Something I’ve been reflecting on more lately has been self-improvement. Namely, I’ve been thinking that it’s something I’d like to write about more on my blog, since it’s always been such an important part of my life. Ever since middle and high school, I have always been interested in ways that I could better myself. I’ve tried adopting habits like meditating, creating the perfect morning routine, and learning study skills, all from my various quests for self-improvement over the years. Many of these habits have even stuck!
That being said, I firmly believe that establishing healthy habits in your 20s is key to staying healthy throughout your lifetime. When you’re a young adult, you’re building the foundation that sets you up for a lifetime of success. You might not think the way you eat or the way you talk to yourself now matters very much, since you have years ahead of you — but it matters in that, once they are established, bad habits are difficult to correct. You’ll be much healthier and happier in your 30s, 40s, and beyond if you set yourself up for success now.
Granted, I’m still working on building healthier habits. I’m trying to exercise more, which I haven’t done much of since the pandemic started. I’m also trying to be cleaner and more organized. As usual, the quest for self-improvement is never over, since we, as humans, are never done growing. But, I do think I’ve done a good job establishing a number of healthy habits throughout my 20s that will set me up for success.
These are 20 of those healthy habits — ones I think every woman should adopt in her 20s to set her up for a lifetime of success. While I say every woman should adopt them, I also recognize that building healthy habits takes time. It’s best to start with one small change at a time, and work to make them part of your routine before moving onto the next thing. Don’t feel pressured to be “perfect” or adopt an entirely new lifestyle at once!
1. Drinking Less Sugar
I’m not one to focus on calories, but I do think there is way too much sugar in everything. Instead of reading labels and stressing about the numbers, one easy way to reduce your sugar intake is to stop drinking sweetened beverages. Not long ago, I stopped putting sugar in my coffee, because I realized all that sugar adds up. Soda and juice (even the so-called “healthy” kinds like Naked) add up even faster. Like a lot of people, however, I don’t like drinking plain water all that much. Two things that helped me cut back on sweetened beverages are drinking green tea with lemon and drinking Spindrift sparkling water. Spindrift uses just enough real fruit juice to add flavor, but not enough to give yourself a cavity!
2. Going to Therapy
Maybe it’s that I’m a future therapist, but I genuinely believe that everybody should go to therapy at least once in their lifetime. Everybody has their sh*t, but few people realize how their past continues to affect them today. If you are interested in self-improvement, then going to therapy is one of the best things you can do. Interrupting toxic behavior prevents it from becoming a pattern that you pass down to your kids, and they pass down to their kids, and so on. Most people have learned at least one toxic behavior from their families. Let the cycle of toxicity end with you.
3. Joining a Gym
The moral of the story isn’t that you need to join a gym — it’s that you need to find the type of exercise you actually like and stick with it. Me joining a gym is the perfect example: I love to run, but I hate the cold. So, I joined a gym so I could use the treadmill instead of lying to myself that I would go for a jog outside in the snow. When your workout is miserable, you’re never actually going to do it. Whether it’s doing yoga, jumping on a trampoline, or riding a bike, find a way to get active that you genuinely love.
4. Watching Less TV
This wasn’t a change I made on purpose, but I do believe it has had a positive effect on my life. Over time, I found that if I wanted to keep up with my other hobbies, like bullet journaling and blogging, then I didn’t have time to binge watch entire seasons of TV shows in one day. Over the past year, I’ve watched exactly one TV show (Schitt’s Creek, for anyone who’s wondering). Watching less TV frees up my time for other, healthier habits — like reading!
5. Washing Off My Makeup
I admit that I am still working on this one, because sometimes I just want to collapse in bed at the end of a long day. However, I do think it’s essential to wash off your makeup every night before bed. Eye infections, pimples, and tons of other yucky problems can result from leaving the remnants of last night on your face while you sleep. If you’re super lazy like I am, I highly recommend getting a Makeup Eraser. Since you don’t need anything except water, it requires little effort to wipe off the day’s makeup — and it’s more eco-friendly than using disposable face wipes.
6. Making My Bed
Recently, I’ve started making my bed — and it has seriously transformed my morning routine. Something about having a freshly made bed helps me start off my day on the right foot. I like the ritual of it all, and it helps me clear my head and feel more organized. It’s also so much more satisfying to crawl into bed at the end of the night when it hasn’t just been slept in.
7. Embracing What Makes Me “Weird”
Throughout college, I was very self-conscious about some of my interests that were considered “weird.” I didn’t think it was cool to like video games or kawaii things, and thought I had to dress and act a certain way to fit in. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that I’m a lot happier accepting the things that make me “weird” and worrying less about other people’s perceptions of me. Sure, I know that people are judging me sometimes. But I’ve decided to actively try not to care about other people’s opinions. The only one that matters is my own!
8. Eating Real Meals
I don’t know which college girl needs to hear this, but coffee is not a meal! I used to pick up a Starbucks Frappuccino before night class and think that it was dinner. Not only is this a super unhealthy attitude to have toward food — I thought that eating less made me superior somehow — but it’s the worst way to fuel your body. Your brain needs carbs, fats, and protein to function optimally. Eating complete meals that combine all three keeps you full longer and helps boost your brainpower. You can’t focus on work or school when you’re starving. In other words, eating real meals can literally make you more productive!
9. Following a Budget
I am, admittedly, the type of person who spends more than she saves. While I still don’t save much, I have gotten much stricter with my spending over the past few weeks — a habit that I hope to keep up throughout 2021. Something about having adult expenses for the first time, like a car payment and rent, helps me stay accountable to my budget. Because I’m worried about the consequences if I can’t make my payments, I’m less likely to spend my money on frivolous or unimportant expenses before getting to the important stuff.
