When you hear the word habit what comes to mind?
Perhaps that dauntless list of all the things you should stop doing. The same list of habits you resolve to quit each new year but fall off your to-do list by February.
Or maybe that one person in your office who faithfully walks on breaks and always passes up ordering lunch because they packed a delicious, Pinterest-worthy meal. One they probably planned and batch-prepped the Sunday before.
With a quick Google search of “habits that affect your health” you’ll find a plethora of habits that affect your health for the worse. But habits can also impact your health for the better. Like the ones that meal planning, lunch-break walker from the office has in place.
In fact, creating habits is the only way to develop a healthy lifestyle that lasts for years to come. And the best way to break a bad habit is to replace it with a good one. Here are 10 common habits that negatively affect your health and the healthy habits you can start putting into place to overcome them.
Smoking and/or Vaping
Vaping has been gaining staggering traction as of late, especially among younger generations. While vaping is a new practice and yet to have definitive studies completed on its full effect on user’s health, we do know that as far as nicotine goes it is as addictive and harmful to our health. Smoking in general also opens users to the risk of periodontal disease, commonly known as gum disease, as well as a high risk of cancers and heart disease.
Create a New Habit by Breaking the Habit
While the journey to quit is difficult for many it is not an impossible one. Creating a solid plan that includes how to handle difficult situations and a strong support network puts those looking to quit on the fast track to success. Make a habit of checking in with your support network regularly to share your progress.
When creating your quitting plan, identify the reason why you want to quit and put it somewhere visible you will see each day. Identify situations and emotions that trigger the urge, and create proactive plans for how you will handle them instead of reaching to satisfy the craving. For —example, many find chewing a piece of gum is a helpful habit used to placate cravings.
Not Getting Enough Exercise
Lack of exercise is a habit many of us struggle with. It is so easy to run from one part of our day to the next and crash on the couch, too exhausted to even think about moving. However, by not making the effort, we put ourselves at risk for a whole host of health issues—weight gain, muscle loss, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.
Many Americans find they struggle to incorporate exercise into their day because there is a pressure to start with a big bang and complete lifestyle change overnight. However, habits that last a lifetime are built over a lifetime—not a 30-day challenge.
Start Building the Habit
Instead of taking drastic measures by signing up for an extreme program, start small. Start with a walk during your lunch break or after dinner.
Schedule time for fitness in your calendar and make it non-negotiable. Set fitness goals that follow the S.M.A.R.T. goal method. Working with a personal trainer can help you do exactly that. Especially one who can provide customized recommendations for your unique fitness level as well as the support and accountability you need to keep going.
Not Getting Enough Sleep at Night
So many of us fail to get the sleep we need. And so often, this is simply due to poor sleep preparation habits. These bad habits range from staying up too late, eating dinner too close to bedtime, drinking caffeine throughout the day, leaving the TV on while sleeping or all of the above.
Replace the Bad Habits with New Ones
Learn how many hours of sleep you naturally need for a good night’s sleep. This is typically between 7 to 9 hours for most adults. When you know how many hours you need, add on a half hour to an hour of time to that number to allow yourself ample time to fall asleep. Set an alarm for this time to remind yourself it’s time to head to bed.
To be even more proactive, set an alarm for when to start getting ready for bed. So when it’s time for bed, all you have to do is pull back the covers and hop in. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every single day. This will train your body to get onto a regular sleep schedule.
Spending Too Much Time in Front of Screens
Too much screen time is an unhealthy habit many of us are guilty of. Whether it be from a television, computer, tablet or cell phone, the amount of screen time we take in each day is alarming. From the minute we wake up, we move from one screen type to the next. High dosages of screen time can lead to feelings of isolation, depression, a decrease in melatonin production, and ultimately affect the quality of our sleep.
Create New, Fun Habits
Ditch screens and pick up some new habits. Turn off notifications on phones, tablets, and laptops and set a cap on how much time you spend watching television. Use new usage-monitoring apps available on mobile devices to track how many times you pick up your device each day and how much of your time you’re spending on each device.
Create a routine of turning off all screens an hour or two before bed and enable automatic blue light combating features (often called “night shift” or “night light”). Use this time before bed to pick up a physical book or work on a new hobby.
Mindlessly Snacking on Processed Junk Foods
Too much snacking of processed foods on the couch while binging your favorite new series can lead to more than just weight gain. The excess salt and sugar so frequently found in these foods are more likely to stick to teeth, attracting acids that break down tooth enamel. You are more susceptible to diabetes as well as an increase in cholesterol and blood levels. You may even find that they are the root cause of acne or bloating.
Plan Ahead For These Healthy Habits
Swap your sugary beverage habits out for drinking more water. For those looking for flavor, try fruit infused water, flavored seltzer, and herbal teas.
