9 Daily Habits That Could Be Detrimental to Your Brain (and How to Stop Them)

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Without even realizing it, you might be indulging in daily habits that are scientifically proven to be detrimental to your brain health, which is particularly dangerous since the brain acts as the control center for the nervous system and is crucial for thinking, memory, movement, and emotional processes. The good news is, it’s fairly easy to alter or eliminate these harmful habits with the right guidance.

Excessive Screen Time

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The debate over screen time is ongoing, but its impact is clear. The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that excessive screen time—often defined as over two hours daily—can alter the brain. 

Risks for Children and Adults


This excessive use is associated with depression, anxiety, obesity, sleep disorders, and reduced executive function. In children, it can affect academic performance, language development, and social skills.

Practical Tips to Reduce Screen Time


To mitigate the potential brain damage associated with excessive screen time, adopting a few mindful strategies can be beneficial. These include tracking and understanding your usage patterns, limiting the number of devices you use, and making screens less appealing by adjusting settings like grayscale. 

Additionally, consider incorporating regular, scheduled breaks from screens throughout your day. These pauses can be an opportunity to engage in non-digital activities.

Chronic Stress

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Chronic stress is another serious threat to brain health, with the potential to destroy brain cells and shrink the prefrontal cortex, which governs memory and learning. 

Often, a rigid mindset of expecting things to always go a certain way can heighten stress, especially in older adults. This attitude can lead to frustration and increased stress levels when outcomes do not meet expectations.

Stress Management Techniques


To manage and reduce stress, adopting a flexible approach to situations is crucial. When feeling upset, taking deep breaths and reminding yourself that the best outcome isn’t always the one you prefer can help. 

Using Mantras to Control Stress


Calming mantras such as “I’m all right, right now,” can also soothe the mind and mitigate stress before it escalates. This practice of moderating expectations and reactions can significantly lower stress levels, protecting your brain’s health and functionality.

Spending Excessive Time in Dimly Lit Environments

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While relaxing in a dimly lit room might seem like the perfect way to decompress, research from Michigan State University suggests it could be detrimental to your brain health. Extended periods in low light have been linked to impaired memory, learning difficulties, and mood changes. 

The Many Benefits of Natural Light

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To counter these effects, consider pulling back the curtains to let in some natural light—a brighter environment might significantly boost your brain function. 

Additionally, natural light provides you with Vitamin D, enhances your productivity and focus, helps your body clock keep accurate time, improves psychological well-being, and can even improve energy efficiency.

Overindulging in Negative News

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These days, it’s tempting to stay glued to the news to keep up-to-date, but the news cycle is often overwhelmingly negative, which makes it tough to avoid a continual barrage of disheartening updates. Studies show that a constant influx of negative news can increase anxiety and weaken your mental well-being.

Practice Responsible News Consumption

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Actively reducing your exposure to such news is vital for keeping your mental health in check. Starting by limiting news intake to specific times of the day rather than checking updates continuously. This can help contain the anxiety to a particular period, rather than letting it spread throughout the day.

Also, consider regular intervals where you completely disconnect from digital devices to give your mind a break from the constant bombardment of news. This could be during weekends or certain hours of the day.

Sleep Deprivation


A lack of sleep leaves you feeling exhausted and also impairs brain function significantly. Prolonged sleep deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders. 

The Impact of Sleep on Brain Proteins


Research, including a study published in the ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research, reveals that sleep deprivation can decrease protective proteins in the brain, leading to neuronal death. The hippocampus, a brain area crucial for learning and memory, also shows notable neurological damage from lack of sleep.

How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?


The amount of sleep you need changes as you age, with specific guidelines tailored for each stage of life provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. School-aged children from 6 to 12 years benefit from 9–12 hours of sleep, while teenagers from 13 to 18 years should aim for 8–10 hours. 

Sleep Guidelines for Adults and the Elderly

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Adults between 18 and 60 years need at least 7 hours per night, those aged 61 to 64 should get 7–9 hours, and seniors 65 years and older require 7–8 hours of sleep. Adhering to these sleep recommendations can help mitigate the risk of long-term neurological damage and improve overall health.

A Sedentary Lifestyle

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Remaining sedentary throughout the day can significantly hinder your mental and physical health. This sedentary behavior has been linked to adverse effects on the brain, particularly in the medial temporal lobe (MTL), a critical area for memory formation. 

How Sitting Affects Brain Structure

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A 2018 study published in PLOS One observed that prolonged sitting correlates with MTL thinning in adults aged 45 to 75, using MRI scans to assess the impact. Thinner MTL regions may herald cognitive decline and an increased risk of dementia.

Exercise Benefits Beyond Physical Health


Engaging in even minor physical activities, such as stretching or a quick 15-minute walk, can dramatically improve your overall well-being. 

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans highlight numerous benefits of exercise including enhanced brain health and cognitive functions, reduced risk of anxiety and depression, and better sleep and overall quality of life.

Physical Activity Recommendations


Adults are advised to aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, alongside muscle-strengthening activities on at least two days per week. 

Children and teenagers require at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily, while preschoolers aged 3 to 5 should stay active throughout the day through supervised play. Achieving these activity goals contributes to both immediate and long-term health benefits.

Listening to Music at Maximum Volume

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Turning up your favorite tunes to full volume is an enticing way to escape daily stress, whether commuting, working out, or just relaxing. But blasting music through headphones can harm your brain by damaging the inner ear. 

How Loud Noise Affects Brain Communication


The cochlea in the ear contains hair cells that send auditory signals to the brain. Loud noises can permanently destroy these cells, leading to hearing loss and disrupted brain communication.

Turn Down the Music


You might want to think about cutting down on those high-volume music sessions for the sake of your brain health—or perhaps consider eliminating them altogether. That way, everyone can ‘enjoy’ your music, as long as they don’t mind!

Excessive Sugar Intake


Excessive sugar consumption poses significant health risks, often without people realizing the sugar content of the foods they eat. High blood sugar levels can negatively affect the brain, leading to cognitive decline. 

The Link Between Diabetes and Brain Health


With over 34 million people in the U.S. diagnosed with diabetes and more than 422 million affected globally, the relationship between sugar intake and brain health is critical. 

Cognitive Decline and Glucose Metabolism


A study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health revealed a notable cognitive decline in middle-aged individuals with diabetes, emphasizing the interplay between glucose metabolism and brain health.

Moderation is Key


Moderating sugar intake is vital for maintaining optimal brain function. The American Heart Association recommends limiting sugar to 6 teaspoons a day for women and 9 for men, yet the average American consumes over 20 teaspoons daily. 

When checking nutrition labels, it’s crucial to be aware of all types of sugar. Some common forms include fructose, dextrose, corn syrup, honey, lactose, raw sugar, and sucrose.

Social Isolation

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While spending time alone can boost creativity, mood, and self-awareness, excessive isolation has severe drawbacks. Extended periods of solitude can lead to heightened loneliness, depression, poor sleep, and cognitive decline. 

These conditions are comparable in risk to serious health issues like smoking or obesity and are linked with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Daily Social Interactions for Better Well-being


It’s okay not to be perfect–you can still socialize with everyone who is also as imperfect as you. To fight social isolation, engage in enjoyable activity, revive an old hobby, or sign up for a class to pick up a new skill. These activities promise tons of fun and provide opportunities to connect with others who share your interests. 

Make it a daily routine to keep in touch with friends, family, and neighbors—whether through personal meetings, emails, social media, phone calls, or text messages.

Kate Smith, a self-proclaimed word nerd who relishes the power of language to inform, entertain, and inspire. Kate's passion for sharing knowledge and sparking meaningful conversations fuels her every word.