More Than a Workout: 5 Ways to Practice Healthy Living in Your 20s

writing a journalI was 25 when adult life started settling into place. Job performance reviews took the place of class grades. Networking events became acceptable evening plans. I could no longer wear pajamas during business hours.

I also started to redefine my definition of a healthy life. Healthy living, as it turns out, involves more than an exercise routine. While physical activity is still important, I discovered that it’s also essential to focus on caring for your overall health: mind, body, and spirit. Here are five simple ways to help you start a whole-body health routine.

1. Take a (responsible) risk

We spend most of our lives being told to fall in line. Risk-taking gets a bad rap, but when done responsibly, it yields incredible health benefits, like increased confidence, unique opportunities, and new outlooks on life. By taking risks, we are able to leave jobs, move to new places, and take solo vacations. I like to call these responsible risks. Responsible risks are crucial when making both big and small changes, and while they take a little planning on the backend, these gambles can be life-changing in the best ways. Before making any sort of change, I like to run through a little mental checklist to see if it’s really one I should be taking: Will this decision hurt me or someone else? What are the long-term consequences? What are the potential gains?

2. Floss your teeth regularly

A few years ago I read Laughing Without An Accent”  by Firoozeh Dumas. At one point in the book, she’s asked to make a commencement speech. Instead of offering typical post-college advice, Firoozeh encouraged the recent graduates to brush and floss their teeth regularly. There have been a number of nights when I’m already in bed, teeth pleading for a cleaning, and Firoozeh’s advice wills me out from under the blankets and to the dental floss. Caring about little issues, like clean teeth, makes it easier to care about bigger ones. Thanks, Firoozeh.

3. Eat at home

The first thing to slide when I left college was the whole three-healthy-meals-a-day thing. I once ate cheesecake for dinner three nights in a row. It was delicious and rather rich on the stomach. When it comes to food, I like to take the easy way out. My roommate’s Candy Club subscription? A balanced meal! Dash across the street for a burrito? Why not? As tempting as it is to snack in place of a meal or to go out to eat, I try to prepare a homemade dinner every night. Sometimes I dig up a recipe, but often I go to my old standbys of lentil sloppy Joes or black bean burgers. Homemade meals leave me feeling satisfied, plus it’s a great way to spend 20 minutes unwinding from a long day.

4. Strengthen your support system

It’s easy to take the people around you for granted. I never realized the importance of a strong support system until I graduated from college and moved away from my circle of friends. All of a sudden, I was in a new place where I didn’t know anyone. Luckily I had a couple of people who knew exactly what I needed—boy band memorabilia. Every year for Christmas, I can usually count on at least one memento to cheer me up, which is why I own a Justin Bieber towel and One Direction gel pens.

Find time to care for the people who care for you. Like every good relationship, those you have with your support systems need to be nurtured. Send handwritten letters, make spontaneous phone calls, and listen without giving unsolicited advice.

5. Reflect on your day

I’ve never been able to sit still for long. Activities like yoga and meditation are very low on my list of enjoyable activities. You know that time after Communion in church when everyone else is praying? Yeah, well my prayers go something like DearGodthankyouforthisdayandfor…I wonder what’s on Netflix. That’s a true story, by the way.

Despite these challenges, I do believe there’s value in meditating, or, as I prefer to call it, reflecting. A few years back, I came across a list of six reflection questions that I now use as prompts in my daily journal. It’s the perfect way to go over the day’s events, recognize patterns, and make changes that will help you and those around you live healthier, happier lives.

Kat Franchino

Kat Franchino hails from Wisconsin, a land of long winters and hearty folks. She graduated from the University of Montana with a degree in photojournalism. In 2014, Kat spent three months living with Catholic Sisters, which kick-started her quest to learn more about her Catholic faith. She is a freelance writer and the Marketing & Grant Writing Coordinator at the YMCA in Missoula. You can find her work at myotherbackyard.wordpress.com.