We all know that diet and exercise are key tenets of healthy living. You don’t need to be a doctor to know that eating that extra donut or not moving all day will be bad for your health. But while diet and exercise are undoubtedly important, there are numerous other facets of daily life that are just as integral to your health.
There are plenty of easy things we can all be doing to improve our health: flossing can help prevent gum disease; meditating can help you stay focused while reducing stress and anxiety; and of course, something as simple as getting a comprehensive physical exam every year is a must.
Sometimes, though, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is just as much about what you don’t do as what you do do. And many of those don’ts are too often habits that we all do each and every day. Here’s a rundown of five everyday habits that could be negatively affecting your health.
1. Sitting too much
This isn’t just about getting exercise. Sure, getting to the gym once in a while is a huge boon to your health. But whether or not you hit the gym on a regular basis, sitting all day still has negative effects on both your physical and mental health.
According to WebMD, sitting too much is associated with poor heart health, increased risk of diabetes, and even dementia and depression. And if you do exercise regularly, sitting can even undo some of the benefits of working out.
The unfortunate reality is that many of us have to sit for long continuous periods of time at work. Fortunately, there are a few small things you can do to help. For starters, try getting up every half an hour or so and walking around. Another thing to try is getting a standing desk, which will keep you on your feet as you work.
2. Too much screen time
Just as our jobs often keep us sitting for long periods of time, so too do they have us staring at screens all day. Whether it’s a laptop, an iPad, or your phone, too much screen time is bad for you in several ways.
First and foremost, it puts tremendous strain on your eyes. Though the damage isn’t thought to be permanent, research has shown that staring at a screen for extended periods of time can lead to what the American Optometry Association calls Computer Vision Syndrome, which can cause headaches, blurred vision, and other symptoms. To reduce the strain on your eyes, try practicing the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes look at something 20 or more feet away for at least 20 seconds.
Moreover, too much screen time can actually disrupt your sleep, which has negative health effects of its own (see section 4). The blue light emitted by screens can reduce your body’s melatonin, a sleep hormone, which can throw off your circadian rhythm and make it hard to fall and stay asleep. To avoid this, it’s best to not look at any screens within two hours of going to sleep.
3. Too much time spent on social media
Whether it’s Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or TikTok, spending too much time on social media can actually be harmful to your mental health. Surprisingly, research has shown that social media is associated with feelings of isolation, which can contribute to depression and anxiety.
Also, people tend to only represent the positive elements of their lives on social media, so when you scroll through your feed and see all your friends’ awesome vacation photos or posts about a recent accomplishment it might make you think that your own life doesn’t compare. And these feelings of envy have also been shown to have deleterious effects on mental health.
Meanwhile, real-life social interaction has been shown to have positive effects on mental health and well-being. So rather than spending all that time on social media, it might be better to spend some time socializing IRL (in real life).
4. Staying up late/not getting enough sleep
When it comes to everyday habits that affect your health, perhaps none are more underrated than sleep. The average adult needs between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. Not hitting this mark on a regular basis can negatively impact your mood and your ability to focus during the day. According to the UK’s National Health Service, it can also contribute to things like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
But it’s not just how much sleep you get—when you go to sleep is also an important factor. Staying up late isn’t bad for you, per se; but having an inconsistent sleep schedule can have many of the same ill effects as not getting enough sleep. So be sure to go to bed and wake up around the same time each day.
5. Criticizing yourself too much
We all have that little voice in our head that criticizes you every time you make a mistake or second-guesses every decision you make. As it turns out, giving in to that little voice has negative consequences for your mental health. Studies have shown that excessive self-criticism can cause stress and contribute to depression.
Conversely, self-compassion has been shown to have positive effects on mental health. So do yourself a favor and cut yourself some slack!
How Elitra can help
Elitra’s executive health exam is more than just an annual checkup. In addition to standard procedures such as a physical examination and comprehensive blood tests, our concierge medical services also include components such as a fitness assessment and nutritional and lifestyle analysis. So our team can evaluate your everyday habits and help you make lifestyle changes that will benefit your long-term health and well-being.