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How to Tweak These 5 Bad Habits for Better Health

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 03/29/2016
Last Updated: 03/29/2016

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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, it might help you lose weight by helping you consume fewer calories, according to numerous studies.

More Good-Habit Reading:


Would love your recommendation on comfortable / nice eye shades to wear.

Don't really have recommendations other than make sure the strap isn't too tight. Or thick. I did that once and woke up with a headache!..I usually just buy the cutest pair I can find, but I do pay attention to the band that holds them in place.

Yikes! I read this while snacking mindlessly! These are great suggestions. I'm always looking for ways to help me break bad habits.

What a smart, helpful post. We just need to make it easier for ourselves to make healthy choices. Thanks for reminding me.

You are so welcome, and thanks for reading, Ruth!

What helpful, encouraging suggestions, Sheryl. Most of these habits are not ones I struggle with at present, but your good lists are inspiring to come up with focused ideas on the ones I do need to address. Thank you!

What I get from reading your helpful post is to make things feel like they belong in your schedule, so it feels natural.

Building the good habits and getting rid of bad habits is not difficult in my opinion. The difficulty comes when we have to follow these every day and avoid the bad ones daily. Remain constant on the avoidance and practice makes it difficult. You can build good habits and about it on my blogging web page.

I have been tempted to buy a stand-up desk for a long time. I spend so much time sitting and writing. Love #5. That is my biggest downfall. If I forget or don't take time for a healthy snack in between meals, then I am ravenous and eat way too much or find myself grabbing almost anything to shove in my mouth.

Couldn't agree more - with both your points, Ellen.

All words of wisdom. I needed this inspiration today. Now- off to the gym!

Every little bit of inspiration helps, I suppose. Hope you had a good workout!

This is actually a brilliant list of hacks. Helpful hacks. I just read that standup desks were found by researchers to be not very beneficial. But I can't see how they wouldn't be.

I read that, too, but can't see how standing can't help, especially if you sit all day. I still want to get a stand-up desk...it's on my wish list..beats sitting, I think!

I think the best thing to do for your health is eat an apple a day! The old saying is correct, it helps keep the doctor away!

That is the oldest one, and one that has been used time and time again, for sure!

Great tips to live healthier. No matter how much I do the sleep thing, there are still nights that it takes a long time to fall asleep - age and hormones are my factors... Good reminders for all of us!

Yes, the sleep thing...such a common problem, isn't it? Yawn....

Such simple and creative alternatives which are easy so we can avoid bad habits. I always park the car further away and walk or take the stairs whenever I can.

Sounds like you're already on your way to some good habits, Sue!

I really appreciate all of these pointers. Every one of them is spot on! Thanks so much for sharing. You've motivated me to think about things differently and I appreciate that.

I'm glad they were helpful to you, Carolann. Thanks for reading & commenting!

Unfortunately, acquiring a bad habit is much more difficult than trying to get rid of them, for this you need willpower and desire.


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