Habits to Avoid for a Happier, Healthier Life

By Jake Schroeder
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Age is just a number and shouldn’t be something you dread. Getting older doesn’t have to mean losing your health and mental wellness. Obviously, you need to take the right steps to stay on track at any age.

From drinking and smoking to skipping necessary beauty sleep, some bad habits leave a lasting negative impact on your body. If you want to live longer, it’s time to start avoiding the bad habits on this list. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Indulging in Sugary Snacks

Everyone loves a good snack now and then. The snacks you choose may help — or hinder — your quality of life. The problem with eating too many processed snacks or unhealthy snacks that are loaded with sugar is they won’t really give you a proper energy boost.

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Snacks with too much sugar cause a rise in your glucose levels and then a rapid drop. To keep hunger under control and your energy levels up throughout the day, try drinking water or eating more fresh foods. Choosing these foods helps you stave off high blood pressure and diabetes as you age.

Eating Takeout

Buying takeout or delivery every night is not only expensive, but it may also be cutting years off your life. Eating out means you probably aren’t eating the healthiest foods at your meals. Eating fresh foods, prepared at home can help you get the fiber, protein and antioxidants you need to help keep age-related conditions at bay.

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Choose easy, healthy meals you can prepare at home to avoid the need for ordering food. If you keep groceries stocked, you will be less likely to give in to the urge to order a pizza. That leads to health benefits like lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and more.

Spending Too Much Time Indoors

Spending too much time indoors isn’t good for your body or your soul. You need to get outside to help improve your quality of life. While you may not want to spend hours outside if the weather is terrible, just a little time outside each day can make a big difference.

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Getting outside for just a few minutes each day gives you a chance to soak up vitamin D, release some stress, get some exercise and breathe in some essential fresh air. The habit of spending some time outside every day is one you can easily keep up with as you age.


Getting Too Little Sleep

Most of us aren’t getting enough sleep. Sleep is so crucial to keeping your body healthy and running smoothly, and that includes boosts to your mental health. If you’re constantly not getting enough sleep, it could cause a host of problems that could decrease your quality of life overall.

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Instead of trying to sleep longer in the morning, which probably isn’t practical in most cases, try going to bed earlier to make sure you get plenty of rest. Choosing an earlier bedtime might also help you wake a little earlier so you can get in a workout or some personal time.

Not Drinking Enough Water

Drinking water is key to keeping your body operating smoothly. Staying hydrated not only helps your body internally, but it also helps ward off the signs of aging on the outside. Hydrated skin has fewer fine lines and wrinkles.

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Hydration on the inside helps your organs, tissues and muscles all function properly. This boosts your immune system to help you fight off infections and alleviate any chronic conditions you may suffer from as you age. Aging doesn’t have to mean taking a long list of prescription drugs and a host of doctors. Drink plenty of water and watch your body work its natural magic.

Drinking Too Much Alcohol

While drinking alcohol isn’t all bad, too much of a good thing can turn into a bad thing if you’re not careful. Too many alcoholic drinks can cause spikes in your blood sugar, dehydration, inflammation and liver problems. Some alcohols and most wines are packed with sugar and calories. The more you drink, the more weight you may gain.

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If you’re having trouble with your weight, watch how many drinks you’re consuming each day. A lower body mass index is much better in terms of staying healthy and maintaining your weight. To achieve this, stick to drinking only occasionally and certainly no more than one or two alcoholic drinks per day.


Drinking Soda

Sugary sodas may not be a problem in moderation (as long as you aren’t diabetic), but drinking multiple sodas per day may age you faster than you would like. The problem with soda is that it’s packed with sugar and calories. The more you drink, the more calories and sugar you’re adding to your diet each day.

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Too much sugar can lead to diabetes or weight gain. You may also have high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol if you indulge in excessive soda drinking. If you need to get these levels down and lower your body mass index, cut the soda from your diet. If you miss the bubbles, choose carbonated water as a replacement.

Skipping Workouts

Not getting exercise isn’t good for anyone, young or old. The less time you spend working out, the more sedentary your lifestyle becomes. If you want to stay active to improve your health and lifespan as you age, the key is to be active while you’re younger and stronger.

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Working out helps both your body and mind stay active, and not doing it is very detrimental for both. Exercise helps boost blood flow, pumps more oxygen to your lungs and keeps your muscles lean and strong.

Not Managing Stress

Stress can definitely age you much faster than you’d like. Although there is no way to get rid of all the stress in your life — kids waking up before the sun on the weekend or a surprise meeting on a Friday afternoon — but you can learn to manage stress in other ways.

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Keeping your stress levels down will help you sleep better, make healthier food choices and lower your risk for high blood pressure and other stress-related conditions that can age you prematurely. Maybe there’s something to that theory that stress causes gray hair after all!


