How to Tweak These 5 Bad Habits for Better Health

Menopause & Aging Well


When it comes to our health, there's a big divide.

There are some who ignore it outright. Maybe their attitude is "live and let live" and not worry or stress about it. Or they've fallen into some bad habits over the years that they can't break. Or perhaps they just don't know how to be healthy.

Then there are the health fanatics. You know who they are—no stone goes unturned when dissecting an ingredient list or menu. No day goes by without exercising, worrying whether they're eating too much (or too little) and being consumed with how to do better.

OK, we can't all be perfect. But surely there is a healthy—psychologically speaking, too—middle ground where our habits can be "good enough."

Here are some common bad habits and ways to improve them. Be patient with yourself. Most experts agree it takes about 21 days to form a new habit, with some others saying it can take much longer—up to 60 or more.

  1. Bad Habit: Not brushing after meals.
    What to Try Instead
    • Rinse your mouth vigorously with water or mouthwash.
    • Chew sugarless gum.
    • Munch on crisp fruits or vegetables, like apples, raw carrots or celery.
    • End your meal with cheese, which increases saliva and neutralizes harmful acids produced by plaque.
  2. Bad Habit: No time to exercise.
    What to Try Instead
    • Force yourself to do laps around your office.
    • Wear a tracking device (like a Fitbit) to make you more aware of your steps.
    • Stand up and move around for one to two minutes every 30 to 60 minutes.
    • Take your phone calls standing up (and pace, while you're at it).
    • Use a standup desk.
    • Watch your favorite TV show in a vertical position (i.e., standing)—not lying prone on the couch.
    • Take every opportunity to walk more—get off the subway or bus one or two stops before yours; park your car in a far corner of the parking lot; take the stairs, not the elevator.
  3. Bad Habit: Not getting enough sleep.
    What to Try Instead
    • Stick to a routine; try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (even on the weekends). And while you're at it, create a relaxing ritual to ease you into sleep.
    • Keep your bedroom chilly. Experts suggest a cool temperature somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • Don a pair of eyeshades to block out any extra light, which can interfere with your sleep.
  4. Bad Habit: Snacking mindlessly, even when though you're not hungry.
    What to Try Instead
    • Replace junk food with good, healthy food like fruits, veggies, nuts and whole-grain products.
    • Plan your snacks the same way you plan your meals: at a certain time, sitting down, eating from a plate (or bowl) for portion control.
    • Eat only when you're hungry—not when you're stressed, depressed or bored.
  5. Bad Habit: Waiting too long to eat your meal and getting so hungry that you grab anything—and everything—in sight.
    What to Try Instead
    • Eat an apple. Researchers from Pennsylvania State University found that people who at an apple before lunch ate 190 less calories at that meal compared to people who had eaten the equivalent number of calories in a different form (like applesauce or apple juice).
    • Try drinking some water before putting any food into your mouth. It can help mitigate your hunger, plus it might help you lose weight by helping you consume fewer calories, according to numerous studies.

More Good-Habit Reading:
7 Ways to Curb Mindless Eating
22 Reasons to Quit Smoking Today
Sleep Better Starting Tonight

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