The green movement has arguably never been bigger than it is now. Yet, while we strive to better our environment, Mother Nature’s number one foot soldiers have been losing another battle on another front, their own well – being.
In the midst of the chaotic schedules of Modern Moms, and with constant attention to our families, it’s easy to skip out on what we ourselves need. While we would normally get our eight hours or lather on sun screen, we now quickly do without – thinking “oh it’s just this once”. Yet, in a surprisingly short time, these negative routine changes can become fixed habits.
So then why do we stick the them? According to Cindy Jardine of the University of Alberta, the reason why we keep our vices isn’t because we haven’t gotten information on them, but rather because “we tend to sort of live for now and into the limited future – not the long term.”
Upon conducting a few in-office polls asking people what they thought was the worst bad habit, poor diet and lack of exercise topped the list. But surprisingly, there are health vices that that far surpass the occasional fast food run or a weekend of couch potato status.
Inadequate sleep (less than 7 or 8 hours a night) has been tied to many different health problems, including obesity, diabetes and cancer. According to psychologist and sleep expert David F. Dinges, Ph.D., of the Division of Sleep and Chronobiology and Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, irritability, moodiness and disinhibition are some of the first signs a person experiences from lack of sleep.
If a sleep-deprived person doesn’t sleep after the initial signs, the person may then start to experience apathy, slowed speech and flattened emotional responses, impaired memory and an inability to be novel or multitask.
As a person gets to the point of falling asleep, he or she will fall into 5-10 second long “micro sleeps” that cause lapses in attention, which including nodding off and experiencing hypnagogic hallucinations, which are the beginning of REM sleep.1
Make sleep a priority by setting a bed-time and sticking to it. Most people also find it helps them relax if they set aside a half hour before bed-time for a leisurely activity, such as watching TV or reading a book. Your body language matters too.
If you’re engaging in your leisurely activity in a stressed body position, your brain won’t get the message that it’s time to relax. A relaxed repeat pattern before bed time also helps anchor, or train, the brain into associating that activity with sleep. One of the best anchor techniques is music. Listen to a certain song right before bed time enough times and it’s guaranteed that you’ll start feeling relaxed when you hear it next.
Everyone knows that excessive sun exposure is bad for them, but most people make the mistake of thinking that unless they’re safe unless they’re out baking in the sun lobster-red to toast-crisp.
However even minimal unprotected exposure is unadvisable, especially when a few minutes here and there begin stacking up. If you start seeing freckles on your skin, that’s your skin’s way of communicating that it’s breaking down.
A new way of getting people to see the real damage is through high-tech ultraviolet photos that show skin’s hidden sun damage. The pictures draw attention to premature wrinkles and spots that are waiting to surface to the skin.
According to researchers in field studies, “Ultraviolet cameras are readily available, relatively inexpensive, and simple to operate. This intervention could be offered at most dermatology clinics, student health clinics, and physician’s offices.”
The key to fixing sun damage is not having any to begin with. The key is prevention. Sun screen should be used regardless of whether you expect to be in the sun, and people should try to keep in mind that even driving around town to run errands is cause for exposure.
To apply sun screen the right way, focus on one area at a time and be careful not to miss spots like feet, tops of ears, temples, and the back of the neck. Be sure to use enough; you need at least one ounce of sunscreen to cover your entire body.
If the bottle is 4 ounces, then it should not last for more than 4 applications. Don’t be stingy with the sun screen; you can always go get another bottle of sun screen but you can’t go get new skin.
While everyone knows that smoking is bad for you, and that second hand smoke is even worse, what most people don’t realize is how much smoking pollutes the air.
Just because the area is no longer being smoked in doesn’t mean it’s not completely contaminated by it.
And add to that the fact that air is not stationary, it moves around carrying the smoke-filled air to newer areas, and you start seeing the unseen problems that come with smoking – a problem that remains long after the butt’s been put out.
Unfortunately both smokers and non-smokers alike make the mistake in thinking that ionizers are enough to clean the air. Ionizers have been the fad, but they’re hype far outweighs their use. The only thing that ionizers do is spit out negative ions that neutralize oxidizers.
By negatively charging the air’s ions, floating dust particles cling to a surface in the room. Ionizers are powerless to actually purify the air, and they’re actually very much like ozone generators, which are now banned in some states. Whereas, for example, industry leading Blueair Air Purifiers actually use a filtration process that eliminate (rather than neutralize) airborne particles.
An air purifier needs to be able to actually remove the indoor air contaminants, rather than just move them from here to there like ionizers do. Ideally air purifiers, rather than just air cleaners, should be constantly running in a room if smoking occurs either in or near it, as air travels to surround areas.
So what’s the difference between air cleaning vs. air purifying? Air cleaning means that particles of dust and other dirt are being filtered out of the air, and (hopefully) collected into a filter. On the other hand, air purifying means that dangerous mold spores, bacteria and viruses are actually being killed.
Cindy Jardine of the University of Alberta found stress even moved past cigarette smoking as the most dangerous habit. “Most of us wear our stress as a badge of honor these days,” Jardine said.
So rather than thinking about stress as causing physical damage to your body and perhaps hurting relationships, “people often boast of their stress as a success.”
Creating more stress in your life is a fantastic way to invite all kinds of diseases to attack the body. When you’re chronically stressed, the adrenal glands are forced to work overtime and eventually exhaust themselves, inhibiting the immune system and triggering a number of health complications.
Yet, understandably, not everyone can put life on hold to go catch a de-stressing yoga class. When stressed (which is usually accompanied with a level of fatigue), take a moment to stand up straight and take in a fresh breath of air. The oxygen will flush through your system and go straight to your brain, which uses about 20% of the oxygen you intake. As you age, you lose some of your capacity to utilize oxygen, at a rate of approximately 1% per year.
The importance of replenishing yourself with air becomes all the more important once you’re learn that a lack of it actually leads to brain cell degeneration.
Stress tops the list of bad health vices. In a pressure-driven society, even children now are subject to high levels of stress. Jardine suggests that when a behavior is socially accepted or even considered desirable people tend to reconcile the fact that it’s bad for them with the idea that “everybody’s doing it”.
The other factor she mentions is that it’s become a social norm that’s not only accepted but near required in order to fit in with a group. Jardine notes that “It ends up being something people rationalize one way or another. And it’s often easier to rationalize it in favor of trying to fit into your social group.” One way of making it acceptable smoke like a chimney or eating like a pig is with individual experiences that support your action. For instance, you could say, “It hasn’t affected me” or, “My dad smoked all his life and he’s perfectly fine.”
The Bad Habit Cure
There simply isn’t one. “There’s no single strategy or single bullet. We’re not going to be able to find a vaccine for healthy behavior,” aid Andrea Gielen of Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. But what we can do is begin by being more aware of why certain habits are dangerous, rather than just thinking “it’s bad for you”.
1 Dinges, Sleep, Sleepiness and Performance, 1991
Shireen Qudosi in an indoor air quality expert with Air Purifier Home. http://www.air-purifier-home.com Follow her on Twitter @AirPurifierHome