9 Dangerous Ways To Relax

Woman drinking wine on couch

Want to relieve anxiety, stress and boredom? Don't do these things.

Smoking Marijuana
Sure it's natural, but so is gasoline and poison ivy. Yes it's legal in some states, and yes, it has some real medicinal uses. Besides being able to listen to "Stairway to Heaven" 100 times a night, what did you ever really accomplish on pot? Sending out for pizza doesn't count. The active ingredient in pot, THC, affects the part of the brain where memories are formed. Regular marijuana use can lead to short-term memory loss, personality disturbances, depression and more of the very anxiety you hoped to cure by smoking it in the first place. A common bad reaction is acute panic anxiety reaction ... not very relaxing.

Compulsive Running
Nice slow jog, out in the park, enjoying the outdoors, check: Compulsive running? Don't add that to your list. One form of compulsive running is called exercise bulimia, a form of exercise whose main purpose is to purge the body of unwanted calories rather than to build fitness and health. High-intensity exercise, done repeatedly and compulsively, has no joy in it. It also raises cortisol, a stress hormone that shrinks an important part of the brain involved in memory, and expands an important part of the body involved in looking good — your waist. Never was the expression "moderation is key" so appropriate.

Video Games
Video games helped create a nation of young people who never talk to each other without using their fingers, but even worse, overuse of games desensitizes and isolates. When blowing stuff up becomes a daily and frequent part of your life, real tragedy can start to look like just one more special effect. Constant gaming helps program the brain to expect instant rewards, shortens the expected time between cause and effect, and makes long-term planning and nuanced thinking difficult. Your own imagination is the greatest entertainment device in the world — unfortunately it dies from lack of use when you live for Halo 3.

Late Night Eating
Remember the last time you went on a broccoli binge while watching late night reruns of Sex and the City? Late night eating is synonymous with junk food overdose. When stressed, tired or anxious, the hormone cortisol sends a signal to your brain to refuel for the coming emergency, usually on fat and sugar which is why no one ever comforts themselves with Brussels sprouts. Late night eating also increases insulin, the fat storage hormone, and virtually guarantees you won't burn fat while you sleep. One tried and true diet strategy is to stop eating after 7PM. It works like a charm.