Behavioral Health, Mental Health, Wellness
As we get older, health and wellness becomes more important to prioritize. There are many ways in which we can improve both mental and physical wellness as we approach our 20s and beyond. Here are three major areas of your life that you can focus on to increase your overall wellness.
Cooking for yourself, even if you only make one meal a day, helps control your nutrition and saves you money. Starting your day with a protein-rich breakfast, including a variety of vegetables and fruit, and cutting back on sugar and empty calories all make positive changes to your overall health.
If you’ve ever struggled with your relationship to food, cooking at home or in your dorm can help you in other ways as well. Having control over what goes into your meals, the size of your portions, and when you eat can make it easier to change how you think about food. In their article “17 Simple Habits You Need to Adopt to be Healthy in Your 20s”, Sacha Strebe talks with registered dietician Michelle Babb about our relationships with food. Babb explains “If you respond to your body's requests and learn to be in partnership with your body instead of fighting against it or trying to beat it into submission, you will reap the benefits of optimal health that you can sustain with ease.”
If you don’t have the time or resources to come up with meal plans, you can add a meal delivery service or grocery delivery to your budget.
Adding exercise to your routine does not have to include a gym membership or a yoga studio, though of course it can. If you are a student, find out what free or inexpensive resources are available on your campus. There may be great hiking or biking trails nearby or even on your campus.
In her article for the New York Times, “The 8 Habits Experts Say You Need in your 20s”, Tara Parker-Pope talks about the importance of adding activity to your life. Even getting out for a half hour a few times a week, walking or biking instead of taking public transit, or stretching when you get out of bed in the morning can make a difference. If you prefer indoor activity, spending the day at a museum or even a shopping mall, as long as you’re on your feet and moving around, can help you stay more active. Always bring a water bottle with you to help you stay hydrated.
Your twenties are usually a time when you start living a more independent lifestyle, which also means you start taking care of yourself in ways you may not have been responsible for in the past. Practicing self-care ranges from simple health and hygiene—remembering to wear sunscreen, going to the doctor and dentist regularly even if you aren’t sick, and getting tested for STIs if you are sexually active. If you are sick, take a day or two off from work and relax while you’re at home.
Speaking of work, don’t be afraid to use your vacation days. Even taking a long weekend to unplug and decompress at home can help you take a break and reset your mind when you return. Striking a healthy work/life balance or school/life balance can help build a strong foundation for good physical and mental health.
Mental health can be harder to know how to treat. But taking time to practice mindfulness and meditation can help you relax and center yourself. Checking in with your stress levels and understanding when it’s time to see a therapist or psychiatrist is essential. If you haven’t been fortunate enough to find a job that you love (and even if you have), taking up a hobby or working on a passion project outside of work can help, if you have the time. If you’re attending school, taking an elective class or joining a club can serve the same purpose.
There are many other ways to increase wellness, including healthy sleep routines and regularly disconnecting from technology. What are your favorite wellness tips, and how to they change in your 20s?
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