Are you unknowingly damaging your mental health and self-esteem? Here are five habits that may be doing more harm than you think.
1. Unlimited Social Media
Obviously, social media is everywhere. It’s a brilliant way to stay connected to friends, family, colleagues, your boss, government officials, your alumni association, brands you’re interested in, prior Tinder hook-ups, that couple you met in Europe that lives across the country, ex-boyfriends…this list never ends.
The algorithms—yes, the ones we all love to complain about changing all the time—really, in the creepiest way possible, have us figured out. If someone you interact with (or cyber-stalk) often has something to say, they’re at the top of your feed. Why is this important? It means it saves you time. You knock out the most important updates in the first few minutes of scrolling through Instagram, then everything after is less and less pertinent. Cutting your social media use to 30 minutes a day is more doable than you think. (Related Post: The Social Media Hostage Situation)
What if you’re one of the many held hostage by social media? Here are some easy tips to curb your social media usage:
- Deactivate your notifications
- Download an app that curbs your smart phone usage. You can set timers for certain apps, prevent yourself from opening apps during certain times of the day, and really monitor your social media usage
- Have a Social Media Fast Day once a week. One day each week where you log on to exactly zero social media sites
- Download some other apps that help you pass time, such as games or an e-reader such as Kindle
Along the same lines, it’s important to be mindful about what you post on social media. Really analyze your intentions. Why are you posting the photo from your vacation? Is it because the location is beautiful, the photo makes you happy, and you think your friends and family want to see it? Or are you hoping that uploading a photo from your vacation adds to your “brand” and makes you appear more successful? It’s important to approach social media with positive intentions.
Social media isn’t inherently bad, but it is a constant dopamine drip designed to be addictive. While quitting cold-turkey may not be the best choice for you, your life, and even your job, simply reducing your social media consumption can still have major benefits for your mental health.
2. Comparing Yourself to Others
Am I good enough? Am I smart enough? Pretty enough? Rich enough? Responsible enough? Experienced enough? Where does the metric for “enough” even come from? Is it what you can tell from your friends, family, and peers and their lives as they’re shown to you?
For many, this actually goes hand-in-hand with social media use. In less than a minute on Instagram, you can see Hannah from high school and an image from her “perfect life” and your old college classmates heading on business trips to exotic locations. Remind yourself that people only post on social media what they want people to see.
Comparing yourself to others, especially those with wildly different circumstances, is a slippery slope to damaged mental health and self-esteem. It’s in your best interest to change the narrative.
Below are some ways you can re-frame some of these damaging questions:
|Instead of asking this…||Ask this!|
|Am I successful enough?||Am I doing the best I can with what I have?|
|Am I attractive enough?||Am I doing what I can to take care of my body?|
|Am I rich enough?||Am I being thoughtful with money?|
|Am I smart enough?||Am I working hard to improve myself?|
3. Venting With The Wrong Intentions
This one is going to be controversial. Venting makes you feel better. It’s better than bottling up all that anger and frustration inside. After a frustrating conversation with a coworker, a fight with your spouse, an unappreciated comment from your nosy neighbor, talking to someone about just how mad you really are is the best way to process.
There could be a really big difference between what you are trying to do—process your emotions—and what you are actually doing—reinforcing negative emotions. It comes down to intention. If someone makes you angry, and you tell someone how angry you are and why, and the person you are talking to can’t wait to agree about what a jerk that person is, are you going to be less angry? Or are you going to be pumped up with more anger because someone else has validated it?
Use “I-Statements” instead of “they-statements”
Many people have heard of using “I-Statements” when communicating and having uncomfortable conversations, even confrontations. Starting sentences with “I feel this way because I…” instead of “you make me feel this way” is, in short, less likely to inspire defensiveness and more likely to result in a constructive conversation. Consider using this same approach with venting. Use “I-Statements” instead of “they-statements” to help process your frustration and not increase it.
When you are upset and you want to talk to someone about it, by all means, do! But first, take a deep breath, and approach it in a way that is productive and can help diffuse your anger.
4. Poor Diet
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the better you eat, the better you feel. Certain vitamins and minerals contribute substantially to mood. Be sure your diets are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, folic acid, and B vitamins.
Eat more lean meats, legumes, nuts, seafood, and whole grains. Eat less sugar, processed food, and refined grains. Be mindful of alcohol intake (especially if you’re on medication). Drink enough water.
One diet plan that encompasses these guidelines is the Mediterranean Diet. Research has shown that adhering to this type of diet can be beneficial for mental health and mood. Many of the regions in the world with the highest life expectancies (called “blue zones“) have diets similar to the Mediterranean diet. It’s not particularly restrictive, but it does require that you be mindful about what you eat.
5. Horrible Sleep Hygiene
Healthy sleep is a game-changer. Life is hard enough when you aren’t exhausted, but when you’re managing on 5 hours of sleep, it’s that much more daunting.
Be mindful of habits you may have that impact your sleep. Put your smart phone and computer away at least 30-60 minutes before bedtime because the blue light these screens emit can hurt your quality of sleep. Limit alcohol and food intake close to bedtime. Get enough exercise so that your body is physically tired, however pay attention to whether exercising too close to bedtime makes it harder to fall asleep. If possible, try not to perform work-related activities in your bedroom so your mind can associate your bed with rest.
How much sleep do you need? Do you need 8 hours? Personally, I do. If I have less than 7 hours, I can feel the difference. If I have less than 6 hours, I am crabby and struggle to focus. If I have less than 5 hours, I feel physically ill. If I have less than 4 hours, forget it. You’re getting nothing from me.
If you aren’t sure if you have that same requirement, create a little experiment for yourself. Get off devices and screens an hour before bedtime. Don’t set an alarm. Be mindful of when you go to bed and how long it takes you to fall asleep. Then, see when you wake up naturally. Try not to fall back asleep after waking up. Count your hours of sleep and see if you feel energized that day.