Never Traveling

One of the best ways to let loose, have some fun and get out of your comfort zone is to travel. While many people save traveling for retirement, there’s no reason you can’t work some travel into your life in your younger years as well. In fact, some adventures — running with the bulls in Pamplona, for example — may be better suited to younger ages.

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If money is an issue, with a little homework and planning, you can find inexpensive ways to cure your travel bug. Traveling is one of the best ways to keep your mind and body active as well. No matter how far or long the trip, take as many trips as you can.

Overeating Meat

Humans actually only need a surprisingly low amount of protein every day. According to a study published by Harvard Health, you only need 10% of the calories in your diet to come from protein.

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While there is a lot of debate over how much protein is too much, it’s widely accepted that eating too much animal meat can cause high cholesterol, high blood pressure and even blocked arteries. To avoid health problems later in life, limit your meat consumption and replace meat with fresh vegetables instead. You can also get protein from other sources like peanuts.


It’s no secret that smoking can literally kill you. From lung disease and dental problems to deadly cancers, the effects of smoking are among the worst things that can happen to your body. Smoking will almost certainly take years off your life — there are few exceptions. However, even if you are a heavy smoker, there is always hope. Your body begins to heal after only one hour of no smoking!

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While quitting smoking isn’t easy, successfully kicking the habit is a huge positive boost for your health. It also saves you a ton of money as soon as you quit. If quitting seems impossible, focus on how much more you’ll get out of life when you do.


Not Using Paid Time Off

If you have paid time off from your employer, make sure you actually use it. This is free money and free time that you often lose if you don’t use it. When you look back on your life at 80 years old, you want to remember the time you spent with loved ones or traveling. You won’t remember that random workday you didn’t take off.

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Using your paid time off gives you a chance to enjoy some personal time to take care of yourself, travel somewhere exciting or just spend time with loved ones. These are all activities that help lower your stress and improve your health.

Eating Processed Foods

Processed foods are almost like a silent killer. Not only do they contain harmful chemicals and additives, but, more importantly, they don’t contain the beneficial nutrients found in real whole foods. Besides essential proteins, those ingredients include antioxidants and immune boosters, such as vitamins and minerals.

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Instead of turning to processed foods for meals and snacks, keep fresh foods on hand. The more you have at home or on the go, the more likely you are to eat them, which helps you establish ongoing positive dietary habits. Fresh whole foods help reduce cholesterol, body mass index and blood sugar.

Never Moving Around

Many people live a sedentary lifestyle, both at work and at home. A lot of people sit in traffic for long periods on long commutes, and then they arrive at work and spend the day behind a desk. After the long commute back home, they eat dinner and settle in for an evening on the couch. All of this sitting isn’t good for anyone.

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One of the best things you can do to improve your quality of life is to get up and get moving. If you aren’t a very active person, start slow and just walk around the block. Take the stairs at work, walk the dog an extra five minutes or just do some stretches. Continuously building on your progress is the key.


Holding Grudges

One of the worst things you can do for your body and mind is hold on to resentment and anger. These negative emotions linger in your mind and body for years, and that kind of long-term stress is hard on your body. This can greatly impact your quality of life and your stress levels.

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If you have a grudge, it’s better to face it and deal with it. Tackle your problems head-on and talk about them. The more you talk about what is bothering you, the sooner you can move on. This can also help you repair important relationships in your life.

Staying in Your Comfort Zone

If you always need to stay in your comfort zone, you may be missing out on some awesome real-life experiences. From trying new things to meeting new people, doing things that take you out of your comfort zone can help you feel young and alive. Socialize, take risks and enjoy life in any way you can.

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While anxiety and depression are serious conditions, sometimes a reluctance to try new things is something you can work on yourself. If you want to travel, meet new people or take a new job, for example, take it slow and take baby steps. You should always look forward to new experiences.

Never Reading

The benefits of reading are almost endless. Not only does a good book enrich your mind, but it also keeps you away from less fulfilling time traps, such as television and social media. These traps are known to interfere with good sleep and can even cause increased stress.

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Reading, however, is a great way to relax before falling asleep, pass the time on a train or plane and simply get lost in a fantasy world for a while. You can read to learn something new, read for entertainment or read to your children. As you age, it’s important to keep your mind sharp.


Ignoring Your Health

Ignoring your health and not taking care of yourself can take years off your life. If you haven’t had a checkup in a while or you aren’t taking care of a pre-existing condition, you may be putting your health and your life in serious danger. Get a regular physical and stay on top of any health issues you may have.

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Instead of ignoring a serious health issue or something that has been bothering you, take the time to get it checked out. Early prevention and screenings can literally be the difference between life and death.