10. Starting a Bullet Journal
You don’t necessarily need a bullet journal to be healthy, but I do think a bullet journal has provided me with two much-needed things in my life. Firstly, it helps me stay organized. Everyone needs to find a system of organization that works for them and helps them keep up with important tasks. For me, that has been a bullet journal, but for you, it could be a digital calendar, to-do list, or something else entirely! Secondly, it has been a wonderful creative hobby that helps me express myself and gets me away from screens. In my opinion, everyone needs a hobby that helps them bring out their artistic side. Bullet journaling has accomplished that for me.
11. Ending Toxic Relationships
It took me a long time to value myself enough to want to leave my toxic relationships behind. In the past, I have had toxic relationships with friends, family members, and romantic partners. Previously, I felt trapped in these relationships, but no longer talking to my dad was the impetus that empowered me to stop letting people walk all over me. Now, I’m much more selective with the people I spend my time with, and I won’t enter a relationship — platonic, romantic, or otherwise — unless I’m certain it will serve me.
12. Quitting Drinking
I’m not morally against drinking alcohol, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that alcohol is a drug. The fact that it’s socially acceptable to drink alcohol (as opposed to snorting cocaine, for example) doesn’t make it any better for you. Besides the studies linking red wine to heart health, there’s no evidence that drinking alcohol has any benefits. Personally, I had a negative relationship with alcohol in college. Like most of us, I partied a little too hard at some points, and I think I was using it to compensate for my social anxiety. If you are still binge drinking in your 20s, it’s time to ask yourself why and get to the root of your relationship with alcohol. You don’t necessarily need to quit like I did, but you definitely can’t keep up these behaviors with zero consequences.
13. Gossiping Less
Seriously, if you don’t have anything more interesting to talk about than what other people are up to, then you should focus on making your own life one worth talking about! I’ve found that the friendships I’ve gossiped most in are often the least genuine. If someone doesn’t accept and embrace your unique interests, and you can only bond over your shared hatred of someone else, that friendship probably isn’t going to last.
14. Putting My Hair Up
Growing up, my parents used to tell me I should pull my hair off my face so that I wouldn’t break out, but I never listened. Now, I make an effort to put my hair up in a messy bun or pull back my bangs with a hair clip to avoid trapping oil and dirt beneath. I honestly believe making this change has reduced the number of pimples I get on my forehead, and it’s definitely helped my hair look less greasy between washes.
15. Not Using Credit Cards
In college, I accumulated a lot of credit card debt. Some of this debt, I don’t regret — it allowed me to travel abroad, for example. But a lot of the money I spent, I spent trying to compensate for insecurities and keep up with the Joneses of my college. I was in a sorority where a lot of the girls had more money than me, and I felt like I needed to present myself a certain way. Today, I am still repairing my credit score from the damage I inflicted. The only reason I’m not still in crippling debt is because I’ve been privileged enough to have money from my family. While I think it’s important to utilize credit in a healthy way to establish a credit history, I do think being unable to rely on credit cards has helped me feel the value of my money more when I spend it. A debit card feels less like a magical plastic card that will get me whatever I want because it’s directly tied to my bank account. I can’t spend money I don’t have with a debit card. Someday, I realize I will need to use a credit card again, but for now, I am more comfortable living without.
16. Getting a Pap Smear
A lot of women think they can put off their Pap smear because they’re young and healthy, but a cervical cancer diagnosis can change all of that in an instant. Whether or not you’re sexually active, you should get your first Pap smear when you turn 21. I don’t know about you, but a lot of women I knew talked about a Pap smear like it was a painful, invasive test. All that talk really intimidated me — but when it was time for my first Pap smear, I was actually surprised by how quick and painless it was. I remember asking my doctor, “is it over already?” because I expected something much, much worse. Long story short, don’t be afraid of getting a Pap smear, and don’t put it off until it’s too late.
17. Buying a Good Razor
I’m the kind of person who used to buy the cheapest razor, or the one that came in the prettiest color, rather than the one that would work the best. I’m also the kind of person who used to put off changing my razor blades, but this is another thing that I’ve recently started to rectify. As strange as it may sound, finding a good razor is as healthy as it is satisfying. Keeping your razor sharp and rust-free is important for good hygiene, especially if you shave “down there.” A gross razor can introduce bacteria that promotes infections. Personally, I’ve become a huge fan of my genderless Flamingo razor from Target, but many women are big fans of using men’s razors, since they tend to be sharper and come with more blades than women’s razors.
18. Finding the Right Birth Control
Having endometriosis and depression, I know the value of finding the right birth control method. It may take a few tries to find the right one, but once you do, it’s so worth it. For me, that has been the hormonal IUD, which does a good job of controlling my endo symptoms without worsening my depression. But birth control is highly personal, and I would never force my preferred method onto another woman. The takeaway? Don’t feel the need to put up with uncomfortable side effects when there are literally dozens of birth control brands out there. You should never be afraid to talk to your doctor about changing methods if your current one isn’t working for you.
19. Saying No
Throughout high school and parts of college, I was the type of person who couldn’t say no. I overcommitted myself because I thought that’s what I had to do to a) be successful and b) make people like me. But you should never feel like your success or your friendship is conditional on how much you can do for someone. I’ve had to learn to take a step back and not to say yes to commitments just because I want to please people.
20. Unfollowing Negative People
To be clear, when I say “negative people,” I don’t mean that in a toxic positivity, “no bad vibes” kind of way. I mean unfollowing anyone who makes you feel negatively about yourself. In my 20s, I unfollowed all of the influencers from my eating disorder days whose bodies subconsciously made me feel like mine wasn’t good enough. I got rid of anyone whose life appeared so “perfect” that it made me question the worth of my own. As a result, I think I have been a lot happier and experienced a lot less FOMO!