We’re all guilty of doing things we know aren’t good for us. We’ve all make unhealthy choices and succumb to bad habits once in a while. But are we conscious of how these choices and habits affect our mental health?
We’ve got to take a good hard look at the little things we do day-to-day that have a major impact on our mental wellness.
Below are five common habits that may be affecting your mental health and how to substitute those habits with healthier choices.
Instead of Fast Food, Try Meal Prepping
Nutritionists, psychologists, and doctors alike recognize the direct correlation between how we fuel our bodies and our mental state. It’s clear fast food, with all its carbs and trans fats, has a negative effect on our minds and emotions.
But the convenience of fast food can often overshadow the health concerns. I know I’ve found myself pulling up to the drive-thru on particularly busy or stressful days. Fast forward a couple hours and the greasy snack I once enjoyed is now making me feel bloated, tired, and anxious.
Meal Prepping may be the solution. Just one hour and you can have a week’s worth of meals. Easy to make, easy to customize. Planning healthier options ahead of time means you’re saving money and improving your mental and physical health
Here are a few meal prep recipes to get you started:
- Roasted Chicken and Veggies
- Fajita Bowls
- Loaded Lentil Salad
- Taco Salad Bowls
- Mexican Chicken Quinoa Bowls
Instead of social media, try journaling
Have you ever peeked at the “Your Activity” page on your Instagram to see how much time you’ve spent on the app? It’s surprising the number of hours we can waste scrolling through people’s’ online highlight reels. Social media may be a great source of self-expression, but the toll it takes on our insecurities and Depression is not worth the “likes”.
Journaling, on the other hand, is total self-expression with no judgment. I call it the easiest, cheapest therapy tool on the market. With benefits like mental clarity and personal reflection, it’s obviously a healthier substitute to social media.
When boredom is causing you to turn to Instagram and Facebook, here are a few fun journal prompts to do instead:
- What is one small victory you’ve had today?
- Describe the last time you laughed til you cried.
- Would you rather live in the mountains or on the beach? Why?
- If you could have any job in the world (regardless of experience or money), what would it be?
- List 20 random facts about you.
Instead of hitting the snooze button, try creating a self-care morning routine
When your alarm is blaring at 6 AM, it can be very tempting to hit the old snooze button and fall back asleep. Just five more minutes, please. But hitting the snooze button and closing your eyes, even for just a couple extra minutes, extends your state of sleep inertia and will leave you feeling more groggy throughout the day.
Replace the urge to snooze with an activity that wakes you up and makes you feel so good.
Here are a few ideas you can try tomorrow morning:
- Try a morning yoga video
- Morning meditation
- Create a pump-up playlist
- Enjoy some tea or coffee outside
- Face mask
Instead of complaining, try writing gratitude lists
It’s easy to fall into this unhealthy habit. Often we don’t even notice how much we complain. But think about how many times each day you find yourself thinking “ugh I don’t want to go to work” or “it’s too cold out” or “I can’t believe she said that, she’s so mean.” Focusing on negativity each day can impact our state of mind and the way we perceive the world.
A recent study done by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkley investigated whether practicing gratitude or writing about negative experiences had a better effect on individuals who were seeking mental health counseling at the University. The results of the study showed that the participants who wrote gratitude letters reported better mental health four weeks and twelve weeks after the study ended.
Here are a few different ways to practice gratitude today:
- Write a letter to someone you are grateful for.
- List 5 people who have treated you kindly today/List 5 people you’ve been kind to today.
- List 10 things that always make you smile.
- Describe 5 times you’ve experienced joy.
- List 5 things you like about your job.
Instead of asking for other people’s opinions, try preparing reminders for yourself
Just like complaining, defaulting to other peoples’ opinions is an unhealthy habit we often don’t notice we’re doing. Think about the last time you asked your significant other or friend for their advice. Although it’s good to get insight from others, the problem arises when we depend on it each time in our decision-making process. This often leads to over-dependency and insecurity.
It takes a little preparation to overcome this unhealthy habit. You’ve got to remind yourself that you have control of your own life and that the decisions in your life, big or small, are yours alone. Leave sticky notes on your mirror, on your nightstand, or in your journal to tell you that your opinion is the only one that matters in this situation.
Here are a few statements you can use:
- I am capable of handling this situation without the help of anyone else.
- I know I can make the right decision.
- Other people’s opinions of me are none of my business.
- The only approval I need is from myself.
- I know my self-worth and it is not dictated by other people.