Your 9 Unhealthiest Habits and Apps to Help You Break Them

Person accesses apps from his device.

Person accesses apps from his device | iStock

We all have bad habits; some of them are worse than others. And plenty of bad habits may actually slowly kill you. Most of us have the vague intention of breaking our bad habits and gradually improving our health. But it’s pretty hard to make meaningful changes when you only have a vague idea of what you want to change and exactly how you will change it.

You may not be guilty of sitting all day, indulging in late-night Netflix binges, or smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. But it’s a pretty good bet that with a little soul-searching, you’ll admit that you have some unhealthy habits. Fortunately, even your unhealthiest habits may not be as tough to break as you think.

There may not be an app for everything. But thanks to the huge number of apps for Android and iOS, we’ve gotten pretty close. If you want to be healthier and happier — who doesn’t? — then an app may be just what you need to nudge you in the right direction and keep you moving. Read on to find your unhealthiest habit and find the app that will help you make better choices.

1. Sitting all day

Man slumped over his desk at work.

Staying sedentary at your desk all day is bad for your health | iStock

Scientists have established that sitting all day is pretty terrible for you. Staying glued to your desk is bad for your heart, can make you gain weight, and increases your risk of developing illnesses like cancer and diabetes. Exercising regularly isn’t enough to offset the terrible health effects of staying sedentary for long periods of time. So your best bet is to try a standing desk at least part of the time and take regular breaks to walk around the office or stroll around the block.

You can use a fitness tracker or smartwatch, like the Apple Watch, to remind you when you need to stand up and move around. But you don’t have to buy a new gadget to remember to get active. An app like Get Moving will help you track how active you’re being. Even better? You can use Get Moving to be reminded of when you need to stand up from your desk and move around. The app can help you keep track of the times you’re inactive. And it can automatically detect when you’re sitting or moving around so that you don’t have to tell it when you’re taking a break.

2. Subsisting on junk food

Junk food consisting of fries, onion rings, chips, soda, and a burger.

Subsisting on junk food and fast food is a pretty unhealthy habit | iStock.com

We all know that junk food is bad for us. But we continue to eat diets that are heavy on processed foods — and light on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. We can blame our busy schedules at least in part. After all, who wants to spend an hour or two in the kitchen after a hectic day at work and a trying commute home? Most of us don’t want to do that, and a lot of us are way too familiar with food delivery apps and all of the tempting, but usually unhealthy, takeout options they offer.

The solution is to make it easier to avoid junk food and to establish healthier eating habits that are almost as easy as heating up a frozen pizza. If you want to lose some weight (which, we must point out, isn’t the right goal for everybody), you can use an app like Fooducate to be more conscious of what you eat, make better diet decisions, and discover healthy new recipes. Use Yummly if you want to prepare healthier meals and find fast but nutritious recipes.

Another option: Consider shopping with Thrive Market if you want to have healthy, organic groceries delivered to your door — making it much easier to get in the habit of choosing healthier foods.

3. Eating because you’re stressed

Pretzel snack mix

Stress-eating usually results in some pretty non-nutritious decisions | iStock.com/Kurt Holter

Another food-related bad habit that many of us need to break? Stress eating. Food (especially the unhealthy foods we tend to crave) proves to give your mood a boost. But stress-eating junk food is pretty bad for your health. Break the habit by taking better care of yourself. Take a moment to evaluate why you reach for the chips or the cookies. Are you procrastinating? Are you lonely or sad or stressed? A walk around the block or a quick call to a friend may be a better way to fix your mood.

Plenty of apps can help keep your stress in check. Some of our favorites? Calm and Headspace can guide you in meditation, which is a useful way to take some time out of your day and clear your head. Pacifica combines cognitive behavioral therapy and meditation to help you manage your stress. Happify helps you improve your emotional health and well-being with tools based on evidence-based interventions in psychology, mindfulness, and cognitive behavioral therapy.

4. Drinking too much alcohol

friends drinking beer together

Drinking excessively is a bad habit — one that you probably want to break sooner rather than later | iStock.com

Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol may not be terrible for your health. But drinking heavily on a regular basis isn’t doing you any favors. And thanks to the calories in drinks like beer, your drinking habit may contribute to unwanted weight gain. Drinking alcohol feels good at the time, but it can also up your risk of developing high blood pressure or even certain cancers. You don’t have to stop drinking altogether. But you should make an effort to slowly change your habits. Try not to drink something alcoholic every night, and enjoy your drinks slowly.

A few apps can help you stop drinking altogether. But if your goal is primarily to cut down on your drinking and be more mindful of your habits, you may find it useful to try an app like Coach.me. It can help you track your habits (in this case, your alcohol consumption), and give you access to coaching that will help you to establish new, healthier habits. Quit That! can help you out if you want to stop drinking altogether.

