7 Small Brain-Damaging Actions You Should be Aware Of
And what to do instead.
Photo by David Cassolato from Pexels
We all have bad habits that we would like to change. Some of them are popular, like stopping drinking soda, quitting smoking, or even spending too much money on unnecessary things.
But others are not that evident.
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There are things we do that secretly ruin our health. Some of them are habits that we don’t think are bad or that we need to change but are actually brain-damaging, and being aware of them could help you improve your health and well-being.
Our bodies are a work in progress, and if we want to live healthier, we need to do more than just adopt a few good habits.
Here are seven of them and what you can do to change them. Remember that motivation alone is not always enough; you are most likely to successfully change it if you set a healthier habit to compensate for it and balance.
Sitting too much
Lately, I have found myself sitting at a desk for long hours working on my personal projects and work. But while this has helped me advance professionally, it can affect my brain and physical health.
Research shows that prolonged sitting increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and other health problems.
The more time you spend without moving, the higher your risk of early death. A 2017 study tracked the activity levels of 8000 adults over 45 and found that those who had the greatest amount of sedentary time had almost double the mortality risk of those who spent less time sitting.
Finally, another study investigated that people who spend most of the day sitting and sleeping are likely to die early as people who smoke or drink too much.
How to change this bad habit
Set a timer to get up at various times of the day. This will allow you to constantly be thinking that you should move (even the alarm of your phone can be useful for this).
Put important objects you use daily away from you, so when you need them, you have to move. It can be headphones, a notebook, your phone, or your water bottle.
Do something you like combined with moving, like listen to a podcast, audiobook, or 15 minutes of Duolingo. For example, I have a high table in my kitchen that I use to put my computer on when I’m standing up, and I try to read all the special articles I choose for the day.
Not setting and taking new challenges that keep you active.
Last month I took a one-week vacation to relax and do nothing. I spend the first two days doing nothing but watching series, playing video games, and eating. The third day I was feeling sick about it.
Being sedentary not only was killing me mentally (because I started to feel anxious and bad about myself), but I also started feeling bad physically (pain in my back and shoulders and my legs with cramps).
Having a life without expectations or a new future can kill you. Some research found that living a sedentary life without any expectations (even if you exercise) is associated with an 11% increase in the risk of all-cause mortality regardless of age, sex, waist circumference, and physical activity level.
Also, even there is not a specific cause of Alzheimer’s disease, most researchers have concluded that the lack of mental activities can be one factor that may contribute to this illness.
For that reason, having a retired life without taking any challenges or hobbies that keep you active and motivated could be a life-damaging habit.
How to change that habit
Always have something in your life that keeps you wanting to improve yourself spiritually, personally, professionally, or artistically, no matter what your age or what responsibilities you currently have.
For example, you can learn a new language, crochet, read, paint, take care of plants, or learn to play an instrument.
Do not let the days go by without being better than the previous one. Try to do something that makes you proud of yourself at the end of the day.
Spending too much time in front of screens.
Right now, we don’t stop watching screens at any moment. We wake up and take our computers to work; we use our phones to relax, we watch TV, iPads, and even videogames screens.
The problem is that prolonged screen time can cause digital eye strain, which results in headaches, double or blurred vision, and dry eyes. Looking at a smartphone in the dark while laying on your side can even cause temporary blindness.
So it is not enough to stop working; if we don’t stop using screens, we are also causing damage to our brain and body.
How to change this habit
Choose a time of day when you don’t use screens, and rest your eyes. You can use that time to do things that educate you, uplift you, or relax you.
While you are working, every so often move your eyes around and look at some physical object that has nothing to do with screens to focus for a while. You can also relax your eyes by closing them for a few seconds.
Getting too much sleep.
Most people get too little sleep and believe that’s the worst habit they can have. But sleeping too much can also be dangerous.
A study by the American Heart Association’s medical meeting found that getting too much sleep was linked to poorer heart health in older people. Other research has also shown that too much sleep can affect the risk of heart disease.
How to change that habit
If you find yourself sleeping too much, you may have a medical condition you are not aware of, so it’s important to evaluate it with a doctor. Oversleeping is associated with medical problems like diabetes, heart disease, depression, obesity, and headaches.
Taking vitamins every day
Many people take multivitamins to fill nutritional gaps in their diet or to stay healthy. But researchers have shown that these popular supplements may not protect against chronic disease and could be a waste of money:
“Most supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death, their use is not justified and they should be avoided… Two new clinical trials and one large review of 27 past clinical trials found no evidence that taking daily multivitamin and mineral supplements prevents or slows down the progress of cognitive decline or chronic diseases.”
How you can change it
To avoid drinking useless vitamins, see what you really need and eat healthier. If you don’t have time to cook, look for restaurants that make healthy meals or make recipes that are less time-consuming. Also there are pre-made food that you could buy that can be good for your health.
Convince yourself that your negative thoughts or anxiety aren’t a problem.
Many coaches and personal development gurus have tried to sell us the idea that we should avoid our negative thoughts and “replace” them with affirmations and good things.
However, this practice can be harmful to our brain because we ignore the real cause of those thoughts in our head, and by saying they are not a problem, we only hide them for a moment and make them bigger until we can not do anything to fix them.
How to change that bad habit
Instead of convincing yourself that your negative thoughts or anxiety are not a problem or that you should not think about it, find the cause of those thoughts so you can overcome them and fix them.
Never let others invalidate how you feel because everything your brain thinks is cause for some real concern that can become something bigger. So the faster we pay attention to what our mind tells us, the better we can find a real solution.
Too many processed food snacks on the couch while enjoying your new favorite series or on your desk while you are working can lead to more than just weight gain. You are more susceptible to diabetes and increased cholesterol and blood levels.
Also, having a quick snack can cause you to skip essential meals, which increases the risk of losing nutrients that could be necessary for your health.
A while ago, I thought that having “healthy snacks” between my meals could positively impact my health and well-being. However, it caused me a bad dependency, so I felt anxious when I was not eating something.
How to change that habit
Drink a glass of water first. People often confuse thirst with hunger. So maintain yourself well hydrated. Also, distract yourself. Make sure you are not bored or stressed when you go for some snacks. For example, my anxiety for snacks was caused by just habit.
Finally, create a good diet and train your brain to eat at specific times, so you don’t have more snacks than you should.
Some bad habits are not as common to identify as we thought. There are acts we do daily thinking it helps us, but they can actually harm us if we are not aware of them.
Something that really helps me identify and change those habits from my routine is doing a self-analysis of what I’m doing and why. If something doesn’t make sense in my routine, I look for a better alternative or how can I complete it delete it from my life successfully.
Remember that because something is popular or because you think it could be good because you read it somewhere doesn’t mean it will be really helpful. So make sure that what you are doing now is really worth it for what you want to become.
CONTRIBUTED BY Desiree Peralta