My biggest goal for 2018 is to simply have better days, weeks, months, and in turn, an amazing year. Now, in order to reach this goal, I’ve incorporated a few new practices into my lifestyle: I exercise or move for at least 30 minutes every day; I write down what I’m grateful for each night; I prioritize eating healthy, nutritious food; and I do my best to practice mindfulness or focus on the present moment. So far, these additions to my daily routine have helped me have some pretty great days. But I knew they could be even better. So, I asked a handful of mental health professionals about everyday behaviors that negatively impact our wellbeing. And I’ve vowed to put an end to them. Here are the 6 behaviors they say negatively affect our mental health and how to turn them around:
1) Engaging in negative thinking patterns.
Licensed Psychologist Jisun Fisher says that negative thinking patterns are detrimental to our wellbeing: “Passively engaging in mind chatter—that is the worst thing we can do for our mental health. Mind chatter is essentially the thoughts that happen in our heads as a reaction to current or past events, or a worry about future events. Because of the way that our brains are wired, our thoughts will be predominantly negative. If we don’t combat these thoughts, then we lose before we even begin the day. We must watch our thoughts—they become beliefs. Our beliefs become dictators to how we show up in the world. And how we show up in the world inevitably leads us to the end-of-life question: ‘did I live a good life without regrets?’”
Juggling your to-do list items may seem like the smart thing to do, but it can actually lower productivity levels and create more stress, as explained by Licensed Clinical Social Worker Jessica Tappana: “Multitasking can leave a person feeling overwhelmed and off-center, and it actually lowers productivity levels. Instead, try to focus on accomplishing one thing at a time. If you can break a single task down into smaller steps to focus on, even better. By focusing all of your energy in one direction, you will do a better job, faster, and while feeling more in control.”
3) Obsessing over social media.
“Though social media is wildly popular, it’s not great for our mental health,” says Licensed Clinical Social Worker Autumn Collier. Scrolling too much on social media creates a false reality of what life should be and unrealistic expectations. This then affects how we feel about ourselves and puts our thoughts in a negative tailspin. Social media also allows people to isolate from human interaction, which can bring about feelings of loneliness or even discomfort when in social settings.” That being said, you don’t have to completely remove yourself from social media if you don’t want to—simply limit your time on it instead: “Try setting boundaries around your time on social media. Plan when you will engage such as once in the morning, once after lunch, and once after dinner.”
We’re all guilty of procrastinating from time to time, but many of us fail to realize the harmful and ineffective nature of doing so. According to Dr. Bryan Bruno, “procrastinating can have much longer-lasting effects on your mental health than most people realize. When you put off a task because it is daunting or gives you anxiety, you usually create even more anxiety as your deadlines approach.” Instead, you should, “create a structured plan for your deadlines and craft simple but useful to-do lists in your everyday life. Don’t get caught doing projects at the last minute.”
5) Slacking on sleep.
A huge issue that many of us undervalue is our lack of sleep. It’s incredibly important that we get plenty of restful sleep, yet many of us still struggle to do so: “The average person gets at least 30 minutes less sleep a night than they should. And while we often focus on the physical consequences of lack of sleep, it’s crucial to look at the mental health effects of sleep deprivation as well,” says Chris Brantner, Certified Sleep Science Coach at SleepZoo.com. “It’s important to look at sleep as the time that your mental housekeeper functions best. Research increasingly suggests that sleep deprivation can play a crucial role in the development of some mental health conditions. Furthermore, research suggests that treating sleep disorders can have positive impacts on mental health issues. That being said, improving sleep habits and aiming for the right amount of sleep each night is one of the best ways for the average person to improve their mental health.”
6) Moving too little.
According to Jessica Snyder, Licensed Clinical Psychotherapist, we’re sitting too much and our mental health could benefit greatly from getting up and moving: “Our bodies need to move and our brains benefit from movement. Release happy chemicals in your brain daily by engaging in 15-30 minutes of exercise. This doesn’t have to be a hard-core spin class. Take a walk with your pet. Practice some yoga stretches while you listen to your favorite music. Dance to some of your favorite songs with your kids. Anything to get your body moving.”