iOS app Android app

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Jill Lawson


Seven Habits of Highly Unhealthy People

Posted: 08/11/2012 23:00

Habits are mighty. They have the ability to make or break us. It seems as if bad habits are the easiest to create, yet the hardest to cease. Good habits however, take a lifetime to build.

More often than not people habitually conduct themselves in a manner that does nothing but sabotage their state of wellbeing. As if physical and mental discontent were highly sought after conditions, these people work at being stuck in a rut of self-imposed limitations and a lack of interest in their state of physical and mental health.

Most of us are familiar with the myriad of agendas and self-help books that target those in desperate need for a change. From the classic 12-Step programs to seemingly easy-way-out titles such as, Think Yourself Thin, Americans have plenty of choices to find ways that will help them make positive changes. The problem is, very few follow through, and less will actually succeed.

Stephen Covey, author of the famed book, "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," sold millions of copies that spelled out his methods to find success. Perhaps the alluring word that put it on the bestseller list is 'habit.'

A habit is an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary. We all love to aspire to practicing good habits, yet it is much easier to recognize and identify with the bad ones.

Inspired by Covey's practical application of his seven very specific habits for effectiveness, the following is a closely matched yet contrasting list of the sevn habits of highly unhealthy people. Call it reverse psychology or my own clever way to catch your attention; I want you to understand that habits like these are meant to be broken.

If you identify with at least one of these habits, find out how you, or someone you care for, can break it and adopt a healthier lifestyle.

Habit 1: Be Inactive

Sitting is a silent killer. A large number of studies show that living a sedentary lifestyle promotes deadly diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and even some cancers. According to Dr. David Coven, a cardiologist with St Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York, the workplace environment is one of the main contributors to dying an early death. But, your desk job is not just to blame. What you do outside the office will also make a difference.

The key is to understand that exercise can be done anywhere and at any time, and certainly doesn't need to be extreme to yield life-saving results. Find something you love to do, be it playing a game of Ping-Pong or chasing your grandkids around the yard. You will be amazed at the difference it will make in your overall fitness, not to mention your life expectancy.

Habit 2: Begin With No Friend in Mind

Social interaction is key in maintaining mental health. For some, reclusive tendencies take over, and our days spent in relative isolation can turn to weeks, months, or even years. Spending time alone is generally healthy, but when you wake up and realize you have no friends to call on, depression can threaten your mental health.

Whether you are trying to make a change in your diet, exercise regime, or general attitude about life, try and avoid doing it alone. The support you will gain from a confidant will be worth the initial pain you feel from letting go of your old habits.

Habit 3: Put Fast Foods First

Fast food is not only fast; it's also very cheap. The lure of a quick meal while you're on the run is certainly appealing, but over time indulging in fast food or convenience store spreads will cause serious damage to your health.

Not having enough time or money is no excuse to eat poorly. Try planning ahead and learn how cooking at home can save you a ton of cash. When you do cook meals at home, try resisting a second helping. Instead, pack it for lunch. What you don't eat for dinner the night before will make a meal the next day, plus help to reduce overeating, and your food bill.

Habit 4: Think Slim Wins

Attention dieters: the goal is not to be skinny; the goal is to be healthy. To do what it takes to adhere to an ideal image based on the media is to not pay any attention to your own body's intrinsic needs. Ignore your nutritional needs, and you might find yourself sick, tired, and without energy.

Resist the temptation to compare yourself with others. Ask yourself if you are strong, healthy, and fit. If so, why squelch your happiness just so you can fit into your teenage daughter's jeans? It is just not worth it.

Habit 5: Seek First to Overestimate, Then Be Underwhelmed

Marketing companies love people who do not do their research before buying their products, because if they did, they wouldn't be spending their hard earned dollars on something that is not likely to be a success. Fad diets that claim miracles won't change your lifestyle habits; they only put them temporarily on hold. When the excitement of hope fades, so does all ambition.

Try and not overestimate the promises fads and trends assert. Read books that spell out the facts. Get educated so you can make wiser choices, and not give up because you are underwhelmed by the lack of results.

Habit 6: Supersize

Eating healthy doesn't mean you never get to enjoy decadent pleasures. It is not a crime to taste, sample, and savor something. What doesn't work is to overindulge your senses until you've made yourself sick.

Whether it's drinking too much alcohol, binging on copious amounts of pure junk food, or participating in some other type of unhealthy behavioral habits, remember that moderation is the key.

Habit 7: Don't Sharpen the Saw

A sharp mind is the best tool you can use against ill health. Mindless activities such as watching television deaden neural activity in the brain. When your neural activity is compromised, you lose your ability to think clearly. When you lose your ability to think clearly you make poor decisions. When you make poor decisions, you become depressed. Why go down that road?

