10 Things You Should NEVER Do for Your Mental Health

Are you one of the millions of Americans putting your mental health in jeopardy every day through choices you consider harmless? Many people pile on their bad habits, like eating junk food, engaging in negative self-talk, skimping on sleep, or avoiding exercise. But you might be surprised at how these “small” decisions can have a big impact your mental health. Here are 10 bad mental health habits and what to do instead.

A single night of not enough or poor-quality sleep can lead to side effects like stress, sadness, irritability, brain fog, or feeling anxious. Click To Tweet


Want better brain performance, enhanced longevity, and sustained peace of mind? Avoid these 10 behaviors that can wreck your mental health over the long haul.

  1. Never believe every stupid thought you have.

Have you ever experienced an ANT attack? Automatic negative thoughts, or ANTs, can quickly spiral out of control. They take many forms, such as all-or-nothing thinking, mind-reading, blaming, catastrophizing, or comparing yourself unfavorably to others.

These kinds of thoughts skew our perceptions and can lead to serious consequences, like anxiety disorders and depression symptoms.

What to do instead: To fight the ANTs, put some distance between you and your negative thoughts by writing them down. Ask yourself if each thought is true—and are you 100% sure? How would you feel without the thought? Chances are, you’ll find the ANTs are knee-jerk reactions, not representations of reality. Don’t let them run (or ruin) your life.

  1. Never say everything you think.

Impulsively blurting out whatever pops into your head can get you into trouble. For some people, this is simply a consequence of not thinking before speaking. For others, it can be tied to attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD).

One of the hallmark ADD/ADHD symptoms is poor impulse control, which means that you might act or speak without first considering the consequences of your actions. You may say or do things you later regret, which can cause issues in relationships or at work.

What to do instead: If this sounds familiar, it’s helpful to pinpoint which of the 7 types of ADD/ADHD you have, then receive the proper treatment to reduce symptoms.

  1. Never stay up late and screw up your sleep.

To maintain optimal mental health, we need adequate rest every night. Sleep disorders are known to have a long list of negative effects on the brain and mental health. That’s because the brain cleanses itself overnight, eliminating toxins and metabolic waste buildups that accumulate throughout the day.

A single night of not enough or poor-quality sleep can lead to side effects like stress, sadness, irritability, brain fog, or feeling anxious. And persistent problems with sleep can compound to create larger issues, including higher risk of memory problems, dementia, depression, ADD/ADHD, and more.

What to do instead: Aim for 7 to 8 hours of shuteye each night to help keep these dangers at bay.

  1. Never eat everything you want.

Much of the food populating our grocery store shelves is ultra-processed, and too many Americans are addicted to it. Unfortunately, eating junk food gives you a junk mind.

The Standard American Diet (SAD) has been associated with an increased risk for memory loss, dementia, and cognitive decline. These foods can also lead to obesity, which itself can increase the risk for mental health conditions like depression, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, and social isolation. And, because these foods are addictive, they lead to cravings that keep people hooked.

What to do instead: Try a high-fiber diet with lean protein and healthy fats to fuel your body and mind, not destroy them.

  1. Never play contact sports.

Contact sports like football and boxing are notorious for causing serious head injuries, which are tied to mental health problems. Concussions and other forms of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)often remain undiagnosed and untreated, because they can occur unnoticed—without loss of consciousness, for example.

However, they can be insidious and pose serious threats. Contact sports are an easily avoidable cause. Head injuries can lead to symptoms like difficulty concentrating, problems with memory, moodiness, anger issues, increased anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts.

What to do instead: Stick with brain-safe recreational activities such as table tennis or walking in nature.

  1. Never be a couch potato.

Exercise is an elixir of life, with a host of benefits for the body, brain, and mental health. Sadly, many Americans don’t get enough—or any. Stats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that more than 60% of U.S. adults do not engage in the recommended amount of daily physical activity. An estimated 25% of them are not active at all.

This is problematic for many reasons. For example, the low blood flow associated with lack of movement is particularly detrimental to the brain and mental health.

What to do instead: Get moving, because physical exercise can help combat symptoms of anxiety and depression, improve sleep, reduce stress, and stimulate feel-good endorphins for an instant boost.

  1. Never overdo it with alcohol.

Alcohol abuse is linked to mental health issues. That’s no surprise, since alcohol is a brain destroyer in so many ways. It decreases brain volume and blood flow to the brain, harms new brain cells, and increases the risk for dementia, to name a few.

Mental health challenges associated with heavy drinking include anxiety, depressive disorder, ADD/ADHD, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and increased suicide risk. But keep in mind that consuming even a “moderate” amount of alcohol has zero benefits—and is associated with a long list of risks to your health.

What to do instead: Skip the booze and opt for nonalcoholic beverages that hydrate the brain and enhance mental wellness.

  1. Never focus on what you don’t like.

Our brains are naturally hardwired to scan for threats, but always seeing the glass half-empty can take a toll on mental health over time. A negative mindset is associated with everything from depressive disorders to suicidal thoughts.

Negativity can take the form of feeling hopeless and helpless, adopting a victim mindset (blaming others), or engaging in defeating self-talk. Yes, we do want some level of anxiety in life—it keeps us human beings cautious and alive—but we don’t want our brains to swim in a constant toxic stew of fear, overwhelm, and powerlessness.

What to do instead: Practice gratitude to help offset the inherent human negativity bias.

  1. Never smoke…anything.

Not too long ago, people believed (and tobacco companies advertised) that cigarettes were an effective stress reliever. More recently, the loosening of laws around marijuana has led to more Americans using this drug (as well as vaping, a cigarette alternative) for supposed relaxation.

But the Mental Health Foundation reports that nicotine actually increases anxiety and tension, due to withdrawal symptoms and cravings after consumption. Then, as with any addictive substance, more is needed over time to obtain the same effects. Marijuana, meanwhile, can lead to serious mental health concerns, including psychosis and an increased risk for depression symptoms and suicidality.

What to do instead: Ditch smoking and find healthier ways to enhance relaxation.

  1. Never take medication based solely on symptom clusters.

While modern medicine is a lifesaver for certain illnesses, prescribing meds for mental health conditions can be a trickier proposition. For example, mental health symptoms can overlap, making the root cause more difficult to pinpoint.

One condition can emulate another. Or one condition can trigger a secondary issue. These are just some reasons why only noting symptoms should not generate the final word on diagnoses.

What to do instead: It’s crucial to collect biological data, such as brain SPECT imaging and lab tests, to confirm the root causes of mental health conditions. After all, the right treatment plan—and the path to better mental health—can only start with the correct diagnosis.


It’s clear that seemingly small choices can pile up and wreak havoc on our brains, bodies, and mental health. But it works the other way, too: Minor changes, performed over time and with consistency, can lead to major improvements. Eating a healthy meal, taking a brisk walk, and practicing sound sleep hygiene are just a few simple ways to start on the road to better health today.

Depression, anxiety, memory problems, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 866-411-4513 or visit our contact page here.


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