Not So Healthy Habits

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by Zeenat Farooq

The advent of the twenty-first century has brought with it the gifts of luxury, entertainment, technology and comfort. These make our daily tasks easier. Often, we think these resources decrease our burden and contribute positively to our mental well-being. But these might not be as good for mental health as we perceive. Dr Judy Rosenberg, a world-famous psychologist has said the real emotions, relationships and work are difficult to execute, but at the end of the day, are more fulfilling, relaxing, enriching, growth-productive and connecting.

All the inactivity and comfort comes at a steep cost of mental as well as physical health. Some of the most common, unhealthy practices for mental health constitute:

Working From Home: This is a new culture and is pretty popular across all sections of society in all cultures. This is often considered as a suitable way of working for mothers with young kids who want to work for their identity and economic independence. This is also a suitable way of working for a lot of people with physical health issues.

In this form of work, one is rescued from the burden of commuting to the workplace, facing a boss every now and then, nagging with co-workers and other things. While this is a good short-term work alternative, but over time, this actually proves harmful to our mental health since it can lead to social withdrawal (Huffington Post). A person is also likely to live in a virtual world and ignore his physical health and well being complete. This also makes a person more vulnerable to domestic issues since there is no breathing space to go out of the home. A healthy, normal routine life is completely altered over time. Also, staying inside all the time can lead to a depressed mood.

Binge Watching TV or Internet: Those lazy, cosy couch sessions with friends and family are a good hangout option on occasions like weekends or holidays, but routinely, bingeing on television, laptop or cell phone for entertainment is a dangerous habit. This makes the cornea of the eyes dry, weakens the memory, can change our thinking patterns over time, lead to unhealthy habits like laziness, weight gain, binge eating and can also lead to social withdrawal.

In a study performed at the University of Toledo in 2015, it was found that people who were identified as binge-watchers of TV reported higher levels of stress and anxiety.

Protracted Weekend Sleeping: With a tight schedule during weekdays, a few extra hours of sleep on weekends might seem a normal practice, but over time, this might disturb our circadian clock and makes our sleep-wake cycle disturbed. Over time, it may become harder to stick to a regular sleep-wake schedule even on weekdays. It is a good habit to go out on walks during weekends. This not only is good for physical health but a 12-minute walk can actually reduce symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety, according to a report from the University of Michigan.

Binge e-shopping: When a person is going through a rough patch, it might feel good to pamper yourself with some shopping, often termed as retail therapy. However, this is not always a good coping mechanism. Compulsive shopping ends up in a waste of money and piling over of often unnecessary stuff. This can further increase our anxiety levels, according to a report by psychologist April Benson.

Binge Eating: A regular habit of having a burger or a glass of soft drink might sound absolutely normal, but over time, this may cause more damage to our health than we may have anticipated. Binge eating or giving up on comfort cravings is a common stress-coping mechanism which increases levels of dopamine (happiness hormone) to make us feel better momentarily but can adversely affect mental health over time by leading to weight gain, increased stress due to compromised physical health and increased anxiety. A long-term and frequent binge for non-hunger induced stress relief might be indicative of a consultation with a therapist.

Smoking and Drinking: A glass of wine or a couple of cigarettes again sound pretty normal for dealing with hectic schedules and trying to keep mental state balanced. But while smoking and drinking may lead to temporary lifts of mood, these actually act as depressants, and hence can lead to mental health issues in due time. Tolerance also develops with time and the person requires higher doses to feel the same level of relaxation. This not only affects a person economically but also affects inter-personal relationships, mental well being as well as physical health.

A person becomes more vulnerable to serious medical conditions like lung and hepatocellular carcinoma. If a person suffers from anxiety, too much of alcohol can severely reduce serotonin levels and can cause the anxiety to spike, according to a report on a health-related website.

Using Social Media As Stress Buster: With everyone being in constant touch with social media, it is a common experience to find posts related to one’s depressed mood. While it might be a good distraction for a while but it alarmingly increases the levels of sub-conscious stress because a person keeps on looking for responses to the post, according to a report from the University of Virginia (2014). This habit also leads to lack of attention towards work, laziness and social withdrawal. Excessive use of social media eventually leads to withdrawal from interpersonal relationships, anxiety and loneliness.

Anxiety and Anger: Experiencing spikes of rage over trivial matters to calm your nerves sounds like an absolutely normal mechanism to overcome stress. However, a study performed in 2012, by the psychotherapist Jerilyn Ross found that there is a strong link between anger and anxiety and that expressing outrages of anger in a non-therapeutic way could have negative consequences for people with anxiety disorders. The lead author of the study suggests that instead of bursting out and giving a knee-jerk response, it is better to take deep breaths, keep a diary and plan alternative ways to deal with the issue.

(Author is a Research Fellow at the Department of Biotechnology, University of Kashmir.)

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