Welcome to the list of little things you’re doing that could be ruining your Mental Health…
1. Ignoring clutter in your surroundings
According to Psychology Today, clutter is not only distracting, but it also bombards your mind with excessive stimuli, inhibits your creativity, and constantly signals your brain that work is never done. These things can make us feel even more overwhelmed and stressed. And according to Dawn Buse, Ph.D., a health psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center: “Clutter makes us feel weighed down, both literally and figuratively. It has been shown to be related to depression, anxiety, and even weight gain.”
So if your room looks like a war zone right now or if you’ve been sitting with a bunch of clutter at your work desk, then you’ve got some serious cleaning up to do.
2. Staying inside all the time
A series of studies from the Journal of Environmental Psychology have shown that spending more time outdoors (ideally in natural environments) can increase your vitality by up to 40 percent, while staying inside too often can lead to insomnia, anxiety, and depression. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to spend all of your time outside to get the benefits. But going out at least once a day for 20 minutes can do wonders for your physical and mental health. If you’re used to settling indoors all day, you might want to switch things up by going out for some fresh air.
3. Constantly comparing yourself to others
With so many social media platforms at our fingertips, it often feels like we’re encouraged to compare ourselves to other people. While we see everyone’s best moments, from their vacation highlights to their flawless vacation photos, we secretly sulk because it feels like our own lives pale in comparison. But constantly comparing our own accomplishments, looks, or popularity to others is the perfect recipe for depression and low self-esteem. It fools us into thinking that life is unfair when really, we have a ton of things that we ought to be grateful for.
4. Suppressing your feelings
A study from the Journal of Psychosomatic Research revealed that “emotion suppression may convey risk for earlier death, including death from cancer.” And several studies have also shown that suppressing anger is actually linked to depression. We know that letting go of old grudges and getting certain things off of your chest is easier said than done. But even if you think you feel fine with keeping your feelings bottled up, it will eventually backfire. Your best bet might be to confide in a close friend or to write your frustrations out in a journal.
5. Trying to be a perfectionist
We totally get the need to strive for perfection sometimes, whether it be on a first date or during a class presentation. But if you set extremely high standards for yourself all the time, you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment. Through over 20 years of research, Dr. Paul Hewitt, a clinical psychologist, and his team have discovered that perfectionism is linked to depression, anxiety, eating disorders and other mental health issues.
So instead of working so hard to be perfect at everything, try to work on setting some goals that are realistic. And most importantly, try not to obsess over achieving certain goals to the point where you don’t even enjoy the journey.
6. Working way too much
We’re so used to hearing about how important it is to establish a good work-life balance, and some of us tend to dismiss this because we have demanding jobs. But unfortunately, this causes us to get even more stressed out and increases the risk of getting depression. According to one study from the Public Library of Science, people who work overtime are more than twice as likely to have a major depressive episode. So if you’ve fallen into the habit of working long hours almost every single day, you might want to take a step back and reevaluate your priorities. It might also help to create a schedule that lets you plan out your free time.
7. Going to bed too late
Or even worse… Pulling all-nighters. Avoiding this can be tough if you’re on a tight schedule or trying to meet deadlines, but if you really think about it, it all boils down to time management. If you choose to sacrifice hours of sleep so you can get work done at the last minute, it will have a negative impact on your brain’s ability to function the next day and even dampen your mood. Lack of sleep can also lead to irritability and stress, and if it becomes a regular habit it can eventually lead to depression, anxiety disorders, and brain damage.
If your sleep schedule is all sorts of screwed up right now, try to get to the root of the problem. Are you on your phone all the time when you’re trying to sleep? Have you been procrastinating lately? Once you figure that out, try to make some changes and make effort to go to bed a little earlier each night.
8. Drinking too much coffee
Coffee has quite a few mental health benefits, like boosting cognitive performance and decreasing the risk of depression. But too much of it can actually lead to the opposite. According to the American Psychological Association, you could get a temporary mental disorder known as caffeine intoxication. Symptoms include muscle twitching, nervousness, rapid and irregular heartbeat, rambling speech, headache, and restlessness.
If you’re a caffeine-lover, be mindful of how much you’re consuming on a regular basis. As long as you drink your coffee responsibly (meaning not five to six cups a day), you should be fine.
