruption to your weekly schedule. Then you just need to do two sessions of strength training a week, and you’re done!
You Don’t Get Enough Sleep
According to a Gallup Poll, the average American gets 6.8 hours of sleep each night, and only 59 percent of Americans get the recommended seven to nine hours. If you work long hours, it can be tempting to try to extend your free time by cutting back on sleep. However, this is a bad idea because a lack of sleep is linked to a range of physical and mental health conditions. Try to get your nightly slumber time back into that seven- to nine-hour range. If you have trouble sleeping, get an eye mask and ear plugs to block out light and sound, and keep the same bedtime and wake times every day – even on weekends. Also, use the hour before bedtime to switch off all screens, phones and devices. Do something relaxing instead like meditation or reading.
You Watch Too Much TV
Most people’s idea of relaxing after a hard day appears to be sitting in front of the TV — Americans now watch five hours a day on average. However, as this Vice article explains, this is not an ideal form of relaxation. First of all, TV puts the brain in an unusual state. The areas controlling reasoning and decision making switch off, but the areas controlling visual input fire up — so you’re consuming information, but not processing it. This is a strange limbo where the brain is not quite active, but not quite relaxing. Secondly, the brain starts to fatigue after doing the same task for a couple of hours — even something passive like watching TV. Try to cut your TV time back a little — of course, it’s OK to watch some TV — just mix it up with other activities.
You Don’t Actively Relax
So what should you do instead of TV to relax and de-stress at home? The answer is active relaxation — activities that are relaxing, but not completely passive. For example, you could invite some friends round to hang out, do some light exercise, or read. Meditation is also a great option. Although meditators might appear to be doing very little, the act of focusing your attention on your breath or bodily sensations can significantly reduce stress, depression, and anxiety. A good way to get started is to set aside a quiet area in your house as a meditation area, and get into the habit of practicing for 20 minutes every day.
These four habits can create a downward spiral. For example, if you watch too much TV you won’t have enough time to exercise, so your stress levels will rise, which can interfere with your sleep, so you don’t feel like doing anything except watch TV… and so on. Luckily, however, reversing these habits can create an upward spiral, so you’ll see more and more benefits as time goes by. Which habit will you work on this week?