Breaking the Myth: Unhealthy Habits Are Your Key to Success

Neha Rose Roy

Edited by Brooke Thimmig

High school is a staple of adolescent nightmares and has become home to dark circles and sleepless groans of students trying to succeed in our exceedingly competitive society. With single digit college acceptance rates and child prodigies being churned out by the hour; pulling all-nighters, skipping meals, and popping performance enhancing pills have become a part and parcel of many aspiring students’ daily routine.

THE DEFICIENT FACTOR – Students often assume that spending long hours indoors, cramming information printed in never ending stacks of books, and chasing that perfect 4.0 is worth the lack of exercise, sunlight, proper meals, spaced breaks, and social, emotional, and mental stability – things that would have in fact helped them perform better. Considering all of the above, it comes as no surprise that in 2015, it was observed that four out of every ten teens slept less than seven hours a night – a habit that often results in memory loss and depression.

THE ENHANCEMENT FACTOR – The path to success has often led students to take special medication to enhance their cognitive abilities and concentration levels. As a matter of fact, a study at the University of Kentucky observed that 30 percent of its students had abused an ADHD stimulant drug like amphetamine, commonly known by the brand name, Adderall, at some point or another, as a possible “study/focus enhancer.” The list of long term side effects of such abuse includes addiction, cardiovascular problems, tremors, and insomnia among others. Also, it is important to note that ADHD medications like Adderall will not give their desired, therapeutic effects of improving focus for a student unless the student actually suffers from ADHD. If you do not have the disease:

  1. You can not be prescribed the drug by a doctor, so it is illegal to be in possession of and to take Adderall.

  2. Adderall will not improve your focusing abilities, so all the drug does for a person without ADHD is act as an addictive, strong, and harmful stimulant.

So, if all you can use Adderall for is to stay awake, try using safe, low doses of caffeine that can be found in coffee and tea instead.

THE HEALTHIER ALTERNATIVE – If you take all of this into account, the presumptions we have of destroying our body and personal life for success, deserve more reflection. We don’t need to picture tired-eyed valedictorians, and exhausted seniors dreading each day of school. In fact, by looking at the statistics, the need for developing healthy habits is more important than ever. Through the incorporation of the following strategies, you will be able to achieve some balance in your daily routine and break the myth of requiring to sacrifice your mental or physical health for grades.

  1. Exercise: The age-old saying that “a healthy body leads to a healthy mind” does hold some water – research has found moderate levels of exercise can result in increased cognition, problem-solving capacities, and alertness. Students should strive for 60 minutes of physical activity a day including intense activity 3 days a week.

  2. Marinating a Proper Sleep Schedule: A 2006 study from the Harvard Medical School found that sleep actually aids in developing better memory and retention. To reap the multitude of benefits offered by a healthy amount of sleep, set a timetable every day which allots time for daily activities ensuring a fixed bedtime that will allow you to get the recommended 8-10 hours of sleep.

  3. Eat Healthy: While the quick fix that junk food offers may seem tempting, a nutritious diet is a crucial element of a healthy lifestyle. In order to succeed one must ensure that they’re treating their body with respect. In fact, small snacks like almonds and fruits can be easy additions to study sessions.

  4. Develop a Positive Mind-Set: It’s easy to bring yourself down, especially when you set very high goals. In such instances it’s important we find the humour in life (failures often make great stories), and focus on the good things, no matter how insignificant they may seem. A positive mindset will help propel you towards a lifetime of success.

  5. Relax and Unwind: Finally, remember to make time for yourself. While chasing our goals, we may sometimes lose sight of our passions. Go through your schedule and fit in some time for the things you love, whether it’s art, music, or even watching movies and TV shows.

Our school life is a balance of life-long memories, everlasting friendships, and knowledge we’ll take forward. While success is important, one’s health – both physical and mental – is nothing to take lightly. So keeping all these tips in mind, remember to enjoy your teenage years, and make them a period of time that you can look back to with fond memories, a smiling face, and a warm heart.