Let’s take a closer look at Americans’ 7 worse habits. Looking at the list, I realized that if we did the reverse of the behaviors listed then we’d decrease stress and improve overall wellness. Improving wellness seemed like a relevant topic for May given this month is National Mental Health Month and we’ve been privy to examples of the varying impact of mental health. The headlines covering Johnny Depp’s defamation lawsuit against an ex-wife brought up histrionic and borderline personality disorders and the sudden death of singer and musician Naomi Judd addressed severe depression. We have examples in our lives of where our mental health can bring us when there isn’t an effective intervention or is untreated, and sadly, ignored. In the spirit of mindfulness to our daily practices, let’s take a honest look at these seven items and identify what describes us and how we can challenge ourselves to act differently. Be intentional with your life. Take time away from the hustle to listen to the messages that you allow to guide you. Make sure that the choices you make in your daily life align with your intentions and how you want to show up in the world, in your community, in your career, and in your relationships. Let’s look at the list of 7 worse habits Americans have:
Because of my doctorate in clinical psychology, when I write blogs I love to look at research findings and what behaviors are supported. There’s so many articles on how exercise benefits the mind and body, how sleep benefits us, and how nature heals. I will refer to them as we get to the worse habit that touches on each. Let’s start with the first worse behavior, inactivity. It’s worth it to spend 20 minutes each day moving. Engaging in exercise, at least 20 minutes a day, decreases symptoms of depression, anxiety, and increases sleep. The University of Colorado’s motto is “Mental Health is Moving your Body” and they outline how movement helps our bodies by:
We know exercise is good for us yet many of us don’t fit exercise into our daily routines. Some of us think we have to look fit in order to exercise or have an image of perfection that we need to be at before be begin a sport or athletic endeavor. The truth is, we can start where we are and we can begin with an activity that intrigues us. The University of Colorado has a free worksheet to help you identify how you want to begin moving. The authors write that there is no one size fits all approach to choosing movement. At 99 years of age, my grandmother would dance the polka for 20 minutes. You can dance too. Download the University’s “Physical Activity Interest Worksheet” here https://www.colorado.edu/health/2021/02/11/mental-health-moving-your-body and complete it. I can attest to the joy and benefits received when you move in an activity that sparks your interest. In January, I started Pilates on a reformer and joined a women’s beginning golf league. I feel stronger as a result of the Pilates and have made new friends through golfing that have added a lot of fun in my life. I found a few activities on the Interest Worksheet that I find intriguing and will try in the future. I know you will find something that adds a spark of excitement to your life. Find something on the worksheet you’re excited to start, research where you can start the activity and what you might need, make a plan to start, and live the plan. Shift from inactivity to activity.
The next worse habit is neglecting sleep. Sleep has been proven to be necessary for our bodies on a daily basis and sleep prevents brain disease in the long term. Sleep Specialists like Drs. Michael Grandner from the University of Arizona, and Matt Walker, from the University of California at Berkley, teach that our bodies need 7 hours or more to go through the stages of sleep that cleanse the brain of protein build up. Protein build up is known to contribute to dementia and the negative impact of going without sleep is known to contribute to emotions such as depression and anxiety. Sleep consolidates our emotions, memories, and learning. The societal messages to get the job done at all costs has decreased the hours that we sleep. Hopefully research findings will be motivation to shift priorities. Let’s start a movement of prioritizing sleep and winding down at the end of the day. I find that I am getting my second wind around 10 pm, just when I need to fall asleep to get 7 hours before waking at 5 am. Summer necessitates an early rise to walk Luna, our schnauzer, at temperature when her paws won’t roast on the pavement and neither of us will collapse from heat exhaustion. To solve this dilemma, I take 5 mg of Melatonin 20 minutes before bedtime to help drift off to sleep. Be curious about your body, pay attention to your sleep habits, and identify, what will support you in getting 7 or more hours of sleep. I love when I can help others so if you want to talk about obstacles to getting to sleep or in learning about how to be mindful of your stress levels, schedule a free consult with me. Follow the link here. https://calendly.com/tonibyoga/15min
The third worse habit is ignoring our stress levels. Why is ignoring stress levels so important and why isn’t it commendable that we are prioritizing work or others over our own stress? Through the course of my career, I’ve noticed clients who don’t know when it’s time to slow down and take care and what happens when we ignore signs of ill health. The result is likely a medical condition or medical crisis that demands immediate attention and we are forced to face our own immortality. While there’s nothing wrong with following this path, there is an option of exploring our own thoughts and actions and discovering something about ourselves when we’re highly stressed. Rate your stress level and note your life circumstance when overwhelmed. Witness yourself during times of distress and identify what needs to shift. Noticing that I and many of my clients needed permission to disconnect and withdraw from the hectic pace of life in order to return refreshed and relaxed led me to create The Intentional Planner, a 14 month planner, offering To- do lists inclusive of self care. If such a planner resonates with you; it can be purchased here. https://www.tonibyoga.com/product/planner/ For your health and well being, it’s crucial to recognize when you need to pause and re-set. Shift from ignoring stress levels to being mindful of your emotional states and needs.
