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Are you a passive victim of these bad habits?

By Shameem Akhtar
January 23, 2015 16:49 IST
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Shameem Akthar discusses four such habits that can cause serious damage to your health

We often suffer the ill-effects of somebody else’s bad habits. This includes over-eating, overuse of electronic gadgets, smoking, and loud noises. 

To some extent, these dangers are being publicly acknowledged. For instance, public smoking is discouraged because it is now official that passive smoking causes as much, if not more, damage than smoking oneself.

Over-eating is also being seen as unhealthy. Even fast food joints make a show of giving smaller portions as options and offer healthier alternatives to the calorie-dense favourites.

There is also some amount of public outcry about mobile towers coming up, especially near schools, and there are gadgets and companies that can tell you how much electronic smog is assaulting you.

Despite this public clampdown, in private spaces we still allow those close to us to indulge in some of these habits that harm us as well.

Shameem Akthar, yogacharya trained with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, discusses four such habits.


Photograph: Neerav Bhatt/Wikimedia Commons

Over-eating by one person in the family can cause very strong reactions in the rest of the family.

For instance, a child could emulate the habits of the parent. Quite the opposite reaction too may occur; the child could become obsessed about losing weight and turn anorexic and bulimic.

If the dominant member in a family over-eats, the entire family will likely have the same eating habits because it is easier to fall in line than stand out against it.

Try establishing a consensus about what is the wrong food choice. If consensus is not possible, try loving coercion.

Obesity from over-eating can cause high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiac conditions and joint pains, to name a few problems, so it’s worth trying to change family eating habits for the better.


Photograph: Sarah Ross/Wikimedia Commons

Passive smoking is now accepted as being very harmful. Smoke that goes directly into the air from a cigarette or cigar is called side-stream smoke. It is harmful because the chemicals it releases are possibly different from those that are being inhaled.

There are said to be almost 4000 chemicals in any nicotine draft and it contains more dense particulates. This aggravates existing respiratory problems in passive smokers such as asthma and bronchitis.

It can create learning problems in children. It is said to be carcinogenic -- and is implicated in cancers of the lung, breast, brain, ear, nose and throat.

It can even affect the skin, weakening its immunity, and lead to skin infections and rashes.

Side-stream smoke, ingested by passive smokers, is said to affect even heart health by clogging circulation.

Excessive use of electronic gadgets

Photograph: Jessica C/Wikimedia Commons

The jury is still out on how much of electronic smog we are subjected to, and how much of it is harmful. For every warning of dire consequences, there is counter research saying that the fears are unfounded.

Nevertheless, it is a fact that we are being bombarded with electronic stress so it’s better to err on the side of caution.

The flickering light from electronic gadgets such as laptops and mobiles can affect the pineal gland and thus impact our sleep pattern adversely.

European research has consistently stuck to the position that even low level radiation is harmful, causing several neurological and cardiovascular problems and may be implicated in several types of cancers.

The effect may vary among those exposed to this continuous electric/electronic radiation. Those more sensitive to it could suffer from chronic fatigue, vertigo, skin or neurological problems. Other problems whose cause is unknown and passed off as “just in your mind”, could also be caused by low level radiation of this type.

Several European countries are taking steps to contain the damage. So, if you are a gadget-freak, you may want to worry about those around you who could be physically or emotionally affected by your addiction.

Loud noise

Photograph: Anirudh Koul/Wikimedia Commons

This problem has become all-pervasive. Sensitivity to it is dismissed as being too finicky or fussy, but for those sensitive to high decibels, the fallout is distressing. 

Exposure to loud noise is not always a matter of choice -- you cannot simply switch off if your neighbour keeps the TV on at full volume or the basti next door decides to celebrate with blaring music.

Nor do you ever get ‘used to it’. In fact, getting used to it only happens when sufficient damage to the delicate hair-like structures in the ear (which catch the vibrations that we call sound) is so severe that hearing is actually impaired.

Loud noise is also stressful. The biological response inside the body may be an adrenaline spike, which will escalate into a drop in immune strength, vulnerability to infections, insomnia, and emotional yo-yos amongst others.

A lesser known problem caused by high decibels is hyper-anxiety and digestive disorders.

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Shameem Akhtar