5. Neglecting to drink enough water

Man wearing gym clothes and a gym bag grabs fruit and a bottle of water for after his workout

Most of us don’t drink enough water on a daily basis | iStock

Many of us don’t drink enough water. Some people don’t like drinking plain water. Others prefer sweeter drinks, or those with more flavor. And still others just can’t remember to drink enough water during the day. Exactly how much water you need is pretty individual. But you can probably tell if you aren’t getting enough. By drinking more water, you’ll likely feel better and get fewer headaches. Plus, you may crave sugar less often and even experience fewer mood swings.

A few apps specifically help you remember to drink more water. Waterlogged, for instance, enables you to track your water consumption daily and over time. The app will also remind you when you should drink a glass of water. The idea is to help you make a habit of drinking more water, whatever your personal goal is. Plant Nanny may be a good app for you if you want a more fun way to remember to drink more water every day.

6. Avoiding the gym

People exercising in gym

Skipping out on the gym is a bad habit for many of us | iStock.com/nd3000

We come up with plenty of reasons to avoid the gym. Getting there takes time. Figuring out what to do once you’re there can be difficult. And interacting with all of the people you encounter at the gym can be a bummer when you’re an introvert or just like to keep to yourself. That goes double if you get the feeling that the other people at your gym are judging you. A great solution is to use an app that can help you find the sort of workout that you love and add variety to your routine.

Aaptiv, for instance, solves the problem of not knowing what to do once you get to the gym. The app gives you access to great classes in running, cycling, elliptical, yoga, strength training, and race training that you can complete either at the gym or even in your living room. Aaptiv’s trainers will motivate you, and the app’s music library will keep your energy up throughout challenging workouts. Other options? Sworkit offers you personalized video workouts, and 7 Minute Workout offers extremely popular routines for busy people.

7. Cutting your sleep short

Source: iStock

Many people don’t get enough sleep — which is a lot worse for your health than you think | iStock

It’s pretty unlikely that you’re getting enough sleep. We’re all busy. And we have devices that keep us wide awake even when we’re lying in bed and should really be sleeping. But failing to get enough sleep is bad for your heart and brain. (It’s also pretty bad for your mood, and it might mean that you rely on caffeinated drinks that aren’t healthy, either.) Your best bet is to try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day, and to stop staring at your phone, TV, or tablet right before you go to bed.

If you have an iPhone, you can use the Bedtime feature in iOS 10’s redesigned Clock app to get reminders on when you should go to bed to get enough sleep before your scheduled wakeup time. Alternately, you can use Sleep Cycle to track your sleep habits. Azumio’s Sleep Time can also analyze how you’re sleeping, and wake you up in your lightest sleep phase for a less jarring wakeup.

It’ll still take some willpower to put down the screens in the hour or two before you go to sleep. But being mindful of your sleep habits is a step in the right direction.

8. Staying up late to watch TV (or Netflix)

Three happy friends watching tv

Routinely staying up late to watch TV can catch up with you in the long run | iStock.com/AntonioGuillem

A related habit? Staying up late at night to watch television or binge-watch Netflix’s latest hit. Many of us find that the only time we have to relax is late at night, when we should really turn in for the night instead of unwinding with a TV show. The best solution is to do a better job of managing your time. Leave some of the household chores or worrying over work emails until the next day. Figure out when the TV (or laptop) should be turned off — and stick to it.

The easiest app-based way to limit your TV or Netflix time is just to set a timer or an alarm when you start watching. When the alarm goes off, it’s time to quit watching. The basic clock app on your smartphone should suffice, but you can also try a gorgeously designed alarm app like Rise, which can also lull you to sleep with a playlist once you turn the TV off. Or, you can try out Timer+ and More Timers for more options.

9. Neglecting to wear sunscreen

man applying sunscreen to spend time at the beach

It’s important to wear sunscreen, but few of us make a habit of it | iStock

Skipping sunscreen is a pretty easy thing to do. Most of us don’t spend enough time outside on a daily basis to actually get a sunburn. And some of us tan instead of burning. But neglecting to wear sunscreen can cost you in the long run, since even a light tan means that your skin is damaged, and each sunburn that you get during your lifetime ups your risk of developing melanoma in the long run.

Fortunately, a few apps can help you remember to apply (and reapply) sunscreen. UVLens, for instance, helps you plan the best times of the day to be outside and to determine your risk of getting a burn. It also helps you to figure out when you should apply sunscreen. Sunscreen Helper can also help you to monitor your UV exposure and figure out the right sunscreen for your skin type; it also sends you notifications to remind you to apply sunscreen.