Some choices we have made in our daily routines seem to be completely harmless. However, they can profoundly affect one’s mental health, Happiest Health found out from conversations with doctors and lifestyle experts.
Here, we break down five common habits that we need to bid farewell to this year.
1. Waking up to a shrill alarm:
In an era when every second of work or rest counts, an alarm is what gets us up in the morning and gets the day going. But if that wake-up call comes as shrill alarms, it can wreak a havoc on our mental health.
“The morning alarm always wakes you up in a panic mode,” says Dr Abhimanyu Parashar, clinical literature review specialist at healthcare company Alcon, Bengaluru. “Sudden waking up in panic mode is initiated by the release of norepinephrine, adrenaline, and cortisol – the stress hormones that activate the fight-and-flight mechanism. This spikes the heart rate and blood pressure”.
A healthy individual might be able to cope with it but those with underlying cardiovascular disease conditions should be aware of its risks and take care accordingly, he says.
Dr Neetu Jain, interventional pulmonologist, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, Pushpawati Singhania Research Institute, Delhi, says, “We have an internal clock and we do not need an alarm to wake up. Going to bed and waking up at fixed hours every day will solve this.”
Healthy sleep protocols such as having an early, timely and light dinner, using the bedroom only for sleeping and not for work or watching the television, no screen time before bed, keeping the room dark, and avoiding oversleeping during the day are some ideal solutions to wake up naturally.
2. Tea or coffee on an empty stomach:
Wanting to start day sharp by having a hot cup of tea or coffee soon after rising might sound cool. But it is actually the root cause of a variety of illnesses.
Our body is slightly acidic in the morning and our stomach is empty. Putting the acidic tea or coffee into an already acidic body can damage the intestinal lining and also cause a surge of acidic digestive juices that corrode an empty stomach.
“Acidity is the root cause of this unhealthy morning habit,” says Sonia Velarsan, a dietitian and doctoral fellow in nutrigenomics at Sri Ramchandra Institute of Higher Education and Research, Chennai. “This morning ritual will increase the risk of intestinal ulcers along with a decrease in the secretion of digestive juices when they are needed. Sipping warm water infused with honey or barley is the ideal way to start the morning,” she adds.
3. Consuming without rinsing the mouth:
Dr Mamit Kumar, oral and maxillofacial surgeon at Maharishi Markandeshwar College of Dental Sciences and Research in Haryana, cautions that one should not drink or eat anything before rinsing or cleaning the mouth. He says germs that incubate overnight in the mouth will spread to the intestines and affect the gut, increasing the risk of intestinal infection.
If you just rinse your mouth well after a meal, you can see food particles from the previous meal. Imagine leaving those particles stuck between teeth or in the mouth for a long time.
“These particles get fermented and germs build up, leading to cavities and bad breath. Moreover, you are ingesting these germs every second. They interfere with the digestion process and affect gut health unknowingly,” says Dr Kumar.
He also recommends rinsing the mouth in particular after drinking tea, coffee, coloured drinks or colas as they cause teeth staining. In people with any underlying systemic condition, the germs can increase the risk of infection. It is always healthy to rinse one’s mouth before and after eating.
4. Eating unsoaked nuts:
Many health conscious people pop in unsoaked nuts like almonds, cashew, pistachios and walnuts for their health benefits. Nuts are doubtless a marvellous snack packed with essential fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins and minerals.
However, nuts also have a raw covering containing inhibitory enzymes such as phytic acid, lectins, oxalates, and tannins. These are anti-nutrients that bind with certain minerals and interfere with their absorption in our body.
“Calcium, magnesium, and zinc have a strong affinity for phytic acids; and iron for tannins. Therefore eating unsoaked nuts will impair the absorption of these minerals from nuts or other food that we eat,” says Sonia Velarsan.
Moreover, soaked nuts have a relatively high bioavailability and are easier to digest for the body, she explains.
However, for those with digestion and absorption issues or with colon disorders, peeling the skin of almonds that are soaked overnight is advisable; others can eat them soaked and unpeeled.
Meanwhile, expert also suggests soaking pulses before cooking to get the goodness as they too contain inhibitory enzymes in their raw covering.
5. Negative self-talk:
We all have an inner critic and we have probably heard the expression ‘being your own worst critic.’ But when negative self-talk happens too often, it is time to think of solutions to tackle it.
“Imagine the worst and write down its positive affirmation. This will make you think that even in the worst-case scenario will you be able to manage the outcome,” suggests Arun Kumar, counselling psychologist, Chennai. “This will also help to re-wire your negative thoughts to positive ones, for instance, creating a sense that says ‘I am worthy’ instead of ‘I am good for nothing’,” he suggests.
You cannot stop your thoughts but you can change how you treat yourself. The next time, be kind while self-talking. Think and spread positivity.
And remember to kick the five habits that can be injurious to physical and mental health, as the experts suggest.