According to the National Institute on Mental Health, 20% of Americans lived with a mental illness in 2019. These illnesses ranged from mild to severe. However, not everyone who experiences mental health issues has a diagnosed condition. The Centers for Disease Control points out that an additional 11.2% of adult Americans also experienced regular feelings of worry, nervousness or anxiety.
Even minor mental health issues can result in long term physical, psychological and social problems. Experts say the key to preventing these is to take care of your mental health in the same way you take care of your physical health. A key component to achieving that is recognizing the habits that may harm your mental health and doing something about them.
Here are 8 daily habits that may be hurting your mental health.
1. Lack of Physical Activity
Exercise and physical activity don't just ensure your physical health — it can boost your mental health as well. Failure to exercise regularly is associated with both depression and anxiety, and there are many other dangers that come along with a sedentary lifestyle. Without exercise, you’re also missing out on an excellent opportunity to produce endorphins, a chemical produced in your brain when you exercise that can raise your spirits and generally put you in an overall better mood.
2. Poor Posture
Working from home has exacerbated posture problems for many people. Sitting at the kitchen table or a makeshift desk wreaks havoc on our posture. However, poor posture isn’t just something your grandmother worried about. It has been linked to depression and also to poor self-image and moodiness. When your spine is aligned correctly, your mood will improve, but you will also reduce fatigue and have a far more positive attitude about life.
3. Lack of Sleep
Over 35% of adults in the U.S. do not get enough sleep, and almost half of Americans say they feel sleepy throughout the day. If that includes you, you may be seriously harming your mental health. Sleep deprivation can negatively affect your mood and make it far more difficult for you to deal with even minor stressors. For many years, experts believed that sleep issues were a symptom of mental illness, but recently, lack of sleep has been identified as a potential cause of mental illness. It has also linked to depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and other serious diseases.
Procrastination isn’t simply a bad habit or a lack of productivity. It is an avoidance strategy that raises stress levels and lowers levels of well-being. Chronic procrastination can also result in low self-confidence and reduced energy. It can lead to poor performance at work or at school, which leads to even higher levels of stress. Procrastination is also associated with a wide variety of mental health issues, including ADHD, eating disorders, anxiety and depression.
5. Disorganization (Clutter)
We’d all like to become more organized, and there is a good reason for that. Living in unrestrained clutter, whether at home or in the office, may make it difficult for you to relax. When surrounded by the remnants of uncompleted projects and jobs unfinished, it may be giving your brain the impression that your work is just never done.
Clutter can also add excessive stimuli to the brain and overload our senses. It adds to your stress and can be a source of unrelenting frustration as it inhibits both productivity and creativity. Finally, chronic clutter has also been linked to relationship problems, which can affect your overall mental health.
6. Too Little Time Alone
It is a well-accepted fact that too much isolation is bad for our mental health, but not spending enough time alone can be equally detrimental. Humans are social beings, and we crave interaction with others. Too much social interaction, however, can leave you irritable, anxious and stressed. Time alone gives you a chance to unwind, destress and think undisturbed and undistracted. It helps you build the mental toughness to deal with life’s challenges and is also a proven stress reliever. Studies show that solitude allows people time to relax physically and mentally, reducing levels of stress.
While holding on to your anger can negatively impact your mental health, releasing it by venting can be equally detrimental. Venting may feel great in the moment, but it can actually make you feel worse in the end. This is because venting can amplify your stress and anger rather than reduce them.
Think about venting as the fuel feeding your negative thoughts. If you regularly vent your anger or frustration, you are practicing it, getting better at it and making it a part of who you are. In turn, that makes it more difficult for you to deal calmly with issues and restore your personnel equilibrium. Rehashing your grievances with friends, family, or co-workers has been linked to depression and increased stress hormones levels.
It may seem like it's not that big of a deal to complain about the abundance of traffic on your morning commute, or the fact that it's raining. While complaining can easily turn into venting, it can also be something that people do all day long without even thinking twice. However, the negative mindset it fosters can set you up for future failure. This can snowball, and your errors or problems can end up magnified, at least in your mind.
Take Care of Yourself
Taking the time to care for your mental health proactively means understanding the daily habits that may be harming it. Like any bad habit, they can be reduced or eliminated and replaced by a much better routine for your mental health.