Eat healthy meals high in fiber, protein, and vegetables to keep you full for longer and curb cravings. Keep healthy snacks on hand and easily accessible; think pre-cut veggies, fruit cups, pre-portioned nut mixes, and plain popcorn kernels (to lightly butter and salt at your own discretion).
Sitting Too Much Throughout the Day
There are numerous claims from the media that sitting is the new smoking. Sitting for extended lengths of time, which if we’re honest most of us are, puts us at risk of weight gain and deterioration of leg, back, gluteal and hip muscles. This deterioration can lead to hip and back pain, and it can also affect our stability. Excessive sitting time also correlates with a higher rate of diagnosis for heart disease and diabetes.
Take a Stand For New Habits
Make new healthy habits by setting reminders either on your desktop or phone to regularly get up and walk around throughout the day. The recommended time is every 20 minutes. Invest in or ask your company to reimburse you for a stand-up desk that allows you to work in intervals of standing and sitting.
Incorporate exercise into your daily routine, especially targeting leg, hip and back muscles. Make easy, small day-to-day decisions like taking the stairs and walking on breaks to get your body moving.
Spending Too Much Time on Negative Thoughts
A negative outlook on life, whether through self-criticism, mentally replaying stressful events, or calling a friend to vent can lead to depression and amplifying existing stress. Over time, this bad habit has the potential to lead to high blood pressure and chronic fatigue.
Create Positive Social Habits
Many find self-criticism pops up while they are scrolling through their social media feeds. If this is true for you, take a step back for a few days. Spend less time on these platforms and consider reevaluating who you follow. If there is an account or person whose post always gets you wound up, you can either hide or unfollow them.
Spend more time with people in-person. Put your phone away at dinner and lunch. Practice taking deep breaths throughout the day and looking for a silver lining to a stressful situation. You may even want to start each day by writing down a list of 10 things you are grateful for.
Biting Your Nails
Approximately 20 to 30 percent of the population bite their nails. Nail biting can cause teeth to shift out of place and even lead to tooth breakage. Germs found on hands and under the nail bed can lead to potential infections in the gums. You are also highly susceptible to bacterial infections on fingers due to open wounds from incessant biting.
To quit, keep nails neat and trimmed so there isn’t anything “begging” to be bitten away. Many find getting regular manicures, even if it’s just with a clear coat, helps to deter them from chewing. Others have found success in regularly applying bitter-tasting polish designed to help nail biters break the habit.
Identify common triggers so you can make an action plan to replace the biting habit. A common replacement is wearing a rubber band around the wrist and lightly snapping it each time there is an urge to bite as a helpful reminder to stop. You may find that carrying a fidget cube or other such “focus toy” helps you to have a place to put your attention when you have an urge to bite.
Not Drinking Enough Water
Not drinking enough water is a bad habit that is often willfully overlooked by many because they prefer more flavorful options like caffeinated and sweetened beverages. But learning how to find a way to enjoy drinking more water as a daily routine is easier than ever with so many healthy alternatives available.
Not to mention, dehydration puts you at an increased risk of stroke, leads to water retention, loss of cognitive function, headaches, dry mouth, eyes, and skin, low energy and even cramps and spasms.
Make a Habit You Can Enjoy
To start chugging more H2O, take the time to find ways you can enjoy the taste whether it’s finding a particular brand you like, investing in a water filter, drinking flavored seltzer waters, creating fruit infused blends, or making herbal teas.
Set reminders throughout the day or download one of the many apps available to help you track your water intake. Find a water bottle you genuinely enjoy using and carry it with you everywhere. You may even find a “smart” bottle you prefer which digitally tracks your water consumption throughout the day and syncs up with an app.
Not Maintaining Preventative Care
This one may be surprising to you. It is not a habit many of us think about but one many of us are guilty of. The health risks are innumerable. A minor health problem undetected can quickly escalate into something much worse that is more difficult, and expensive, to treat. When given your health history, a doctor will know what to keep an eye on and closely monitor. Regular checkups also allow your care providers to establish a baseline for your health and determine how well or unwell you become over time.
Make A New Habit
Schedule check-ups with your primary care doctor, dentist, dermatologist, and obstetrician-gynecologist, if applicable, as soon as possible. Then make recurring reminders in your calendar system of choice to stay on top of these regular appointments. If you do not have a primary care doctor or other providers call the number on your insurance card to get help finding one in your network.
It’s easy to continue pushing off these kinds of tasks from your to-do lists, but don’t wait any longer than you have to. It is increasingly important to stay on top of these visits as we age and when we begin family planning. Stay in good health and teach your children and grandchildren how to follow suit.
Here at Great Miami Dental, we’re always happy to help you remember your biannual cleanings. We’ll send you reminders so you know when it’s time to schedule again, and so you don’t miss the appointment you have already scheduled. Schedule an appointment with us today to cross one more thing off your list and take one step closer to creating healthy habits.