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7 Healthy Coping Mechanisms To Overcome Unhealthy Habits

Keep reading to learn 7 healthy coping mechanisms to overcome unhealthy habits.

Here’s a universal truth: life is HARD, and we’re all just trying to cope.

Stress, anxiety, and the pressures of daily life can drive us to develop coping habits that may not serve our highest good in the long run.

While the first things that typically come to mind when people hear “unhealthy coping habits” are mainstream topics like drug, alcohol, sex, and food addictions, these aren’t the only life-altering coping habits that can negatively impact your mental and physical health.

Anything done compulsively and in excess can become unhealthy with repeated use.

This can include:

Sleeping habits

Negative thought patterns

Regularly interacting with partners, friends, or family members that you know are toxic

Constant scrolling on social media

Vegging out in front of tv

Starting fights

Excessive daydreaming because it’s too hard to cope with your real life…

The list can go on and on.

And before I continue, let me just say that this is a judgment-free zone. We have ALL struggled with one or many of these unhealthy habits at some point in time, and it’s totally understandable that our decisions can be less-than-stellar when we’re going through a dark season of our lives.

The point of this article is to offer support and help you get your life headed in a direction that will bring more joy, peace, and great mental, physical, and emotional health. No guilt or shame needed. 🙂 

Recognizing and replacing unhealthy behaviors with positive coping strategies can drastically improve our overall well-being. 

Here are 7 healthy coping mechanisms for you to try out.

7 Healthy Coping Mechanisms To Overcome Unhealthy Habits

1. Exercise

As a personal trainer, you know I had to start with this one!

Exercise has so many benefits, including:

Endorphin Boost

Doing a quick workout triggers the release of endorphins in our body. These feel-good neurotransmitters can

  • Increase pleasure
  • Reduce pain and discomfort
  • Reduce stress, depression, and anxiety
  • And improve your mood and self-esteem

Needless to say…we want more of these!

Scientific fact: Endorphins and their neurotransmitter sibling endocannabinoids (yes, like the ones found in cannabis) are released after 30 minutes of physical activity. So take a break from your laptop, put away your phone, and start moving to reap the benefits!

Physical Health Enhancement

I’m sure I’m not the first to tell you that regular physical activity contributes to overall better physical health and disease prevention. It specifically helps reduce your risk of chronic diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, many types of cancer, and dementia.

All the more reason to incorporate it into your routine!

Sense of Achievement

I rarely feel more accomplished then I do after completing a hardcore workout on a day when I did NOT feel like working out. When I peel myself out of my perfectly soft, warm bed to get a leg day in I feel like I DESERVE that round of applause as I cool down!

Action Steps

“Exercise” doesn’t necessarily mean throwing 60+ lb dumbbells around in the gym.

(Which is VERY tacky gym etiquette btw. Not only is it obnoxious, but it’s also very unsafe. Please friends…stop throwing weights!)

I usually work from home, so one of my favorite forms of exercise is walking my dog for 35 – 40 minutes once or twice a day. I love it because I get to spend time in nature, feel the sun on my skin, and watch my beloved pup prance around sniffing everything, happy as a clam.

(Side note: After I wrote that line I immediately thought, “Where the heck did that phrase come from? Who’s ever seen a happy clam??” So I looked it up. Here’s the interesting little story behind the phrase.)

To add more exercise into your daily routine, you can try:

  • Find Enjoyable Activities: Figure out what physical activities you find enjoyable, like swimming, hiking, or team sports, and schedule time to do them every week.
  • Set Realistic Goals: Begin with achievable goals, like a 10-minute daily walk. Gradually increase intensity and duration as you build stamina.

    PRO TIP: If you work at a desk, try doing block sessions. You can choose how long you want your sessions to last, but commonly used time frames are 40 – 90 minutes. At the end of every block, get up and do something simple like 20 bodyweight squats or push-ups, or do 3 sets of holding a 1-minute plank. If your building has stairs, you can also do 3 – 4 sets of climbing a flight of stairs.

    This is a great way to get your blood flowing without getting too sweaty. And the fun part is that as your blood starts flowing, your creative juices start flowing more, too!
  • Create a Routine: Schedule your exercise sessions just as you would any other important appointment. My mom always says, “If you don’t have a plan, you’re planning to fail.” So drop it into your calendar and stick to the plan!

For more ideas on how to incorporate exercise into your daily routine, check out 30 Fun Office-Friendly Fitness Challenges You Can Do During Your Workday and  20 (More) Fun Office Fitness Challenges To Do With Your Coworkers.