Engaging in creative activities that sharpen the tools of your mind such as drawing, listening to music, or writing will do just the opposite. Do what you can to stimulate your mind. Think outside the box and look at life through a refreshed set of eyes. When you are letting your creative juices flow, you will feel better about yourself. And when you feel better about yourself, you will make healthier choices, not to mention develop superior health habits that will last a lifetime.

Also on HuffPost UK Lifestyle:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Follow realbuzz on <a href="">Facebook</a>

  • Losing your temper

    Many of us have been brought up to believe that losing our temper is the ultimate social faux pas. To an extent this is true (nobody wants to hang out with that person who is always losing their cool and shouting their mouth off), however research has found that losing your temper could actually be good for your health. Venting your emotions is believed to reduce the effects of stress, while a Swedish study found that men who bottled up their anger when unfairly treated at work doubled their risk of having a heart attack. <strong><a href="">Find out which 'good’ habits are bad for your health</a></strong>

  • Sunbathing

    In recent years, official advice has been that we should cover up in the sun at all times to protect ourselves from skin cancer. However, more recently experts have stated that actually little and frequent sun exposure is good for us. In the UK, where vitamin D deficiency is common, seven leading health groups and charities have issued a statement advising everyone to spend 10 minutes in the midday sun without sunblock in order to avoid rickets. Meanwhile, a US study has stated that the vitamin D produced by the sun could help ward off colds and flu. However, experts have stressed that people should cover up after 10 minutes, and skin should never be red at the end of the day.

  • Giving in to your cravings

    Although constantly giving into junk food cravings is a sure-fire way to sabotage your healthy eating success, allowing yourself the odd treat will not only boost your happiness, it will also help you keep motivated to stay on track. Also, as many people crave the foods that they most attempt to resist, allowing yourself a little of what you fancy can actually help to reduce cravings. If you have imposed extreme restrictions on your diet and cut out entire food groups, cravings could also be a sign of a nutrient deficiency in your diet. <strong><a href="">Do these 5 things make you slim? </a></strong>

  • Daydreaming

    Many of us view daydreaming as a sign of laziness or form of procrastination; however, researchers at the University of British Columbia have found that letting your mind wander can actually help boost your problem-solving abilities. The study found that when participants minds wandered, the parts of their brain associated with problem-solving became more active than when focused on routine tasks. So, while daydreaming can increase the time it takes to complete your present task, it can allow you to unconsciously sort through other important problems in your life.

  • Having a lie-in

    Feeling guilty about your weekend lie-in? Don’t be! Research has found that sleep can help you live longer, boost your memory and reduce stress, while not getting enough can lead to accidents, weight gain, and increased risk of heart disease. Furthermore, delaying your morning workout in favour of some shut-eye may have health benefits, as research from Brunel University found that heavy training sessions early in the morning can compromise the immune system.

  • Swearing

    Swearing: it’s not big and it’s not clever... but studies suggest that in certain situations it may actually be good for you. According to a study by the University of East Anglia, swearing at work could help employees cope with stress and maintain solidarity. Meanwhile, researchers at Keele University’s School of Psychology found that swearing can provide effective short-term relief from pain. However, the study also notes that swearing should be reserved for crises only, as the higher the daily swearing frequency was for participants, the less pain relief they experienced.

  • Skipping a shower

    OK, so repeatedly missing showers may not win you any friends, but if you are ever tempted to skip a shower here and there, research suggests that you could be doing your health (and the environment) a favour. Daily washing not only strips your skin of the natural oils that keep it hydrated and supple, it could also strip your skin of good bacteria that help to prevent disease. If you do decide to skip a shower, just try to do it on a day when you won’t be vigorously working out!

  • Fidgeting

    It’s the bane of school teachers everywhere, yet research suggests that fidgeting may be no bad thing – at least in us adults. Research suggests that fidgeting can burn up to 350 extra calories a day, helping you to keep off those excess pounds. To further increase your calorie burn, try to squeeze in more incidental exercise, such as getting up to change the channel rather than using the remote control. <strong><a href="">Have you tried these 5 fun diet and fitness alternatives?</a></strong>

  • Drinking coffee

    Although drinking too much coffee can be detrimental to your health, in smaller quantities the popular hot drink can actually be good for you. When drunk in moderation (no more than three cups per day), caffeine can speed up your metabolism, boost exercise endurance and reduce your risk of gallstones and kidney stones. A study by the Harvard Medical School has also found that women who drink two or more cups of coffee a day are less likely to be depressed, while separate research has shown that drinking three cups cuts risk of age-related diabetes.

  • Gossiping

    Most of us love a good gossip, whether we’re giggling over a colleague’s new romance or passing an opinion on someone’s outfit choice or behaviour, and the good news is that gossiping could actually be good for us. Not only does listening to gossip help us to learn more about the characters of those around us, bonding and having a laugh with your peers also releases feel-good hormones which help to relieve stress and anxiety.


Follow Jill Lawson on Twitter: