3 Bad Habits That Will Actually Ruin Your Mental Health
It was another Monday. The only good thing about it was that my boss wasn’t here today so I could slack off. Maybe I could watch some YouTube videos. Or scroll my phone without hiding. Right, I had some music hobbies on the side and I knew I should work on them, but I couldn’t be bothered. I wasn’t happy with my job, but let’s be honest, most people feel the same, don’t they? No point venting to my friends anymore. We were all trading time and sanity for financial stability.
Does that sound like your story?
That was me, a few years ago.
I was unhappy. I was unfit. I was barely surviving, without a soul. Nothing in life excited me. I only looked forward to the weekends and pay days.
How can we be truly living, if we don’t have hope, job satisfaction and support? Not to mention some “purpose of life” that sounds luxurious at this stage.
For most of us, our physical and mental health are declining.
Don’t just blame the job you hate for it. In fact, there are some bad habits we pick up (maybe unconsciously) over the years that slowly ruin our mental health.
In this article, we are going to play detective and call out all those habits that stunt our growth. Read on 🔎
Jump to a Section 👇🏻
🩺 What Makes “Good Mental Health”?
Let’s imagine you are in a calm and peaceful state.
Where are you? What are you doing?
It’s a good feeling, isn’t it? Why don’t we do those things more often then?
Right, we are busy. We have bills to pay and people to take care of. We don’t have the luxury (a.k.a. time and energy) to engage in meaningful hobbies.
But that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your health for the everyday busyness.
As Steven Bartlett put it, if something costs your mental health, it is too costly.
You only have one body. is it worth it?
Let’s compare that ideal state with you current one: how big is that gap?
Maybe you always wanted to lose weight but couldn’t fit a routine in. Maybe you wanted to try meditation and breathwork. Maybe you wanted to see your friends more often.
Don’t overlook these little joys in life. They are not luxuries.
If you have 5 minutes to scroll your phone before you sleep, you do have time to work out, meditate or call a friend.
Incorporating good tiny habits in life not only boosts your mood and health, but also gives you momentum to get through the day with more energy and efficiency.
It’s time we prioritise our health – both physical and mental health.
Stronger body, stronger mind. More resilience, more hope and confidence to get through the challenges in life.
Defining what makes mental health “good” for you is the first step.
🧐 Mental Health Awareness
There is no self-development without self-awareness.
Being self-aware means to start paying attention to what you think, feel and do.
Because your habits can make or break you.
For example, if you don’t have enough good quality sleep, you feel groggy, which impacts your work performance and decision-making. If you always think you are not good enough, you feel unconfident and incompetent, which either makes you give up putting effort, or try working too hard to compensate.
Here are 3 bad habits that might ruin your mental health – see if they apply to you, and what to do to change or avoid them.
📲 Mindless Scrolling Might Screw your Mental Health Over
Your input shapes your outlook.
You are literally what you take in – yes, that includes the food you eat and information you consume.
In general, do you have an optimistic or pessimistic view about the world and the future? Why is that?
Your upbringing, the news, social media, and stories you hear from people around you shape your worldview.
Whether consciously or unconsciously, our brain picks up information here and there and processes them to confirm what we already believed in.
This is why mindless scrolling might be one of the bad habits that ruin your mental health: if you are not mindful about what you consume, and you don’t filter information on your timeline.
Every time you get distracted, reach for your phone and have a little scroll… your brain is still absorbing whatever you are consuming and reshaping your worldview. Not to mention how long it actually takes for your brain to switch attention and get back to work (it takes 23 minutes for employees to refocus after switching between tasks, tabs and projects!).
Observe your thoughts and feelings if you’re someone who automatically reaches for a scroll during a work break: does that make you feel energised, refreshed and hopeful?
That funny cat video might. But that fake friend’s post-pandemic travel story, or breaking news about wars going on out there definitely do not help you in any way.
I used to think a little scroll is harmless – until I paid attention to my thoughts and feelings, realising that it was a bad habit I needed to get rid of.
If you want a break, stand up, stretch, get some water, or look at a plant.
We need to disengage from the world, not to engage in cheap dopamine hit.
🏋🏻♀️ How to Break Bad Habits
Here are the tactics I employed to tackle this bad habit myself:
- 🌱 Replace scrolling with reading, calling a friend, going for a walk, or watching education videos instead.
- 📲 Clean your feed: unfollow news accounts, your fake friends, and any content that doesn’t make you feel good. Content that triggers unhealthy comparison and anxiety will ruin your mental health. If unfollowing your friends sounds rude, mute them or hide them from your timeline instead. Oh, keep that cat video account if it brings joy to you.
Mindless scrolling is the exact bad habit I got rid of in the past few years that helped me reclaim my peace of mind, coming from a place of complete chaos. You can read my story here.
💬 How Do You Tame Your Critical Inner Voice?
This is a rather abstract concept – bear with me.
How often do you keep the promises you make to yourself?
For example, setting the intention to work out for 10 minutes, practise guitar for 5 minutes, or (finally) start that side project today.
Here’s the thing: our brain is constantly searching for evidence to confirm existing beliefs (as mentioned above).