2. Mindfulness and Meditation

Adopting a daily mindfulness and meditation practice has been incredible for helping me keep low stress levels, stop caring about what other people think, find joy and peace in the present moment, and build deeper connections with the ones I love.

 It’s also helping me learn to accept myself as I am in every moment, even if there are ways that I could be “better”. This has really helped boost my confidence levels and deepened my self-love and sense of self-worth.

Action Steps

  • Give The CognoZen Method a try!: Yes, I swear by it because I created it, but I created it because the exercises in the method REALLY WORK! It’s an easy way to reprogram your brain and regulate your nervous system in as little as 10 minutes.

    If you want to try it for free, check out the FREE 3-Day CognoZen Challenge for Confidence & Success!
  • Daily Meditation Practice: Dedicate a few minutes each day to meditation, starting with as little as five minutes.

    How to do this: Find a comfortable lying or seated position. You can use a guided meditation on YouTube like the ones below, or you can choose to sit in silence. If you opt for silence, focus on your breath. You can count each inhale, or just focus on the feeling of the air entering your chest or belly. Stay here for 5 minutes.
  • Use Apps or Classes: There are plenty of mindfulness and meditation apps to choose from. And if you’re looking to make like-minded friends in real life (ya know, off the interwebs), try attending mindfulness classes in your local area to guide your practice.

    It sounds a little ridiculous to drive somewhere just to sit in silence with strangers, but I’ve found it to be just as profound an experience as attending a religious service. So if you’re curious, try it!
  • Mindful Moments: Integrate mindfulness into daily activities, like mindful walking or eating, to stay present. No matter what you’re doing, try to soak up all of the smells and physical sensations from the environment around you. Then check in with the kind of thoughts and feelings they bring up for you.

If you want to learn how to enhance your meditation practice, give this article a read next!

3. Healthy Eating

I’ll say this as many times as I need to until everyone knows it:

Your gut health directly affects your mental health.

Healthy gut = healthy brain.

Leaky gut = depression and anxiety

This is why many scientists call the gut The Second Brain

Your gut has it’s own nervous system called the Enteric Nervous System (ENS) that is made up of almost 100 million nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract from esophagus to rectum. (1)

This is what causes you to feel “butterflies in your stomach” when you’re nervous or excited to see a crush.

The food you eat is so important because the health of your gut directly impacts your emotional and mental well-being. 

On top of that, good nutrition supports optimal brain health and can improve mental clarity.

Ever had a heavy unhealthy fat-rich meal and gotten brain fog? Yep, me too! 

Plus, eating well-balanced meals provides sustained energy throughout the day, helping you to run all the errands, finish the assignments, and take care of the family members that you care about.

Like I said, it matters.

Action Steps

  • Plan Balanced Meals: Plan your meals to include a variety of nutrients, focusing on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins. If you need some suggestions there are quite a few on this blog. You can read these articles for some recipe ideas.
  • Avoid Processed Foods: I knnnooowww donuts and danishes are delicious, but they do more harm than just annihilating your 6-pack. There are a number of studies that show that it is as addictive as a drug like cocaine (2), and it wreaks havoc on your health.

    Reduce your intake of processed and high-sugar foods to avoid energy crashes and negative side effects.
  • Hydration: Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated, which is essential for both physical and mental function.

    Ever suddenly get tired and cranky? Try taking a nice swig of water and see how your energy shifts! There are 8 major signs that you are dehydrated, and irritability is an easy one to spot! To see the full list, click here.

4. Adequate Sleep

I really don’t have to explain this too much. We all know that we are more likely to make poor decisions when we’re sleepy, and we feel 100% better after a good night’s rest.

Quality sleep…

  • Directly influences your mood and can reduce irritability and stress
  • Is linked to improved memory and cognitive abilities
  • Helps the body and mind to manage and cope with stress more effectively

So while the world keeps trying to push us to “grind all the time” and be Team #NoSleep, I strongly encourage you to prioritize getting the amount of sleep that you need to function properly and thrive!

Action Steps

  • Regular Schedule: Maintain a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends, to regulate your body’s clock.
  • Sleep-Inducing Environment: Create a bedroom environment conducive to sleep, such as cool, dark, and quiet.
  • Pre-Bedtime Ritual: Develop a relaxing routine before bed, like reading or taking a bath, to signal your body it’s time to wind down.

