A “habit” is essentially defined as a tendency or behavior to act in a certain way or perform a certain task. (1) Most people have a sum of good or bad habits in their life.
However, certain activities can cause serious harm to your health when repeated regularly. (2) While you may be aware of how a sedentary lifestyle affects your physical health, there are other unhealthy habits that you may be doing that can harm your brain and mental health in the long run.
Bad Habits That Are Bad for Brain Health
Here is a list of bad habits that can negatively affect the health of your brain:
1. Skipping breakfast
Breakfast provides your brain and body fuel to kick-start your day. Skipping it regularly can make you feel drowsy and unable to concentrate due to lower blood sugar.
Doing this regularly will deprive your brain of the essential nutrients and signals required for proper functioning. This is specifically important for children and teenagers as their brains are in the developing stages. (3)(4)
2. Bad diet/overeating
Your diet affects every aspect of your health – from your organs and growth to your mental health. It is important to consume a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients and low in refined sugar or fat. (5)
Overconsumption of sugar can lead to metabolic disorders such as diabetes and can increase the risk of ADHD.
While not all fat is bad for you (for example, omega-3 fatty acids help increase brain function), a very fatty diet can also cause brain problems. It can lead to hardened arteries in the long run and decrease blood supply to the brain. (6)(7)
3. Lack of sleep
Sleep is your brain’s way of recharging itself. It is essential for a healthy life.
Lack of sleep every night can damage your brain cells sooner or later and lead to memory loss, loss of judgment, and attention disorders. (8)
A recent study published in 2017 demonstrated the contribution of insomnia and other sleep disorders to the development of neurological issues including Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and mood disorders later in life. (9)
4. Alcohol intake and smoking
Excessive consumption of alcohol is detrimental to not only your liver but also your brain. (10)
Alcohol is broken down into acetaldehyde in the body. This substance may interfere with the neurotransmitters in your brain, (11) inhibiting the transmission of brain signals and leading to sluggish brain activity, depression, and other issues.
Smoking is also linked with decreased cognitive function and Alzheimer’s disease later in life. (12)
5. Taking recreational drugs
Recreational drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin, have addictive properties that interfere with serotonin and dopamine – two important chemicals in the brain that moderate your mood.
Several studies have shown that chronic abuse of these drugs impairs brain function and affects decision making, concentration, and cognitive abilities. They can even trigger depression and anxiety in some people. (13)(14)
6. Lack of exercise
Physical exercise is very important for both your physical and mental health. It promotes neuroplasticity, which is the ability of the neurons to rewire themselves and change according to circumstance.
Some studies have shown the benefits of physical activity in promoting blood flow to the brain and increasing brain function. (15)
7. Living alone and not socializing
Human beings are wired to be social animals. They thrive on healthy relationships and interactions. (16)
Not socializing enough or being alone for prolonged periods can lead to reduced cognitive abilities and can put you at risk for depression and anxiety. (17)
8. Drinking too many caffeinated beverages
Coffee and tea contain the active ingredient caffeine, (18) which may be healthy for your brain’s productivity in small amounts.
However, too much of it can have the opposite effect. It can lead to an increase in adenosine receptors in the brain, causing you to feel tired and sluggish sooner than normal.
Your brain develops higher tolerance for caffeine with time and this may turn addictive. So, try to limit your coffee consumption to 2 cups a day. (19)
9. Not drinking enough water
Your brain is mostly made up of water. Hence, increasing water consumption and staying hydrated throughout the way help your brain function more efficiently and keep you fresh and energetic for longer.
Try to consume about 2 liters of water every day. (20)
10. Forcing your brain to work during stress
Stress can be harmful to the brain in many ways. It is best to rest, relax, or meditate when you are not feeling well or very stressed. Forcing your brain to work during these times can affect your cognitive abilities and damage your brain cells in the long run. (21)(22)
11. Not reading
Several studies have shown that reading is a form of mental exercise and helps stimulate the brain. It increases knowledge and empathetic understanding, improves memory, and feeds creative thinking, especially in growing children. (23)(24)
Your brain is literally who you are. Neurological and mental health is extremely important for a healthy and fulfilling life. If you have any of these bad habits that can harm your mind, start changing them today for a happier tomorrow.