It comes as no surprise that your mental health is intertwined with your physical health. However, we don’t often think about how some of our most common habits can negatively impact our mental health. Here are five ways that you might unconsciously be doing so.
A study was done where patients who were screened for mild to moderate depression were analyzed according to the effect of their posture. The study “suggests that adopting an upright posture may increase positive effect, reduce fatigue and decrease self-focus in people with mild-to-moderate depression” (Wilkes, Kydd, Sagar, & Broadbent, 2017). It was also found that those who slouched while walking “remembered more negative things rather than positive things” (Rossi, 2015).
Not getting enough sleep
We tend to wear how well we can function on the least amount of sleep possible as a badge. The momentary blip of pride you feel while bragging about the three consecutive all-nighters you pulled during finals week is not worth the damage you could be doing to your mental health. Sleep is necessary for your body (and mind!) to replenish and rejuvenate. “[The] real key to success isn’t just the right amount of sleep; it’s a regular sleep schedule. By going to bed at the same time each night and getting up around the same time each day, you make it easier for your body to regulate its sleep/wake cycle. This can lead to big mental health improvements, make it easier to get better after an illness and even make tackling a challenging day feel just a bit less daunting” (Young, 2014).
Too much technology
Connection is incredibly important to your mental health. While an increase in meaningful friendships and relationships have been shown to improve mental health, too much social interaction via your smartphones or social media outlets do not. Diedra L. Clay, PsyD, of Bastyr University states that scrolling through social media does not count as “true conversations that allow us to understand people. Instead, it lessens our experiences and feelings.” (Rossi, 2015).
Spending too much time indoors
According to an article published by Psych Central, “[spending] time in nature can promote cognitive functions and overall well-being” (Nauert, 1995-2018). Being outside also provides ample opportunity for mindfulness, reflection and meditation – all things that promote mental wellness.
Skipping the gym
Whether you’re a hiker, a swimmer or a brisk walker, physical exercise has incredible benefits to your mental health. The endorphins you release with exercise act as natural anti-depressants. “If you become more active three times a week, your risk of being depressed decreases 19%, according to a new study in JAMA Psychiatry” (Rossi, 2015). There are easy ways to incorporate more activity into your lifestyle, like taking the stairs, taking your dog on a longer walk or dedicating time for more formal work-outs. Not only does exercise help combat anxiety and depression, it also “… can help children do better in school, improve cognitive performance in adults, reduce age-related memory loss in the elderly, and increase new neuron formation in the brain” (Nauert, 1995-2018). So, get moving!
Nauert, R. (1995-2018). Lifestyle Changes as Treatment for Mental Health Concerns, Depression, Anxiety. Retrieved February 2018, from PsychCentral: https://psychcentral.com/news/2011/02/18/lifestyle-changes-as-treatment-for-mental-health-concerns-depression-anxiety/23670.html
Power of Positivity. (2009-2015). Researchers Reveal 5 Habits of People Who Hurt Their Mental Health. Retrieved 2018 February, from Power of Positivity: https://www.powerofpositivity.com/mental-health-bad-habits/
Rossi, C. (2015, December 11). 12 Worst Habits for your Mental Health. Retrieved February 2018, from Health: http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20866947,00.html#hang-on-to-your-happiness-0
Wilkes, C., Kydd, R., Sagar, M., & Broadbent, E. (2017, March). Upright posture improves affect and fatigue in people with depressive symptoms. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 54, 143-149.
Young, J. L. (2014, October 02). 9 Lifestyle Factors That Can Affect Your Mental Health. Retrieved February 2018, from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/when-your-adult-child-breaks-your-heart/201410/9-lifestyle-factors-can-affect-your-mental