Many of us go out of our way to put ourselves in a positive mindset. We read self-help books, embrace positive mantras, listen to podcasts and spend time with friends and family to lift our spirits. Despite our efforts, we can sometimes still find ourselves struggling to stay positive.
If this sounds familiar, it may be time to step back and examine some of the habits in your life. You might be surprised to find things you never associated with your mental health can actually have a huge impact on your mood and mindset.
Here are five common habits you might be guilty of that could harm your mental health.
Habits that are bad for Mental Health
Harmful Habit #1: You spend all your spare time on social media.
Even the busiest among us can find a few minutes of downtime each day. How do you choose to spend your time when you’re stuck in line at the grocery store, stopped at a red light, or waiting for your next meeting to begin? If your first impulse is to pull out your cell phone and see what’s happening on your Instagram feed, you may be doing yourself more harm than good.
When used sparingly, social media can provide a great avenue to stay connected with friends and family, especially those who don’t live near. But it can be all too easy to get sucked into the world of likes and shares to an unhealthy extent. Social media use has been tied to depression, elevated anxiety levels, diminished self-esteem, increased jealousy and envy, and a host of other not-so-wonderful emotions.
Harmful Habit #2: You survive on caffeine – not adequate rest.
There’s an incredibly small portion of the population with a genetic mutation that lets them get by with less sleep than the average person. However, odds are high you’re among the crowd who requires 7-8 hours of sleep each night to truly reap the benefits of being well-rested.
A good night’s rest can leave you energized, awake, focused, and in the right state of mind to tackle the challenges of the day. Your family and friends deserve to see this side of you – not the frazzled, frantic, can’t-drink-enough-coffee side that comes out after a poor night’s rest.
If sleep is a struggle, examine your evening routine to uncover reasons for your issues. Try to avoid technology and bright lights in the hour before bedtime. Instead, pour a cup of calming tea and crawl into bed with a book. Choose something good but not too good – you don’t want to get sucked into a thriller when it’s time to drift off to sleep.
Harmful Habit #3 – You make a habit of NOT going to the gym.
Working out might not be everyone’s idea of fun, but staying physically fit has a pretty significant impact on your mental health. Exercise boosts your endorphins, elevating your mood, and it can stave off depression, anxiety, and other negative feelings. Exercise long enough, and you can enjoy additional benefits, like the confidence that comes with knowing what your body is capable of and feeling better about your self-image.
If the idea of hopping on a treadmill fills you with dread, find a way to incorporate fitness into your life you’ll actually look forward to. Try a Zumba class, sign up for a rock-climbing gym, or challenge your partner to a game of racquetball. Whatever your favorite way to get moving is, the important part is finding a way to consistently incorporate motion into your routine. Your mental health will be in a much better place for it.
Harmful Habit #4 – You can’t let things go.
For some of us, moving on and forgetting about our problems once they’ve been brought to mind can be a challenge. If you’re the kind of person who can’t help but dwell on a problem and allow it to fester, you might be guilty of ruminating. While it’s good to reflect back on experiences to understand how to better handle situations that may arise in the future, it’s bad to dwell on things we no longer have control over. It’s not productive and it doesn’t lead to a healthy mental state.
The next time you find yourself ruminating about something, call yourself out. Change your thought pattern. If you struggle to shift your mindset on your own, put on your favorite song for a boost of positivity or pick up the phone and call a loved one for a quick chat. Take control of the situation and you’ll find it easier to maintain a positive mindset.
Harmful Habit #5 – Overscheduling yourself.
It can be tempting to try to squeeze everything into the day, but you should be careful to not overcommit yourself when creating your schedule. Give yourself a little room to breathe. Booking yourself with back-to-back commitments can put a lot of pressure on you – especially if you’re a perfectionist – leading to a mental health burnout.
Instead of trying to conquer the world, sit down and choose a few priorities to address. Build a little time into your day to sit back and relax, read a book, or take advantage of whatever opportunity presents itself. Your mind will be at ease without the added pressure, and your mental health will benefit from the break.