Bad Habits to Break

We all have bad habits, some of which we don’t even recognise, but they can be unknowingly affecting our mental well-being.

Bad habits take time, perseverance and patience to break, but understanding our possible bad habits is a good place to start to begin the journey to overcome them and improve our mentality.

  1. Negative self talk
  2. Not moving your body
  3. Social isolation
  4. Lack of sleep
  5. Not taking time to relax
  6. Not taking time to be grateful

Negative Self Talk - whether in relation to our riding abilities, body image or personal achievements etc, negative self talk is a bad habit we may subconsciously allow to creep into our daily life.

Common forms of negative self-talk include: Catastrophizing- anticipating the worst, you lose a show jumping class and automatically think you will never win anything or be good at riding and beat yourself up for it.

Filtering- magnifying negative aspects of a situation, for example during a riding lesson you rode very well but you had one issue of missing a stride and this then becomes your focus, forgetting about the positive aspects of the lesson.

Polarising- you can only be perfect or you’re a failure.

Personalising- blaming yourself when something bad occurs, for example an evening planned with your friends is cancelled but you blame yourself and believe it was cancelled because no one wants to spend time with you.

Not moving your body - Profound research has found that moving your body by going on a walk, a run, horse riding or any form of activity that brings you joy greatly reduces anxiety by decreasing the reactivity of our fight or flight system.

Lack of exercise is not only bad for our physical health but also our mental health. Exercise increases our self-esteem and releases endorphins that trigger a positive feeling in your body. Whether it be a run, horse riding, walking the dog or lifting weights in the gym, make sure you prioritise time to move your body everyday.

Social Isolation - recent studies have found evidence to link social isolation with adverse health issues such as poor sleep, anxiety, accelerated cognitive decline and depression.

With technology making communication easier than ever, picking up the phone to a friend or joining Facebook groups with people who share your interests are a great way to talk to people when you don’t have time to meet a friend for coffee.

Especially with lockdown looming over our lives, it is important to upkeep social relationships. Additionally, research has shown the great social and emotional support animals can provide, so spending an extra few minutes with your dog, horse or cat just to be by their side can also offer social support.

Lack of sleep - Whilst it is difficult to upkeep a job, family time, relationships and exercise in addition to owning or working with horses, it can seem impossible to get the recommended 6-8 hours of sleep a night.

Prioritising enough sleep is important. Lack of sleep increases our chances of developing long-term mood disorders such as depression or anxiety. Tips to help improve our sleep include reduced caffeine intake, prioritising winding down in the evening and sleeping at regular times.

Not taking time to relax - Some people feel the need to be on the go all the time, and when trying to balance work, life and horses, it is hard to find the time to breathe and relax.

Prioritising 15 minutes a day, whether you use this to read, listen to music or just sit down and watch television, it is important to have time to switch off from daily busy lives. This reduces the risk of burnout and exhaustion, both of which can increase feelings of anxiety and low mood.

Try to spend 15 minutes a day with no distractions reading a book or a magazine whilst sitting down in a comfy chair.

Not taking the time to be grateful - With gratitude, people acknowledge goodness in their lives which help people feel more positive emotions, build stronger relationships, improves self esteem and enhances empathy.

Showing and feeling grateful can be done in a variety of ways for example through our language: Instead of “I have to go and ride early tomorrow morning” think “I get to go and ride tomorrow morning”. Being present in your daily life tasks by paying attention to what you’re doing and being ‘in the moment’.

Journaling is a proven way to practice gratitude; writing down positive experiences but also remembering the bad, in order to remember how lucky you are for the positive things you get to experience.


If you need to talk

Live text support:

07860 065 202

Call the helpline:

0300 102 1540

Or use the webchat button.

Article with kind thanks to Charlotte Spencer.