Habits control what you do, how you use your time, and your thoughts. Despite their influence on our life, we tend to forget them when talking about mental health.
We tend to think, “I can’t do that because I feel like this.” Sometimes, this might be true. But in most cases, saying, “I feel like this because I spend my time like that.” is more accurate. To improve yourself and how you feel, you have to change your habits in the process.
Below we’ll look into the 9 worst habits for your mental health and how they can affect it.
Related: What are habits?
Sometimes we have to do difficult things. You might have to go to the gym, cook dinner, make an assignment, or clean your apartment. All of which will affect you negatively if you don’t do them. When you intentionally or out of habit, delay or “forget” doing things like this, you are procrastinating.
Everybody procrastinates from time to time. That’s not a problem. But when it becomes a habit, it can be impossible to get anything done. Your to-do list will slowly grow. And as the list grows, it’ll take longer to finish. It seems more overwhelming to start.
As the habit of procrastinating becomes ingrained in you, it’ll be almost impossible to get anything done, even the things that you enjoy. It makes self-improvement difficult and can harm your mental health.
If you’re struggling with procrastination, you can slowly begin to reverse the habit by adopting the 2-minute rule. If the task you’re supposed to do takes less than 2 minutes to complete, you do it right away.
Eating junk food
Fast food and takeaway are, for many, the easy option. It’s easy and convenient after a long day at work. And it even tastes good. But the habit of eating junk food can, over time, affect your mental well-being.
Junk food can make you feel full and give your body the necessary energy to survive. But it doesn’t give you more than that. If your diet consists of junk, you’ll end up lacking important nutrients and minerals. When your body lacks these nutrients, you can begin to feel symptoms that can affect your mental health. These symptoms include:
- Not sleeping well
- Getting sick easily
- Bone or muscle pain
- Feeling weak
- Depression or feelings of sadness
And it isn’t just the lack of nutrients that can affect your well-being. People who consume regular junk food are more likely to be or become overweight. Which by itself has many serious consequences.
Practice cooking food yourself. Focus on getting enough vegetables and fruit and avoid eating out too often. Consider taking some multivitamins to make sure you are covered with the most important nutrients and minerals.
Related: The best habits for self-improvement
Most people try to find comfort when they feel difficult emotions. One of the most common coping mechanisms is comfort eating.
Comfort eating will often make you eat much more than you feel good about. It can make you feel physically sick. When things have calmed down, it will be followed by guilt and shame. If it becomes a habit, shame and guilt will create a downward spiral in your mental health.
Comfort eating has negative long-term consequences besides obesity. If you eat every time, you feel a certain emotion, you can begin to associate that emotion with being hungry.
Find other ways to deal with negative emotions. Take a walk, talk to a friend, hit the gym, or do something that can soothe you.
Related: Create an overview of your habits
Not getting enough sleep
We have to prioritize how we spend our time if we want to get everything done. This means that we have to cut down on certain things to make time for the things that really matter. You can wait to watch the new show, spend less time on your phone or cut back on a million other things. But for many, the first place they decide to find time is their sleep.
Related: 7 habits for better sleep
Cutting back on sleep might seem like the perfect way to make time for everything you have to do. Who needs 8 hours anyway? Not getting enough sleep can have serious consequences for your performance and productivity. Common symptoms of only getting 6 hours of sleep include:
- Shorter attention span
- Worse decision making
- Worse memory
- Reduced concentration
- Bad mood
- Struggling to let go of specific thoughts
Not getting enough sleep can cause you to lose the time you made by staying up, to being less effective when you work the next day. Reconsider if it’s really worth watching the new show instead of getting your 8 hours.
Related: Myths about habits
Smartphones have, in many ways, made our lives easier. We have a device in our pocket that works as navigation, keeps us updated, and in contact with the people around us. While there are many good things about our phones, they serve as a threat to our mental health.
Dopamine is your reward system. Every time you do a task, you get a hit of dopamine. This system has been in place ever since humans came into existence and haven’t changed much since then.
In the early days of hunter-gatherer societies, there weren’t many sources of dopamine, so they had to work to feel satisfied. Today, you can pick up your phone and get a dopamine hit in seconds.
As people, we gravitate toward the easiest choice. It’s easier to get dopamine from scrolling through TikTok than reading a book. It’s easier to get dopamine from watching workout videos than actually doing a workout. This easy source of dopamine makes it harder to do difficult things because there is an easier way to make the brain feel the same.
Overusing your phone can cause a lack of motivation, shorter attention, worse concentration, worse memory, stress, and anxiety. It makes you less productive and feel worse.
Related: How one habit can change your life
Multitasking is one of those things that seem productive but, in reality, isn’t. Instead, it can harm your mental health.
Your brain can only focus on one task. When you multitask, your brain isn’t focused on several tasks at once. It quickly switches attention from one task to another.
The small switches in your attention keep you from entering a flow state. It keeps you from doing deep, focused work. Without this, the quality of your learning or finished product will be of lower quality.
But it isn’t just your work that will suffer from multitasking. When you create the habit of multitasking, the brain will slowly become worse at keeping attention. If it struggles to concentrate on one task, it will become harder to relax. Your anxiety and stress levels can go up.
Related: Toxic self-help habits
Exercising is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. It can help battle depression and anxiety. It can bring your stress levels down and make you feel more confident. With exercise being one of the best habits for mental health, it should come as no surprise that being inactive is one of the worst.
Being inactive can cause depression and anxiety. It can make your self-esteem worse and increase your stress levels.
One of the simplest ways of improving yourself and your mental health is to beat this habit. To get out and move. Take a walk, go to the gym, go for a swim, or do something that requires your body to move. It might be hard the first couple of times if you’re used to doing nothing. But doing nothing will make the rest of your life difficult.
Related: Create an exercise habit
Life isn’t always easy. You’re going to meet people you don’t like, have to do things you don’t want to do, and fail in others you would like to succeed. That’s life. You can accept these unpleasant situations and use them to grow. Or you can complain about them and always be annoyed.
Your brain has a model of the world. How everything works. If you have the habit of complaining, you’ll subconsciously begin to look for things to complain about. The people in your life, the weather, your work, and your situation suddenly looks worse.
The habit of complaining isn’t just bad for your mental health but can be annoying for the people around you.
How you talk to yourself influences every aspect of your life, from how you feel to how you spend your time. Your inner monologue will most likely change between positive and negative throughout the day, depending on what you’re doing and how it’s going.
If you have the habit of talking negatively to yourself, most of this inner monologue will be spent criticizing yourself. You might downplay your achievements, say that you don’t deserve that thing you want or that you aren’t good enough.
The habit of negative self-talk can cause depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and many other problems with your mental health. Work on changing your inner monologue to one being more positive.
Remember, positive thoughts bring positive emotions. Positive emotions bring positive actions. Positive actions bring a positive outcome.
The behavior on the list above isn’t a problem if you only do them occasionally. They become a problem for your mental health when they form as habits and are repeated often.
If you have any of the habits from the list, you can begin to work on getting rid of them to strengthen your mental health and your chances of self-improvement.
What to read about next: