Longevity Articles

What Are the Beliefs Keeping You Unhealthy and Unhappy?

What Are the Beliefs Keeping You Unhealthy and Unhappy?

The mind-body connection is a complex and bidirectional relationship that affects much more than just your emotional state. The beliefs we have and the stories we tell ourselves day in and day out (sometimes true, mostly not) can have a significant impact on both our physical and mental health. In this article, we’ll explore the top beliefs holding you back from being the happiest and healthiest version of yourself and the best ways to reframe them to cultivate a better mindset with age. 

8 Mindsets Keeping You Unhealthy and Unhappy

Negative Self-Talk

If your inner monologue is constantly criticizing your weight, appearance, or character, it can be extremely difficult to feel good about yourself. These self-critical, pessimistic, and negative thoughts and stories can impact motivation, deplete confidence and self-esteem, and contribute to mental health disorders.

Chronic negative self-talk also has physical effects, including weakened immune systems, muscle tension, and poor cognitive performance. The mind-body connection is not to be ignored—it’s one of the primary beliefs affecting your health and happiness, and it’s essential to work on it to achieve better physical and mental health.

All-or-Nothing Mentality

Many people believe that they must overhaul their entire lives to become healthy or that exercise is only worthwhile if you leave drenched in sweat after two hours of hard work. Similarly, another belief is that one “bad” meal or day laying on the couch is enough to ruin their healthy lifestyle; therefore, they should throw it all out the window for the rest of the week. 

Believing that a tiny setback ruins your entire effort can lead to a sense of failure and discouragement. Health is not “all-or-nothing.” If you have one not-so-great day of healthy eating and activity, just return to it tomorrow. And when it comes to exercise, sometimes less is more. Overexercising can also be detrimental to health, and not everybody needs to perform intense cardio every day to be healthy (in fact, most people do not).

Ignoring Mental Health

Of course, ignoring mental health concerns is a surefire way to keep you unhappy—but it can also lead to several physical health issues. 

Symptoms related to mental health can take many different forms, including high stress, anxious or depressive feelings, low or erratic moods, poor sleep, emotional eating, and under- or over-exercising. 

When it comes to physical health, high stress can lead to elevated levels of cortisol, which can disrupt just about every system in our body, including cardiovascular function, immune health, digestion, cognition, and even reproduction. Similarly, depressive disorders are linked to faster biological aging.

Regular exercise is one of the best ways to improve mental and physical health simultaneously. However, there is no need to rely on exercise alone to improve a mental health condition you may have. Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider to receive the help you need. 

Addicted to the Scale

While body weight can be an important metric of health—and keeping an eye on your weight over time is beneficial—focusing too much on the number on the scale can be detrimental to some people’s mindsets. 

If you find yourself hopping on the scale daily (or multiple times per day) and notice your mood changes based on what you see, it’s time to reevaluate your relationship with it. 

As our weight can fluctuate by several pounds in one day alone based on what we eat, drink, and how much we sweat or exercise, daily weigh-ins aren’t even that reliable as a marker of our overall health. This is especially true if we strength train regularly, as we may gain weight via muscle—but that won’t show up on a regular scale. This can lead to feelings of discouragement when, in fact, our body is getting healthier by gaining muscle. 

If this sounds like you, try putting the scale away for a month and, instead, gauge your health by how your body feels and how your clothes fit. When you feel less “addicted to the scale” in the future, you could try weighing yourself once a week or every other week at the same time of day. 

Deprivation-Focused Diets

The thought that “eating healthy means being deprived of good food” is a detrimental belief. Healthy lifestyles are not meant to be deprivation and torture. Focus on healthy things you enjoy doing and eating. Just because someone who looks healthy is doing a juice cleanse and daily hot yoga, that doesn’t mean you have to (or should). Fad diets, extreme restrictions, and deprivation-focused diets should be a thing of the past. Aim for nourishing, filling meals that contain protein, healthy fats, polyphenol-rich plants and herbs, and fiber-filled carbohydrates. 


Common beliefs that can keep you in an unhealthy or unhappy state include “This is just the way I am,” “These are my genetics, and they can’t change,” or “I’m too old to start something new.”

None of these statements are true—but they are self-sabotaging and allow you to remain stuck in your current health situation. Even if your entire family has XYZ health condition, that does not mean you are destined to have it. Even if you are 80 and have never exercised, that does not mean you shouldn’t (safely) start working out today to improve your health. 

Like with negative self-talk, statements like these can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you constantly tell yourself that you can’t do something or that you’ll always be unhealthy, you will likely stay that way. 

Seeking External Validation

An overemphasis on external appearance or validation from others is a good way to stay unhappy. When you focus solely on your appearance, your overall well-being and happiness can decline.

While it’s not vain to care about how you look or present yourself, it’s harmful to your mental health to only care about how you look instead of how you feel. Seeking validation from others can lead to low self-esteem and many of the other harmful beliefs we’ve talked about already.

Instant Gratification

Lastly, the expectation of immediate results is a negative belief pattern. Our culture has become hooked on instant gratification, and the effects are starting to show. When we can now order food with the push of a button or open social media apps the second we feel a twinge of boredom, our sense of delayed gratification is almost obsolete. 

People expect overnight results when it comes to health and wellness, but real change takes time and effort. To improve this, start creating small milestones in your health journey and practice delaying smaller, more immediate rewards to build your tolerance for delayed gratification. 

Ways to Cultivate a Better Mindset for Health and Longevity

  • Set Realistic Expectations. Change doesn’t happen overnight. Although you may see small and beneficial changes in a short period—like brighter eyes, clearer skin, or less bloating—know that it can take weeks to months to see significant weight loss, muscle gain, or improved biomarkers. 
  • Non-Scale Victories. Health is about so much more than your body weight. Especially if you are negatively triggered by weighing yourself, focus on non-scale victories like your pants buttoning up easier, feeling stronger at the gym, being able to carry your child without tiring, or doing a strenuous hike that’s been on your bucket list.
  • Learn Hunger and Fullness Cues. If you struggle with emotional eating or boredom snacking, it’s essential to become in tune with your body’s hunger and fullness cues. Some tips include removing all distractions while you eat to focus on the food in front of you, taking smaller bites with time between each one, and asking yourself regularly (and attempting to answer honestly) where you are on a hunger scale of 0 to 10. Eating when your hunger is about a 3 (moderately hungry) and stopping eating at about a 6 or 7 (comfortably full or satisfied) is recommended.
  • Prioritize Rest and Recovery. If you identify with hustle culture, non-stop working, or over-exercising, your body is likely craving rest and recovery. You may have higher cortisol levels and chronic stress that is impacting both your physical and mental health. Adding meditation practice and prioritizing 7 to 9 hours of nightly sleep is a good place to start. 
  • Embody Self-Love. Negative self-talk is one of the leading causes of low self-esteem, which dramatically impacts mental health and happiness. Appreciate your body for what it can do and focus on overall well-being and mood rather than just appearance. If it seems impossible to talk to yourself kindly, start by listening to positive affirmations or a guided self-love meditation to begin training your mind to use kind words. 
  • Embrace Delayed Gratification. Instead of seeking quick fixes or drastic fad diets, aim for gradual and sustainable changes that lead to long-term success. Know that true change takes time. 
  • Emphasize Nutrient-Rich Foods. Healthy food is not all salads and green juice. While these foods certainly have nutrients, there are other ways to eat a nutritious diet that works for you. Some people do better with a gradual approach (i.e., adding one serving of vegetables to each meal this week, then adding another goal next week). In contrast, others benefit from a cold turkey method (i.e., throwing out everything in the kitchen and starting tomorrow with a healthy, low-sugar, nutrient-dense diet). One thing we all should do is eat adequate amounts of protein and high amounts of polyphenol-rich plants
  • Find Exercise You Love. If you hate running, don’t sign up for a half marathon. Do the types of exercise that you enjoy the most, and you will be more consistent. However, most adults lose muscle each year as they reach middle age and beyond, so adding in some form of strength or resistance training is necessary to combat these stats. 
  • Mindfulness and Mental Health. Incorporate mindfulness practices into your daily routine to stay present and appreciate the current moment. Meditation, breathwork, and gratitude practices can help you be more mindful, improve your mental health, and allow you to reflect on the positive aspects of your life. Plus, mindfulness practices are linked to longevity, cardiovascular health, and slower biological aging.
  • Embrace Change With Age. Everybody alive is also aging every day, and with age comes physical changes. You won’t have the same body as when you were 20, and that’s okay. We can aim for a strong and healthy body while still accepting that some things will be slightly different. Research has shown that people who embrace positive perceptions of aging live an average of 7.5 years longer than people with negative approaches to aging. 
  • Stop Self Sabotaging. A good place to start is by actively challenging and questioning the negative and self-sabotaging thoughts that pop into your head. Ask yourself whether these thoughts are actually true and whether there might be alternative, more positive interpretations of that thought. 
  • Find Your Support System. Health journeys can be challenging, and support from friends, family, or even strangers on the internet can be motivating and encouraging to keep going. Strong social ties are also linked to longevity, better mental and physical health, and slower signs of biological aging. 

Your Takeaways

Becoming the best version of yourself is about so much more than a number on a scale or what you eat for one meal. Real and lasting health and happiness come, in part, from shifting your mindset to one of self-love, gratitude, non-scale victories, and realistic goal-setting and exercise routines. Healthy beliefs also include a focus on delayed gratification, prioritizing mental health and recovery, and knowing that substantial physical change does not happen overnight. Getting stronger can have more of a beneficial impact on your future health than getting thinner, and creating solid support systems can have a tremendous effect on your journey to becoming healthier and happier. 


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Levy BR, Slade MD, Kunkel SR, Kasl SV. Longevity increased by positive self-perceptions of aging. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2002;83(2):261-270. doi:10.1037//0022-3514.83.2.261

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