We all have the natural tendency to derive pleasure from certain things. We do it to avoid pain, to relieve stress, or to gain confidence. Some savor a few bottles of beer after a hard day’s work, while some choose to sit in a comfortable sofa and watch a good movie. When we repeatedly do something that makes us feel good, it becomes a habit. This habit may give us just what we need if we manage it well. But once we go overboard, this habit can take over our lives and become a problem.
Taking root, the wrong way
Bad habits give way to vices and addiction. Excessive smoking, repeated use of dangerous substances, hoarding by way of shopping, alcohol abuse—and addiction to gambling, the Internet or computer games are some examples of bad habits that prove detrimental to one’s health and well-being.
How do we prevent bad habits? “Know yourself,” advises Joy Averilla, M.D., resident psychiatrist at Self Enhancement For Life (SELF) Inc., a drug rehabilitation center in Muntinlupa City. “Identify your strengths and weaknesses, listen to your body, and take care of it.”
It may be wise to do a check on whether your habits are still within your control or not. Replace bad habits with good ones. These “alternative vices” wake up the feel-good chemicals from within your body and give you a natural high that lasts for a long time.
Habitual smoking puts you at risk for lung problems or cardiovascular disease. Trade the risks for a workout: A good 20 minutes of intense exercise every day helps your body release endorphins, a chemical in the brain that brings one to a blissful state. Runners who keep a good pace for at least 30 minutes experience “runner’s high.” If running isn’t an option, brisk walking will do.
Do you often turn to caffeine, energy drinks or stimulants to keep yourself awake? These substances can immediately bring you to an alert state, but may cause high blood pressure, elevated heart rate and dehydration. Combining these stimulants with alcohol, which is a depressant, can be dangerous, too.
Sensible, healthy eating is the better alternative. If you need to fight off sleepiness, indulge in protein-rich foods. Protein contributes to dopamine and norepinephrine production—neurotransmitters in our body that increase alertness and concentration. Plan your wake-up meals with protein sources such as dairy or soy products, seafood, poultry and eggs.
Snack on seeds and nuts in between work. Walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, almonds and sunflower seeds can help you think clearer and stabilize your mood. Foods rich in carbohydrates such as pasta, rice and other whole grains, increase serotonin levels in our body. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps us maintain a positive mood.
Massage and meditation
Instead of retail therapy, invest instead in a soothing massage. Putting pressure on certain points of the body can induce the release of endorphins. When our bodies are relaxed and rejuvenated, we do away with the need to complain about how sore we feel.
Yoga and prayer helped Maan Fabian, a 33-year-old bank employee, give up years of smoking. “Yoga was helpful. It helped me breathe well,” she says.
Some people get high on drugs or down themselves with alcohol when they’re depressed or lonely. Using these substances provides an immediate “escape” from pain, but the pleasure derived is short and the aftermath unpleasant. A hangover or “downtime” simply puts you back to that depressing state.
Talk to someone instead. Connect with people who can help you. In this age of social networking, people post updates on the Internet regarding their struggles in life. Encouragement from friends, colleagues and family helps people feel good about themselves and experience a natural high.
Get high on more alternative vices, grab your copy of the November issue of HealthToday magazine, out now in bookstores and newsstands.