5 Self-Improvement Tasks You’re Doing that Make Your Life Worse

By Claire Fitzpatrick, D.C.

The things that we do every day – especially the little things – have the most impact on our lives.  

Conversely, little life tweaks can dramatically screw us up, too.

Here are 5 things you may be doing to improve your life that are making your life worse:

1. Trading sleep for productivity

I know you have a ton of things that you do every day. When you get home, it feels like a treat if you stay up one extra hour to watch Netflix.   

Skimping on sleep diminishes your health, productivity and state of mind (irritability, anxiety and feelings of loss and sadness without a specific reason). Going to bed on time and treating yourself to a nap when your body’s craving for one, by contrast, naturally improves performance, energy and mood.

Do you want your life to become unbearable? Me neither. Get your 7 ½ - 8 hours of sleep a night.  

2. Skipping your workout

So, you took my advice and now you don’t have time to work out because you got that extra hour of sleep.

Nope. You don’t get out of it that easily.

Working out is an investment. You should invest at least 4 times a week doing a combination of weight-bearing and aerobic exercise. You will find that the health and energy benefits actually FURTHER increase your productivity and effectiveness! You trade time for efficiency.  Now you have more time to do the things you love to do because you’re more effective – and healthy to boot!

3. Skipping stretching

You’re at the gym (or biking or running). Good for you! The hardest part about working out is actually getting there. So, pat yourself on the back for that success.

But, oh no! You only have a half hour to spend!  So, you think you could skip the stretching, or better yet, you’ll “do-it-later,” because you can stretch anytime.

First of all, you probably won’t stretch later.

Second, your muscles, tendons, and nervous system need oxygen to perform properly. When you work out without conditioning your joints and muscles, you risk injury (sometimes serious injury), and your workout is much less effective.

Do dynamic stretches in the beginning and static stretches at the end. Or make these your priority, and make sure you make time for both stretching and working out next time.

4. Taking a multi-vitamin

What? Of course, you should take vitamins, you say!  You pop that pill you got from Etos or Kruidvat every morning! Everyone knows you should take your vitamins.

Well, yes and no.

When it comes to nutrition, quality is everything.  The all-purpose, biggest-bang-for-your-buck brand of vitamin may actually strip your system of nutrients it already has, or heaven forbid, actually can hurt your cardiovascular system. Is your pee a crazy shade of neon yellow after you take your vitamin?  Do your skin and breath smell like chalk? Do you have diarrhea after taking your vitamins? Or constipation?

Our bodies are all different. What may work for one person may be harmful to another. It’s just more complicated than taking a big-box vitamin pill.

Talk with me (or someone else with advanced training in nutrition and functional medicine) about what’s right for you. If you’re a DIY kind of person, at least stick to organic, whole-food supplements. For instance, drink greens in the morning and reds at dinnertime.

5. Not stopping until the job is done

I’m guilty of this too. “When I've finished this, I'll get up.”

So, you sit in that chair for 8-12 hours cranking out the work, only stopping for a bathroom break when your bowels and bladder won’t take it anymore.  Or, you tackle your housecleaning or yard work like a fanatic, from dawn until dusk, without stopping, stretching, or taking a walk to take in the day.

You’re wrecking your body and your mind.

We all need breaks (see the sleep section). Our brains work best when we “clear the cache” and get some quality movement time going. Even if you have to set an egg timer (look how old I am) or your phone alarm to go off every 15-20 minutes, get up, stretch, move around. And every 1 1/2 hours or so, move on to something else. Come back to it in a rotation.

And for goodness sake, get out the door and take in some life, will you? Look at those canals and those wobbly houses! Why are you here in Amsterdam if you don’t get out and take a stroll every day?

Take the little things you do every day to “improve your life” and switch them out for quality time. I promise you, you’ll yield more time, accomplishment and quality of life than you would have. You’ll be shocked.