9. Thinking obsessively
Having the same thoughts churn around in your mind for hours can be so exhausting – but it actually causes you to worry even more. It releases more stress hormones and reinforces anxious feelings, which can take a huge toll on your overall health. Even worse, obsessive thinking has been linked to mood disorders like major depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder. If you’re an overthinker, try to identify the stressful things you tend to dwell on the most. And whenever they come up, just take a deep breath and try to switch gears by thinking of something positive.
10. Constantly checking social media
Sneaking a look at Facebook on our way to work… Taking a peek at those Instagram notifications to see who else liked our photos… Scrolling through Twitter while we’re on our lunch break… We’re all guilty of doing it. But numerous studies have shown that social media addiction is damaging to our mental health and overall happiness. One study from the Public Library of Science found that the more people used Facebook, the worse they felt and the more their life satisfaction levels decreased. The study also suggested that social media can make us feel more isolated (which is intriguing, considering how these sites were created to help people connect).
The study explained: “On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection. Rather than enhancing well-being, however, these findings suggest that Facebook may undermine it.” Yikes.
11. Isolating yourself from others
There’s no harm in having some alone time once in a while. But if it gets to a point where you completely avoid hanging out with other people, then it will only take a major toll on your health and emotional well-being. According to Psychology Today, people who isolate themselves have a higher risk of developing mental illnesses. They’re more likely to face major depression and they become more vulnerable to different forms of addictions. So make sure you’re setting aside some time to socialize and hang with your BFFs!
12. Avoiding exercise
We totally understand that sticking to an exercise schedule can be tough, but the good news is that you can start small. Its been proven that even moderate exercise can relieve mental stress. And one particular study from the American Journal of Psychiatry showed that exercising for as little as an hour per week can lower anxiety and depression. If you’re looking to boost your mood, consider going for a 15-minute jog (or even brisk walk) four times a week. It’s only a small change, but you’ll notice a huge difference!
13. Skipping meals
So it’s lunchtime and you’re stuck at your desk because you’re running late on a deadline. Just five more minutes turn into ten, and before you know it, an entire hour has passed. Since you’ve still got so much to do, you decide to skip lunch and snack on that old granola bar you’ve been keeping inside your desk. Totally harmless, right? …Not quite. When you skip a meal, you miss out on getting key nutrients that you need for good mental function. It’s extremely important that you get enough protein, fatty acids, and vitamins throughout each day because no one likes feeling sluggish and weak.
14. Eating too much junk food
Speaking of skipping meals, doing so will often drive you to indulge in tons of snacks, sweets, and even fast food. According to a study by the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the University of Granada, people who consume a lot of fast food are 51 percent more likely to have depression than those who don’t eat it. This happens as a result of chemical changes that happen in the brain when you eat a lot of junk food. So yes, while it’s important that you eat, what you eat also matters. This doesn’t mean that you’ll be in trouble if you enjoy the occasional burger or pizza slice but do it sparingly. Your brain will thank you!
15. Reading/watching depressing news all the time
These days, putting on the news (or simply scrolling through a news feed on your phone) is by far one of the quickest and easiest ways to start feeling depressed. British Psychologist Dr. Graham Davey once said: “Negative news can significantly change an individual’s mood — especially if there is a tendency in the news broadcasts to emphasize suffering and also the emotional components of the story.”
But you want to know the craziest part? Negative news can also change how we see our own problems. Graham explained: “Viewing negative news means that you’re likely to see your own personal worries as more threatening and severe, and when you do start worrying about them, you’re more likely to find your worry difficult to control and more distressing than it would normally be.” So you might want to limit the amount of time you spend watching updates about natural disasters or the latest terrorist attacks.
16. Slouching at your desk
We all know that our mood can directly affect our posture. Those who feel gloomy or lazy are more likely to slouch or slump, while those who feel happier are more likely to maintain a better posture. However, people who slouch regularly are more likely to have negative thought patterns and develop depression.
In an interview, Dr. Elizabeth Broadbent explained: “Compared to sitting in a slumped position, sitting upright can make you feel more proud after a success, increase your persistence at an unsolvable task, and make you feel more confident in your thoughts. Research also suggests that sitting upright can make you feel more alert and enthusiastic, feel less fearful, and have higher self-esteem after a stressful task.” So if you’re slouching right now – sit up straight!
17. Consuming too much alcohol
This one should be a no-brainer. We already know for a fact that consuming booze in moderation can lead to some health benefits, so occasional drinkers have nothing to worry about. But if you’re a heavy drinker, there could be serious consequences. These risks include permanent brain damage in the long run. Make sure you drink responsibly!