In this first decade of adulthood, it’s common to feel invincible, as though your health is protected by the sheer buffer of youth. Of course, you might be able to ride out these years of college on fast food takeout, Greek life parties and all-night cram sessions. But while they do not always have an immediate effect, too much of those habits could wear on you in the future, so now is the time to practice healthy behaviors also.
“There’s no doubt that how you live in the first half of your life not only impacts your current state, but also affects how healthy you’ll be in the second half of your life,” points out Dr. Erin Michos, associate director of preventative cardiology at The John Hopkins University. In fact, the choices you make while still in your 20s can help mitigate the risk for issues such as diabetes, heart conditions, stroke, cancer, dementia, or high cholesterol and blood pressure in later years, she continues.
When you add in the climate of elevated stress right now, you could be at risk for chronic immune, digestive, sleep, reproductive and emotional disorders too, warns the National Institute of Mental Health. Life is unpredictable and insecure at times, but one area you do have control of is your own wellness, so commit to these four habits in your 20s and reap the benefits of long-term vitality for decades to come.
Find Enjoyable Activities to Move Your Body
It’s well established that a consistent exercise regimen is important, but if you associate this with tedious repetitions of crunches, squats, lunges and pushups, then your workout routine needs a fresh jolt of stimulation. “With stay-at-home orders, social distancing, and new hours [or] temporary closures for gyms, you might be burnt out on indoor fitness,” EPOCH Clemson Student Living notes. In the warm summer months, now is an ideal time to be active outside with exercises like running, beach volleyball, swimming, basketball and outdoor yoga. Aside from being fun, these also increase flexibility, endurance, coordination, muscular strength and cardio function.
Seek out Resources to Care for Mental Health
Over the past 10 years, the number of young adults who are vulnerable to depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and other related concerns has increased drastically, based on data from the American Psychological Association. If your own mood state has worsened lately due to social detachment and isolation, negative media consumption, or uncertainty about the future, look for ways to prioritize mental health. Some therapists offer virtual counseling, or if you need resources that are free of charge, tune into these mental health podcasts. Even calling, texting or Zooming with a safe, trusted friend or family member can do wonders to regain emotional stability.
Teach Yourself How to Cook Nutritious Meals
When it’s close to dinner time, do you turn on the stovetop or call for pizza delivery? If you chose the second option, consider learning some nutritious recipes to slot into your evening routine instead. “Cooking at home is the healthiest and most fiscally responsible way to eat. Many forego it in favor of takeout to save time and because they don’t know how to cook. A young person living at home or at school doesn’t always have a need to cook, but upon graduation, it becomes a necessity,” remarks Frances Bridges, advice writer for 20-somethings. Use this YouTube video as a reference point for quick and simple meals with basic, fresh, wholesome ingredients.
Set Aside Time to Unplug and Just to Be Alone
There is a crucial difference between forced loneliness and intentional alone time–the first is unhealthy, but the other is a form of self-care. “Making the choice to be alone can help you to develop who you are, your sense of self and what your true interests are […] Time with your thoughts sans social distractions can also be restorative, build your confidence and make it easier for you to maintain boundaries,” according to an article in The New York Times. So create a ritual around turning off your devices and social media to participate in a solo hobby that nurtures relaxation. Write in a journal, read a novel, listen to music, work on a craft project or listen to a meditation.
What kinds of health initiatives and practices do you plan to start in the summer months ahead? How has caring for your wellness helped to manage the stress of COVID-19? Share your thoughts, ideas or experiences in the comment section below.