5. Journaling

I love journaling. There’s nothing more relaxing than dumping my thoughts out of my head and onto a piece of lightly scented paper. 

In your journal, you can express yourself freely without feeling judged for your intrusive thoughts and feelings. It helps you release pent-up emotions and free up mental space for thoughts that are more positive and productive.

Writing also helps you clarify your thoughts and concerns and come up with effective solutions to whatever problem you’re facing. 

It’s a great practice that I don’t think you’ll ever regret starting.

Action Steps

  • Consistent Practice: Aim to write in your journal regularly, even if it’s only for a few minutes each day.
  • Privacy and Space: Create a private space for journaling where you won’t be disturbed.
  • Reflect on Entries: Periodically read back through your entries and make note of your growth and patterns.

Pro Tip:

I like to start every workday with a brain dump session. It can last anywhere from 3 minutes to 25, depending on what I’m working on and what I’m processing mentally and emotionally that day.

By the end of my session, I usually feel so might lighter, happier, and more hopeful, and I typically have all of the answers I need to tackle the tasks on my ToDo list that day.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

6. Social Connections

Social media has definitely turned us into a society of socially awkward, mostly-antisocial people, but friendships still matter.

Regularly connecting with kindhearted, trustworthy people who respect and care for you can help lower your stress levels and feelings of loneliness and improve your overall well-being.

Good friends can also help get you through tough times, which can keep you from backsliding into bad habits that won’t serve you well in the long run.

An active social life also contributes to your sense of belonging and community, which can make life feel so much more bearable and even enjoyable.

Action Steps

  • Regular Check-Ins: Make a point to regularly check in with friends or family, whether it’s through a call, text, or in-person meeting. Become just as interested in their lives as you want them to be in yours. Not only can this help distract you from your own challenges, but it can build a deeper bond that leads to both of you feeling safe, seen, and supported.
  • Get Involved: Participate in community events, classes, or workshops to meet new people with similar interests.

    Pro Tip: Active groups are great because the feel-good endorphins will be flying, making it a positive atmosphere that’s perfect for building solid new connections. Try joining a hiking meetup, a biking group that goes out to eat after their rides, or a bowling league. (A super low-pressure but fun option!)
  • Be Proactive: Don’t wait for others to reach out; take the lead and plan outings to get the group together yourself!

7. Creative Outlets

Art is my favorite outlet. Whether I’m singing, dancing, acting, writing, painting, drawing, or everything in between, I am my best self when I’m being creative. Can you relate to this?

Engaging in creative activities can enhance your self-esteem and self-worth. It’s a great way to express yourself authentically and find the beauty in your unique form of expression, which can also help you to embrace and find the beauty in your unique traits and personality quirks.

It’s also a great way to make new friends while doing an enriching and deeply grounding practice. 

For example, art (drawing, painting, ceramics) is like meditative movement. Dance is the liberation of the soul. Singing is a great way to stimulate your vagus nerve and regulate your nervous system. (3) Sewing, knitting, and weaving also feel like meditative movements.

Expressing yourself creatively is a great way to nourish your soul and bring more beauty into your home. Who wouldn’t love that?

Action Steps

Explore Interests: Experiment with different creative activities to find one that you enjoy and find fulfilling. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Sewing
  • Knitting
  • Ceramics
  • Singing
  • Dancing
  • Writing
  • Painting/drawing
  • Playing an instruments
  • Carpentry
  • Photography
  • Gardening
  • Cooking
  • Jewelry making

Set Aside Time: Dedicate time in your schedule for creative pursuits. Treat this time as a priority.

Join a Community: Connect with others who share your creative interests, whether it’s an online forum or a local class.

Conclusion

Overcoming unhealthy habits and replacing them with healthy coping mechanisms is a process that requires dedication and patience. The benefits of implementing these strategies are endless, contributing to a healthier, more balanced, and fulfilling life. Begin with small steps, celebrate every success, and practice patience as you build these new habits.

Get instant access to the FREE 3-Day CognoZen Challenge to learn how to reprogram your subconscious mind for more wealth, happiness, & success!

What To Read Next

10 Signs Your BFF is a Keeper (And How to Be One, Too!)

The Affirmation That Helps Me Stay Calm In Every Situation

16 Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Failure and Achieve Your Goals

4 Ways To Shift Your Mindset From “I’m Not Good Enough” to “I Am Worthy”

How To Overcome Self Doubt By Challenging Your Inner Critic

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