You might be able to get away with putting your health on the back burner when you’re in high school and college, but bad health choices can catch up to you much quicker as you get older. Being healthy is a result of the good choices you make every day, and even the little victories matter. Regardless of your age, you should always take care of your mental and physical health.
Move your body in some way every single day. You don’t have to go out and join a gym that shoves protein powder and bulging muscles and uncomfortably tight spandex in your face all the time. Taking a walk around your neighborhood every morning before work or at night after dinner can do wonders. There are an infinite number of ways you can get up and move, and many of them are free. Move in some way every single day — and not just from the couch to the fridge and back (unfortunately, that doesn’t count).
Stop chasing the tan and start wearing sunscreen. Wear it every day, even if it’s cloudy or if you’re feeling like a lazy blob in the dead of winter. Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays can cause your skin to age prematurely, and it can cause cancer as well. Having a tan is a short-term benefit with potentially severe long-term effects. Putting your health (and your bank account) on the line for a dumb beauty standard is not worth it. If your friends make fun of you for being pale, you can make fun of them a few decades from now when they all look like dried up pieces of beef jerky.
Stop staring at your phone at night and go the hell to sleep. Put your phone away for eight hours, close your eyes, and get some rest. Seriously. Status updates will never be more important than being well-rested. Getting the right amount of sleep can improve your mood, keep your weight in check, and lower stress. It can also improve your memory and attention span, both of which will make you an efficient employee and an attentive friend or girlfriend.
Stop filling your body with crap and eat food that’s good for you. Diet Pepsi and salad is not a balanced eating plan. Eating healthy has so many positive effects ― your skin will look good, your energy levels will be higher, and your arteries won’t be clogged, to name a few. Replacing unhealthy snacks with fruit and vegetables and swapping sugary drinks for water or tea can make an enormous difference in how you look AND how you feel, and your body will thank you for years in the future.
Leave toxic people, places, and situations. Whether it’s a job that’s sucking the life out of you or a relationship that’s turning your hair white at the ripe old age of 29, it’s important to recognize when it’s time to walk away. Time is valuable, and you’ll never be able to get it back. When a situation is so stressful that it affects your health, you should take charge and do everything you can to get yourself out of it.
Be hard on yourself without being unkind. Don’t give yourself a free pass every time your life gets crappy. Being your own worst critic can help you find your weak points and make improvements much quicker than someone who’s constantly making excuses for themselves. Don’t go overboard and start hating yourself. Just find a healthy balance where you’re not afraid to call yourself out on your own BS.
Have a backup plan just in case. Life will throw a lot of curve balls at you, and your “Plan A” may fall apart no matter how well thought out it is. Having a solid backup plan will give you peace of mind and keep your stress levels low. You may not be able to save yourself entirely from disaster, but you can take steps to make the aftermath more manageable.
Don’t depend on others for happiness. Being happy on your own — outside of family, friends and a relationship — is a very valuable trait to have. When you can stand on your own without using another person as a crutch, your mental health will thrive and you’ll be a happier and healthier person all around.
Get off social media. When you scroll through Facebook and Instagram and look through the lives of your friends and internet strangers, you’re seeing exactly what they want you to see. If they want to cut the BS out of their own lives and present you with a flawless image of themselves, they can. Comparing yourself to the heavily edited lives of others will only result in misery because you’ll feel like an inadequate piece of crap who can’t measure up to their success. Your mental health can do without all that crap. Quitting social media entirely or reducing your usage will free up a lot of your time, and you can spend that time doing things that are actually worthwhile.
Stop surfing WebMD and actually go to the doctor. Getting yearly checkups will never affect you negatively. Being proactive about your body gives you an advantage in the long run with your overall health. You don’t really get second chances with your own body — if the damage is done, then it’s done. Going to see a doctor and taking care of yourself may spare you thousands of dollars in medical bills. Those appointments are well worth your time.