Wellbeing

5 Unhealthy Habits To Break In Your 20s

Bad habits can be hard to break, and while turning 60 or even 40 might seem far away right now, the bad routines you fall into in your 20s can have consequences right throughout your life. Eliminating unhealthy habits as a young’un can set you up for a healthier, happier future – and have you feeling better today.

#1 Relying On Sugar For Fast Energy

Whether it’s a sweet treat to wake you up in the morning or a 3 pm craving buster, relying on sugary treats to keep you going throughout the day is a great way to add extra kilojoules to your diet and keep you hungry at the same time.

Foods with a lot of added sugar, like chocolate bars, lollies and fizzy drinks, often don’t have a lot of nutritional value. While the sugar they contain may provide you with a lot of kilojoules, or energy, your body won’t get much more out of them. You’re likely to get hungry again quickly and if you don’t use it, all that extra energy from the sugar you ate will be stored in your body as fat.

While you may not think the extra sugar is hurting you now, especially if you’ve got a slim waist line, nixing your dependence on sugary treats will help set you up for a healthier future. Learn about ways to cut down on sugar, and find out how many kilojoules your body needs throughout the day so you can better visualise the energy in the foods you’re eating. Keep this in mind when ordering takeaway or fast foods, which might be higher in kilojoules.

#2 Eating In Front Of Screens

How often do you eat in front of a movie screen, the TV, your phone or tablet? It turns out that eating in front of screens can lead to overeating, which in turn can lead to excess weight gain. Being overweight or obese can be a contributing factor to many serious illnesses, so setting up healthy eating habits now can help you prevent these in the future.

Being mindful about your food intake by thinking about what you’re eating while you’re eating it, and not being entertained elsewhere, can stop you from continuing to chow down once you’re already full. It can take up to 20 minutes for your brain to realise when you’ve eaten enough, so giving food your full attention is key to not having more than you need.

While you’re at it, why not break another bad habit and unlearn the rule that you have to finish all the food on your plate? Often a hangover from childhood, sometimes as adults we can feel bad if we have to put some of our serve back. But as long as you practice good food safety, there’s nothing wrong with stopping when you feel full and saving the rest of your meal for later.

#3 Tanning

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, due in no small part to our exposure to high levels of UV radiation throughout most of the year. Skin cancer doesn’t just affect older people: melanoma is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among young Australians aged 15 to 29.

Deliberately spending time in the sun to get a tan means deliberately exposing yourself to the radiation that causes skin cancer. Despite this, almost half of Australian adults still think having a tan looks healthy. But all it takes is one skin cell to be damaged by UV radiation for a potentially deadly melanoma to start growing.

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Even if you’re using fake tanning products, or you’re not deliberately tanning at all, it’s important to keep sun safety in mind every time you’re outside.

So what can you do to save yourself from the sun? You might remember Sid the Seagull, who taught us as kids to “Slip, Slop, Slap”. Well, Sid’s had an upgrade recently, adding ‘seek shade’ and ‘slide on sunnies’ to his message. Follow these five steps to reduce your exposure to UV radiation.

Protect yourself day-to-day by wearing a broad brim hat on your work lunch break and during your commute, and clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible; using broad spectrum SPF 30 or higher sunscreen daily or finding cosmetics that have sunscreen in them and reapply every two hours when you are outside; and planning ahead so you’re prepared for days outside. Learning how sunscreen works will help you to apply it properly to avoid skin damage.

#4 Keeping Quiet About Mental Health

Research shows that only 30% of young Australians seek professional help for mental health issues. Considering suicide remains the leading cause of death among young Australians, this is a dangerous trend we need to stop.

You might keep quiet about mental health concerns because you’re worried you’ll be judged, you don’t know who to ask or you don’t realise that your symptoms might be connected to mental health.

But talking about mental health can help you and others. If you’re worried about your own health you can seek help by booking an appointment with your GP, calling a confidential counselling service like Lifeline or beyondblue, or start by telling a trusted friend, family or community member.

Discussing mental health with friends and family can also decrease stigma, and encourage other people to speak up if they need help. Organisations like R U OK? aim to help Australians learn how to talk about mental health.

Just like you eat your veggies to keep your body healthy, you can also invest in your mental health. Practicing mindfulness can provide you with tools that help keep you mentally well, while talking to your boss about creating a mentally healthy workplace can benefit you and your colleagues.

#5 Skipping Sleep

Your 20s are all about having fun but also starting your career which often means burning the candle as both ends. But when we don’t get enough sleep we wake up grumpy and groggy, yawning by 10 am and daydreaming about going back to bed.

But there are serious health impacts of missing sleep that can affect you both in the short and long term. At work, being sleepy can lead you to have poorer judgement and lack motivation. Decreased alertness can lead to increased risk of driving and workplace accidents.

Over time, sleep deprivation can lead to an increased risk of weight gain and obesity, and is possibly linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and some cancers.

Follow the Sleep Health Foundation’s 10 tips for getting a good night’s sleep and start developing good sleep habits.

Tips with thanks to Queensland Health.