Not Saving for Retirement

While you may not think finances matter in terms of life expectancy, that isn’t always true. Money and retirement savings can actually help you live longer in many cases. When you retire, you lose your normal monthly income and the insurance provided by your employer. You may replace it with social security income and Medicare insurance, but they don’t usually measure up to the previous levels.

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The more money you can save for retirement, the better your healthcare will be and the more money you will have to take care of yourself. From the food you buy to paying for exercise classes and medical bills, the money you save for retirement gives you the resources you need to take care of yourself.

Disregarding the Little Things

If a lot of change seems overwhelming, don’t underestimate how small changes can really make a difference. When it comes to making any change, nothing should be taken for granted or ignored. Take exercise, for example. If you increase your duration by a minute a month, you add 12 healthy minutes to your monthly routine by the end of the year.

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If you’re trying to eat healthier, replace one delivery meal a week with a home cooked one. You will quickly see an increase in healthier eating habits and also your bank account. Overall, wellness may take time, but no change is too small.


Not Walking

Walking is one of the best things you can do for your body. Not only is it physical exercise that gets you outdoors, but it’s also something you can do at any age. Even if you need to go slow to accomplish it, walking just a few minutes a day can breathe new life into your body and your mind.

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If you aren’t willing to take a walk as a regular form of exercise, you can at least get a few steps in doing everyday tasks. You can walk instead of drive, take the stairs or even park farther away from the door at the grocery store.

Blaming Your Genes

Just because everyone in your family has high blood pressure or diabetes, that doesn’t mean you have to accept the inevitable. As you age, you may think whatever conditions you develop are unavoidable because of family history, and you can’t do anything about it.

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Instead of just assuming the worst, make some real changes and change your own fate. If you can make healthy choices while you’re younger and as you age, you might be able to significantly reduce your chances of getting the same non-genetic health conditions as members of your family.

Not Wearing Sunscreen

If you’re not wearing sunscreen, this is something you should change right away. While the sun is amazing for your body in many ways, UV rays aren’t one of them. When you’re out enjoying the sun, you should always wear sunscreen. No matter how old or young you are, consider now to be the best age to wear it.

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Not wearing sunscreen exposes your skin to harmful UV rays that can cause sun damage, premature wrinkles, sunspots and even skin cancer. Wear sunscreen with an SPF that is higher than 30 and make sure to reapply often, especially after swimming.


Hiding from Intimacy

When you get older, you may feel as though you don’t want to be as intimate as you used to be. This is actually the time you may want to kick things up a notch, however. When your kids have all left home, and you’re an empty nester, there is no time like the present for you and your partner to reconnect.

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People in relationships who are still connected intimately share a deeper bond, feel better physically and tend to have more fun. Fun and intimacy keep you young, so boost your intimate connections. Don’t avoid them.

Binge-Watching TV

If you find yourself sitting down at the end of the night to binge watch TV, put down the remote. Watching TV is adding to your sedentary lifestyle, and it isn’t doing you any favors. Instead of just mindlessly watching TV at night, choose something more productive to do.

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For example, you could actually go to sleep earlier, read a book, take a bath or do some light stretching. You will feel so much better that you used that time wisely instead of wasting it watching television.

Eating Late at Night

If you’re constantly eating late at night, this is a habit you should stop immediately. Eating late at night can cause all sorts of health problems, including insomnia, gastrointestinal issues and weight gain. Try to eat earlier for a better night’s sleep and better digestion.

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Eating late at night could also be causing you to have trouble falling asleep or trouble staying asleep. It can also mess with your metabolism and may be causing weight gain. If you are having trouble with either, this habit can be hard on your body at any age.


Not Getting a Pet

If you ever feel lonely and like you need a companion or something to keep you busy, a pet could be the solution to your problem. Owning a pet really helps keep you young. A pet is not only a lovable creature who needs love, attention and care, but it also offers a lot in return.

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As you age, it’s important to still feel needed, like you have a purpose, and to stay busy. A pet can really help you do these things. You will always have someone to walk with and keep you active if your pet is a dog. Both dogs and cats are great for cuddling.

Avoiding the Grandkids

One of the best ways to stay feeling young is to look after little humans. Studies have shown that grandparents who help care for a child actually live longer. When you get older, you still want to feel like someone needs your help, and you want to help your children and stay physically and mentally engaged.

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But that’s only part of the benefit. No one can keep you on your toes and keep your mind sharp like a little kid. Don’t avoid babysitting! Whenever you can, look after your grandkids. It will whip you into shape, and you will love the quality time spent together.

Becoming Too Isolated

When you become too isolated from the people and things you used to love, it can really cause you to age faster. If you feel cut off from your family or social circles, your mind and body may start to deteriorate.

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Stay socially and physically engaged as long as possible. Staying up to date and in contact with your friends and family helps you feel connected and involved in their lives. You should also continue to go out and do things with other people — coffee, lunch, movies. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. This leads to many long years spent making memories.