Up next is the habit of spending too much time indoors. We need to see the sun to set our circadian rhythm, our biological clock telling us when to wake and when to sleep. In addition, research shows a number of benefits from going outside and being in nature: 1) stress reduction, and 2) promoting healing (Yale Environment 360, Jim Robbins, January 9, 2020). A recent study found that people who spent two hours a week in green spaces, local parks, etc, either all at once or or over several visits, were substantially more likely to report good health and psychological well being than those that don’t. I can tell you that I have challenges in my life involving grief and having been outdoors and around friends have helped release emotions and re-set my spirit. I am able to return to tasks at hand and bring love and positivity to otherwise challenging moments. I can’t imagine what my life would be like in the absence of the healing aspect of nature, laughter, and friendship. Journalist, Richard Louv, imagined and coined the phrase, Nature Deficit Disorder, to describe American life spent indoors. Mr. Louv wrote, that as long as people feel safe, being outdoors can: lower blood pressure and stress hormone levels, reduce nervous system arousal, enhance immune system function, increase self esteem, reduce anxiety, and improve mood. Schedule time to explore a new park, set a date for a picnic, or a chat outside with a friend or partner. Change being indoors all the time to integrating being outside every day.
I have to confess that I had not heard of the seventh worse habit, dry fasting. To ‘dry fast’, one skips eating and drinking liquids. I live in Arizona, where we’re very aware of the dangers of dehydration. Every Summer, news stories cover visitors who died from heat exhaustion and/or dehydration while hiking in extreme heat. Going without water can lead to kidney stones, seizures, low blood volume and low blood pressure, electrolyte imbalance, and even death. If you’re lips and mouth feel dry then you’re already dehydrated. Our bodies need at least 48 ounces of liquid a day. Stay hydrated.
Lastly, I’ve combined numbers 6 and 7 of the worst habits; over indulging in unhealthy practices and in the cost of self-care practices. Indulgence is the common theme between the last two worse habits to have. Indulgence in unhealthy practices and in over spending do not support you. These two practices undermine your intentions. We all want to indulge ourselves: lose ourselves in happy hour, live life California sober, eat that junk food, once in a while. We also want to allow ourselves purchases to boost her morale. Often, when we feel depleted and want to fill ourselves up with what may not be beneficial to us. Is there a point at which over indulgence is harmful? Could we over eat, over spend, or over indulge? For a season, I got eye lash extensions until I tallied the cost, $55 every 3 weeks for six months came out to $550. I was encouraged to refresh them every two weeks instead of three. It helped me realize that there was a limit to what I was willing to spend on lashes and I realized that there’s a limit to how much I will allow myself to indulge in calories and especially calories from sugary items. I have a mental give and take going on in my head every day. I think we benefit when we question our actions and realize the impact of our behaviors. I hope we can find ways to reward ourselves that do not sabotage our health or our financial goals..
Having read the list of the 7 worse habits to have; be mindful. Live with intention. Make the changes you need to live out your purpose with joy. I would be honored to support you if you discover you would like help sleeping, meditating, and living with intention.