If we set realistic goals and intentions, and we actually complete the tasks we set for ourselves, we signal our brain that we are reliable, and we can keep ourselves accountable. On the other hand, if we wish and dream but don’t do anything about it, our brain starts to doubt our abilities and capabilities. The chances to achieve our goals are reduced because our brain doesn’t have the evidence that we can do it. We lose motivation and momentum. In the long run, that might result in lowered self-esteem, more doubts and insecurity.
Back to the example I shared in the beginning of this article: my whole life was misaligned. I didn’t like my job, my career, and that version of myself. I felt like a failure – being stuck and unmotivated. You could probably imagine my inner voice at that time: “you are not good enough”, “why don’t you have your sh*ts together”, and so on.
My inner voice almost killed me.
To turn the table, we need evidence. We need to build confidence to kill those critics and doubts.
Confidence is a result of experience.
That means taking more actions.
That means we have to do things that are aligned with our future selves.
Ultimately, maintaining a good relationship with yourself brings you more calm and peace.
🗣 How to Reframe Our Inner Voice That Works FOR Us
Here are a few ideas to generate evidence for our brain:
- Set realistic goals based on our schedule and responsibilities
- Start small. Take baby steps to create small wins and momentum
- Begin our day with clear intention (ask yourself: what will my future self be doing?)
Do what you said you would. Keep promises you make to yourself to generate evidence for your brain and reframe your inner critics.
Yes, it is a habit – our inner voice doesn’t come from nowhere. We have to pay effort to rewire it so that we can live a life true to ourselves.
👄 Manage Your Chatter and Inner Dialogue
Further reading: need more toolkits under your belt to manage your chatter? This is a good book I came across.
My favourite tools include:
🗣 Distanced self-talk: when you’re going through a challenge, try using your name and the second-person “you” to refer to yourself, e.g. “come on Venus, you can do it”.
👯♀️ Give advice to a friend: imagine your close friend being in the exact situation as you. What would you tell him or her? Then apply that advice to yourself.
⏳ Time travel: whatever you are going through now, how will you feel in a month, a year, or even a decade from now? Things will be less upsetting in the future than it is now. From there, regulate your emotions and refocus on solving problems.
want to train the brain further to live a happier life?
👯 Who Is Your True Friend?
We all know the importance of having a strong support circle. Friends who got our back. The pandemic might have stopped many of us from meeting face to face, but it also highlighted how crucial it is to have friends around.
Even introverts need friends.
Human beings are tribe animals. We rely on each other. We support each other to thrive, not just to survive. We need to belong.
Hiding or ignoring your feelings is a lonely journey. So is facing your problems alone. The lack of healthy emotional expression is a bad habit that kills your mental health.
In the book “Lost Connection”, Johann Hari talked about how loneliness contributes to one of the causes of depression:
Feeling lonely, it turned out, caused your cortisol levels to absolutely soar—as much as some of the most disturbing things that can ever happen to you. Becoming acutely lonely, the experiment found, was as stressful as experiencing a physical attack.
Lonely people are scanning for threats because they unconsciously know that nobody is looking out for them, so no one will help them if they are hurt. This snowball effect, he learned, can be reversed—but to help a depressed or severely anxious person out of it, they need more love, and more reassurance, than they would have needed in the first place.
Another important point is that, as Johann Hari highlighted, “loneliness is the sense that you’re not sharing anything that matters with anyone else”, not necessarily the physical absence of other people.
Loneliness, he concluded, is causing a significant amount of the depression and anxiety in our society. And to end loneliness, you need to “have a sense of mutual aid and protection”, a.k.a. belong to a tribe of some sort.
💪🏻 Emotional vs Cognitive Social Support
In Ethan Kross’ book “Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It”, he highlighted that it is important to set up an intentional support system, i.e. different people you can go to for different purposes, in order to balance your emotional and cognitive needs.
When our minds are bathed in chatter, we display a strong bias toward satisfying our emotional needs over our cognitive ones. In other words, when we’re upset, we tend to overfocus on receiving empathy rather than finding practical solutions.
But we don’t just want friends who listen to our vents. Or worse, friends who vent together, producing a pool of negative emotions. Like how you talk behind your boss with your colleagues. What we also need, is insights to solve the problem we are facing. And it would be ideal for us to learn to do the same for others in order to cultivate a healthier, more positive support circle.
Having good friends is crucial for our emotional health. Notice how you feel next time you have a productive conversation with someone.
Here are a few reflection points:
- Do you have a strong support system?
- Who do you go to when you need to seek advice vs when your feelings need to be validated?
- Is it hard for you to share important things in life with someone? How can you change that?
Mental Health Test
You made it to the last bit of this article! Just between you and I – are you (consciously or unconsciously) doing these bad habits?
Thse are the three bad habits that impact your mental health (for those of you who skipped):
- Mindless scrolling
- Not keeping promises to yourself
- Hiding or ignoring your feelings
I checked all the boxes. Not gonna lie, I was in a bad state. But with more self-awareness, patience and experiments, I made consistent, gradual improvements that led to a better, healthier life (physically and mentally!).
Refer to the action steps listed above to map out your change plan today ⚡️ Remember, one step at a time. Baby step is the key.
Rooting for you! x