Earlier this year I had posted my personal recipe for well-being. Now I’d like to look at a few common routines that cripple well-being.
1. Relying on vitamins for nutrition
Many people have told me they don’t worry about eating a balanced diet because they take vitamins. Yes, if you have a deficiency, vitamins may be necessary. But it shouldn’t be an excuse for constantly consuming empty calories. According to Johns Hopkins researchers, “multivitamins don’t reduce the risk for heart disease, cancer, cognitive decline (such as memory loss and slowed-down thinking) or an early death.” And as Harvard Medical School pointed out, dietary supplements (unlike prescription medications) are not regulated. As a result, “manufacturers can sell these products without submitting evidence of their purity, potency, safety, or efficacy.”
2. Overusing antibacterial products
According to the Better Health Channel, “the overuse of antibacterial cleaning products, including disinfectants in the home, may be producing strains of bacteria that are resistant to multiple antibiotics.” The VeryWell Health website adds that in 2017 the federal government banned several antibacterial agents from consumer soaps because the risks outweigh the benefits.
That’s not to say that hygiene isn’t important. It is. But the human body needs bacteria, and about 98 percent of them are beneficial. Antibacterial items kill good germs along with the bad. We’ve learned the danger of that from the excess use of antibiotics.
3. Being persistently inactive
There’s nothing wrong with watching TV, sitting at the computer, or curling up with a good book. Unless it’s done too long or too often. Inactivity breeds inactivity. In fact, sitting may be the new smoking. As you sit for extended periods of time, your metabolism slows down and your resting heart rate goes up. To change this cycle, introduce physical movement. Get up and march during commercials. Schedule frequent breaks during web activity, or stand at the computer. Do some of your reading while walking on the treadmill. Take conscious steps to break your inactivity into smaller chunks. Regular exercise boosts metabolism over the long-term.
Posture—good or bad—is always with you. I need not tell you this (but I will): slouching is bad. Eventually, it becomes habitual. Even if you don’t turn into Igor from Young Frankenstein, posture affects your health, your appearance, and your mood. So, lift your chin, straighten your shoulders and increase your well-being.
5. Viewing screens right before bedtime
I love reading on my Kindle when I am camping. It’s easier than using a flashlight. And chances are, it’s at the end of a day I’ve been physically active in the great outdoors. But I’ve stopped doing it regularly. Research suggests that blue light (e.g., from cell phones, computers, and television) at night can slow down the release of melatonin. Since melatonin is a hormone that triggers sleep, the late-night screen time becomes an interference. Technology companies are improving apps to block the blue light. But a better approach is to avoid technology just before bedtime.
6. Dwelling on the negative
There’s no shortage of negative news. Economic, social, and physical problems exist everywhere. We can’t ignore them, but we also shouldn’t dwell on them. Though it may not be second nature, force yourself to think of something you are grateful for when you are in a pessimistic mindset. Otherwise, if you allow debilitating thoughts to fester, it can lead to chronic illnesses. Begin and end each day with positive thoughts until that activity becomes habit.
7. Comparing yourself to others
Your life journey is your own. The same is true for other people. So instead of comparing yourself to others, work to improve who you are today compared with your prior self. Can you be kinder, stronger, more forgiving? In what ways have you grown? How can you continue to grow? Take a step back and look at the big picture.
8. Neglecting food labels
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all the choices in a grocery store? If so, you’re not alone. And that feeling of being overwhelmed leads to shortcuts such as buying the lowest-priced brand, the one for which you can apply a coupon, or the one you bought last time. But have you checked the ingredients? Read the food labels. The font may be small or in a color making it difficult to read. But do it anyway. Try to avoid processed foods with a list of artificial preservatives. Your body will thank you.
9. Snacking or drinking alcohol late at night
Research on the effects of eating before bedtime is controversial. While most studies have shown that eating before bed correlated with weight gain. But there’s more to the story. The timing of the consumption is not the issue as much as the content. People are likely to eat foods with more calories while watching television or working on the computer. Too often, the behavior becomes a habit and causes weight gain.
Having a nightcap also increases caloric consumption. But there are some other factors at play here. o Medical News, in a recent article, highlighted research “conducted at Florida Atlantic University and Harvard Medical School, showed that drinking alcohol within four hours of going to bed was significantly more likely to interfere with sleep than drinking caffeine.” Having a drink may help people get to sleep faster, but it interferes with staying asleep.
10. Maintaining a rut
Do you do the same things day-after-day out of habit? Most of us get into ruts slowly, like the proverbial frog in boiling water. We don’t always realize that it’s happening. Spice things up periodically to energize your well-being. Take up a new hobby. Hike in nature. Call up an old friend that you’ve lost touch with. Perhaps you should even look for a new job. Don’t allow stagnation to sap your health. Tania Luna in Psychology Today, stated that “the closest disorder to a rut in the DSM is dysthymia—the mild, chronic cousin of depression.”
In summary, to improve your well-being, STOP:
- Relying on vitamins for nutrition
- Overusing antibacterial products
- Being persistently inactive
- Viewing screens right before bedtime
- Dwelling on the negative
- Comparing yourself to others
- Neglecting food labels
- Snacking or drinking alcohol late at night
- Maintaining a rut
Next month I’ll list an additional set of habits to break.