So, you’re starting out the New Year and you already frequent the gym, eat relatively healthy, and take weekly yoga classes. What’s to change, right? There are several very common unhealthy behaviors that otherwise typically healthy people exhibit on the regular. It’s easy to dismiss these unhealthy behaviors, but don’t be so quick to let yourself off the hook.
Do you see any unhealthy behaviors that resemble you on this list? If so, you’re in good company but you might want to consider how attached you are to them and if it might be time to do a bit of behavior modification…
- You check email constantly. What happens if you’re away from your phone or computer for several hours? Will the world end? Will you be fired? (FYI, probably not.) Technology creates stress in the body, and stress creates health problems. My stars am I guilty of this. If you are as well, try the advice of Tim Ferriss, the author of The 4-Hour Work Week, in setting specific hours out of the day for technology that you can stick to, and remember its more important to nurture your face-to-face encounters than your social media ones.
- You drink alcohol daily. And your daily drink almost always turns into two, sometimes even three. It’s pretty easy to exceed the recommend “moderate” limit of 7 drinks for women and 14 for men per week. We appreciate the advice of “boxing it out”, where you only drink for a few days (i.e. Friday-Sunday) and stay dry through the rest of the week. Or, give going dry in January a try (even if you’re starting a bit late), and see how moderating your alcohol intake affects everything from your sleep to your finances and mood. It’s a worthwhile experiment and the beer isn’t going anywhere. If you’re very social, regular drinking is encouraged even though it’s on the readily acknowledged list of unhealthy behaviors, so watch out for peer pressure. They don’t need quite so many drinks either.
- You eat the wrong way. Not only will eating out cause your budgeting goals difficult to adhere to, it will also make it more challenging to eat well. Restaurant cuisine often has more sugar, salt, and fat than what you’d find at home. Try eating out only once per week and choose wisely. Make sure it’s a meal that feels like the exciting treat it really is. You’ll appreciate it more and you’ll also enjoy yourself in a way you don’t when it’s a commonplace experience.
- You don’t receive enough affection. If you’re too stressed and too tired for sex or even cuddling, something needs to give, and that something isn’t in the bedroom. Make sure your bedroom is set up for a soothing and relaxing romp in the sheets and make time for your partner. Talk about it, put it on your calendar, do whatever works so this incredibly important area of your life isn’t neglected. Sex and affection are so important for your health. If you’re not partnered, get out there and meet people. Dating and flirting are also big stress relievers if approached with a fun, unattached outcome. And dating is typically more likely to result in sex than not dating, so there’s that to acknowledge. At the very least, be sure to get a minimum of 5 hugs a day. You don’t need one of those ‘Free Hugs’ signs, but making sure you’re around others you like and love should make that a pretty easy to accomplish goal.
- Your bedtime is erratic. The number one tip for new mothers is to get their kids on a sleep schedule. It makes for more sound sleep and happier children. So why do we have such a hard time adhering to this as adults? Set sleep goals for yourself and stick with them for 21 days. Long enough to make it a habit, and also long enough that you should start seeing results. Pick a bedtime and only vary that time one to two nights per week if there are mornings you can sleep until you naturally wake up. We all know intellectually the ill effects of not enough sleep. But it’s often bargained for other things we deem important like work, hanging out with friends, one last drink, or the rabbit hole that is the internet. Then we overcompensate with an abundance of caffeine which makes the cycle worse.Don’t let lack of sleep remain on your list of unhealthy behaviors that you’ve reconciled with. Get your rest. You really, really do need it.
- You’re always late. Being late generally represents over-booking ourselves and rushing from too many commitments. Are you a “YES” person? Perhaps its time to say no, so you have a bit more breathing room in your day. It’s really the very best solution. But if it’s really a time management issue and you just have difficulty getting it together, set an alarm for yourself and leave 5 minutes earlier than you think you need to arrive at your given destination. The stress will melt away and you’ll realize how used to feeling stressed about being late you’ve become and how much nicer it is to let that one go. It works. I had to do this myself and I’m much happier for it.
With her love of health and writing, Melissa has written for such publications as Shape, Natural Solutions, Yoga Journal, Self and Pilates Style, and has created recipes and food-oriented stories for such publications as Delicious Living and Cooking Light.