There are some habits that have been ingrained into us for so long that we might not even realize that they're detrimental to our health.
Whether unconscious habits from our personal lives or misguided values from society, our lack of attention toward these health mistakes can have medical repercussions down the road.
Here are seven common health mistakes most people don't even realize they're making. Become aware of these, and you're well on your way to changing your life for the better!
1. Not drinking enough water
We're constantly hearing about the revitalizing benefits of drinking water, but how many of us actually consume enough each day?
Along with being a vital resource that every living thing needs, healthy levels of water intake can help energize muscles, revitalize skin, and promote weight loss (better water than high-calorie soft drinks!). It also flushes out your kidneys and promotes regular bowel function.
In general, drinking more water makes us feel refreshed and less tired, so drink up!
2. Holding tension in your muscles
It's easy not to notice when our anxiety manifests in our muscles. We often tense up and stay tense for hours after a stressful period. Over time, this can lead to bad backs, tension headaches, or even more serious conditions.
Take a moment during your daily routine to loosen up your body and release all the stored anxiety. Rolling your head in slow circles and shrugging your shoulders are two simple examples of exercises that can be done anywhere.
3. Eating more meat than veggies
Meat consumption in the West has grown tremendously, and nowadays it's common for people to serve themselves a flank of steak with a small scoop of veggies on the side.
Actually, according the U.S. government's My Plate initiative, a healthy serving of meat is about the size of a deck of cards, with grains and veggies both playing a much larger role.
Meat is an acidic food, so in order to balance the pH levels in our bodies we should eat equally large or larger portions of alkaline foods such as fruits and vegetables.
Instead of making meat the focus of your meals, try to incorporate it as a side dish or complement. Or, even better, try to eat meat-free at least one dinner per week.
Those of us who work at an office or on the computer all day know how hard it is to keep from slouching. However, now is the time to make a conscious change!
Consistent bad posture can lead to a whole array of back and spine conditions, as well as gastrointestinal pains, headaches and jaw pains, bad circulation and reduced lung function.
This may go hand in hand with holding tension in your muscles, as a slouched back often will have clenched muscles in order to maintain its position.
It takes conscious effort to correct this in the beginning, and can be exhausting, but the health benefits definitely pay off in the end.
5. Going to bed too late
Although the saying that one hour of sleep before midnight is equal to two hours after is a myth, there's some truth to this notion. Going to bed past midnight results in loss of valuable, deep, non-REM sleep.
Try shifting your schedule around to sleep and wake earlier so you maintain the same healthy number of sleep hours.
6. Forgetting to breathe
When we're upset, angry or stressed we often forget our body's most powerful control mechanism: breathing. Just by taking long, controlled breaths we can slow our heart rate, calm our nerves, and find more clarity.
Oxygen powers everything in our body, so by increasing our oxygen flow we can give more vitality to not only our muscles and organs, but most importantly our brain, which controls all aspects of our emotions and psychology.
Next time you feel out of control, low-energy, or stressed out, try practicing some breathing exercises.
7. Not smiling enough
It always seems like happy people live longer, and for good reason! When we smile, our brain releases endorphins that counteract stress and make us feel more relaxed.
One of the best parts about smiling, though, is that it's infectious. By smiling we can spread the cheer around, increasing trust and building relationships with those around us.
So even when you're going through a tough time, try to find something to be happy about. Don't forget to smile.