Skip to content

Everyday Habits That Can Be "Deadly," According to Science

Stop doing these things and save your life.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

You never think too much about getting sick until you're sick. But what if some of the things you are doing every day—seemingly innocent things—are actually shortening your life? And what if just knowing about them, and making a few simple tweaks, could extend your life? Wouldn't you like to know what they are? That's why we collected the best advice from doctors about what everyday habits could be "deadly" and what you can do about it. Read on for five essential life-saving pieces of advice—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


You May Have an "Everyday Addiction" to Anxiety

woman on phone in bed

Dr. Jud Brewer knows how dangerous bad habits are and besides helping thousands stop addiction, he has also focused "specifically on how habits around anxiety are formed. We'll call it the habit loop," he has said. "First, something happens in your life. It could be good or bad. It's called the trigger. For example, what does it feel like when something good happens in your life? Let's use getting a funny text or watching a cute video on your phone as an example. Your brain says, oh, that feels good. Do that some more so you can keep that good feeling going. So your brain lays down this memory. Oh, next time you want to feel good and you should do that again. Now you start to associate that behavior with feeling good. The next time you hear that alert on your phone, that triggers your brain to act, oh, I should check my phone. The more you do this, getting an alert on your phone, leading you to watch a cute video, leading you to feel good. This works with negative emotions too," he says. "Have you ever just thought about how far behind you are on your to-do list or beating yourself up for making a mistake or missing a deadline at school or work? How does that feel? Not so good….This too lays down a memory."

Brewer encourages you (and teaches his clients how) "to recognize when you're caught up in these anxiety habit loops, how you're feeding them and how you can step out to break the cycle."

RELATED: 10 Ways to Look 10 Years Younger, Say Dermatologists


You May Be Breathing in Unclean Air Indoors

Air conditioner cleaning. Man in gloves checks the filter.

This is all the more important in the age of COVID: "Let's take one of the most basic habits that we do, which is breathing," says Dr. Roshini Raj. "So we breathe about 20,000 times a day. And we often don't think about it unless maybe we're short of breath on the treadmill or something like that. But the truth is we should be thinking about not only when we're breathing, but what we're breathing in and the quality of the air that's coming into our bodies. And one survey showed that about 50% of respondents thought that outdoor air pollution was worse than indoor air pollution. But the truth is according to the EPA, indoor air pollutants can have levels up to two to five times higher than the outdoor levels of air pollutants. And when you think about the fact that we spend about 90% of our time in our homes, we really want to make sure that air quality is good and good for us." Dr. Raj worked with Filtrete to get the word out; these tips are from a talk she did with them. to get the word out: "So if you're using a filter, you should make sure you want to change it every three months and check it at least monthly and just think about what we're doing when we're breathing and what we're breathing." 

RELATED: Best Supplements You May Need Now, According to Experts


You May Be Sleeping Wrong

African american millennial guy sleeping, lying on stomach in bed

"We're learning more and more about the importance of sleep and the quality of our sleep, not just the quantity of our sleep," says Dr. Raj. "We're learning that not only to sleep deprivation make you feel tired and cranky the next day, but it can really have some long-term impacts on your health—things like diabetes and cardiovascular risk and obesity and weight gain. So you really want to focus on how you're sleeping"—not just "trying to get those seven to eight hours, but the quality of your sleep. Are you waking up frequently at night? Is the position of your sleep affecting your muscles or back pain or your neck? Things of that nature really need to be focused on. Is your bedroom a conducive place for sleep in terms of lighting or how many flashing lights from technology you have going on? So that's another area think people really need to focus on."

RELATED: 13 Ways You're Ruining Your Body After 60, Say Experts


You May Be Overusing Technology

Man watching tv or streaming movie or series with smart tv at home

Dr. Raj says we may be "overusing technology. Now I'm not suggesting that we never use our phone or iPad or our tablet. Of course, I wouldn't be very successful if I tried to convince people to do that, but we do need to take frequent breaks from technology not only to mentally relax, but to physically relax our muscles. Things like an iPad or a phone, many of us when we use it, we're looking downward at it. And this really does put strain on our neck and on our back. So you want to, at least every 20 minutes, try to look away or try to keep it actually at more of your eye level. So your, and it's a neutral position for your neck. So you're not looking down or upwards, then you'll feel much better with it. And things like even watching TV, you want to take a break. You want to get that circulation going in your legs, and not just be sitting there for long periods of time."

RELATED: Sure Signs You're Getting Dementia, According to Science


You May Be Underestimating Your COVID Risk

Waiter coughing into elbow while serving customers in a restaurant.

If you've gotten by this long in the pandemic without getting COVID, you may start to feel complacent. Don't. Along with getting vaccinated, and wearing a mask, one thing you will want to do is avoid crowded indoor spaces, especially if you live in an area of high COVID concentration and low vaccination rates. The coronavirus spreads most efficiently in crowded indoor settings. If you're attending events maskless in crowded spaces that are poorly ventilated, you're putting yourself at increased risk for COVID. The virus spreads less well outdoors, but experts say you may want to wear a face mask in crowded outdoor settings where social distancing isn't possible. So be careful out there, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more about Alek
Filed Under