Updated: Oct 12
Humans are creatures of habit in one sense or another. Some of these habits have a clear connection to our mental well-being; needing physical activity, a work-life separation, and time outdoors. It is true, these things are necessary for one’s physical and mental well-being and this message has been amplified as we continue to recalibrate in the ever-changing environment that is a world pandemic.
However, there are other routine aspects to our day which weigh on our health. Here are some old habits you should break and new ones you should prevent:
Screen Time: A large portion of life is now virtual. While our screens are helpful in emulating social spaces, our minds need distance from the online sphere. Not only do social media platforms amplify a false, unattainable reality which can compromise our mental health but a screen itself harms us. Computers, phones, tablets - they all give off blue light. Extended exposure to blue light can harm our eyes and often causes migraines or headaches, compromising our mental and physical well-being. While there are ways to curb these symptoms, such as blue light glasses, the most effective method to protect your body and your mind is a reduction in exposure. Instead of switching to Netflix at the end of the work day, try podcasts or books as alternate forms of entertainment, or distraction.
Coffee Consumption: Coffee is a vice for many of us but in excess, it does have negative effects on the mind. Coffee is used as a stimulant, an upper, when first consumed that allows for spikes in energy through the adrenal system. Once the adrenal stimulant wears off, coffee-drinkers may be left with headaches, fatigue, and even a change in mood. Luckily, there are alternatives! Matcha, for example, contains caffeine and is often more effective in energizing and stimulating the consumer. Matcha’s stimulants target the cognitive function, meaning its effects not only last longer but also wear off slowly. This prevents the harmful symptoms of a caffeine-crash.
24-Hour News: It is a habit of many to leave the television on as we go about our daily activities. In a quiet house, the sound of a news anchor in the living room is comforting. It may be background noise but we are listening nonetheless. The news inundates us with information and while it is important to stay informed, we must be cautious of how we do so. Sensationalized news casting and its constant information often breeds anxiety, stress, and fear. Especially in a moment where we are all swimming in uncertainty, it can be helpful to limit our exposure to the constant news-cycle and instead actively monitor our consumption of information. It can be equally helpful to actively seek out feel-good news; those stories are just as important as the rest.
It is critical to note that breaking or adjusting these habits is not enough to satisfy mental health needs. Each of these things are small day-to-day steps that help reduce stressors and anxieties but should be done in tandem with professional support and treatment.
Melissa is a 20-year-old undergraduate student at the University of Toronto, heading into her fourth year of study. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Arts with a major in English and History and a minor in Religion. She has a passion for reading and writing, and intends to pursue a career in publishing.
The views and opinions expressed in Community are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Madiha Foundation.