You’re young, you’re healthy, you’re going to live forever—only two of these is likely true for you (apologies if you’re a vampire). Most days, you’re ready to take on the world and possibilities are endless; some days, life hands you a big steaming cup of “nope” and you’re staying in bed until the sun takes the hint and just goes away (which may or may not also be a vampire thing).
The outside world may be out of your control, but it’s surprisingly simple, not to mention empowering, to feel like the ultimate YOU every day you wake up to it. Here are six healthy habits to adopt that’ll help you own life, 24 hours at a time:
1. Get your shut-eye.
Your inner party rock star may say, “Who needs sleep?” but your entire self realizes, “Oh, I need it!” To consistently get your best night’s sleep, you should first figure out how many hours you require to wake up fresh. Experiment by counting backward from your natural (meaning no alarm clock) morning rising hour, then set your nightly bedtime to that count. Also, make sure your room is cool, dark, and comfortable, and that your mattress is from this decade. If it isn’t, look into a bed upgrade.
2. Get sweaty.
Whether you love, hate, or really hate going to the gym, there are few downsides to exercise. Regular activity is great for keeping off weight and pumping the cardiovascular system, and it can also boost blood flow to the brain while minimizing feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress. When you exercise, your brain releases serotonin, which improves your mental state and makes you feel better about climbing that StairMaster to nowhere. If you can’t fit exercise in daily, at least make it consistent weekly.
3. Get (better) eats.
Sorry, the dollar menu just isn’t worth it. What you eat affects your mental alertness and mood, so a little meal forethought goes a long way. Carbohydrate-rich foods (like grains, fruit, and legumes) are metabolized into glucose, which your brain uses to stay sharp; problem solving, concentration, learning, and memory rely on glucose. For energy, get your proteins (chicken, tuna, eggs, lean meat, tofu, nuts, or Greek yogurt), and eat fruits and vegetables for vitamins and antioxidants.
4. Get a book.
Or a magazine, or a curated feed of articles, or even a Reddit thread; as long as you’re reading, you’re working your brain muscles. Same goes for good old-fashioned games like a crossword puzzle or a Sudoku—your mind needs as much upkeep as your abs, and the payoff lasts longer. Studies have shown that daily reading can slow later-life cognitive decline, keeping brains functioning higher and healthier. Staying mentally fit longer means living longer, because you’ll be there in body, spirit, and mind.
5. Get some.
Every women’s magazine and website out there seemingly wants to convince you that you’re not having enough sex … And, unlike their fashion forecasts, they may not be wrong. To paraphrase an old saying, an orgasm a day may keep the doctor away. “I call it getting your vitamin O,” OB-GYN and author Dr. Hilda Hutcherson tells Glamour. “Orgasms release hormones that boost emotional well-being and your immune system—and may even prolong life. If you don’t have a partner, for health’s sake, get a toy!”
6. Get out of your head.
Stress and anxiety just happen, but you have to work at relaxation—it makes no sense, but it’s so true. Whenever possible, set aside some “me time” to unwind, be it with yoga, meditation, or simply a quiet hour (or more). Learn to say “no” once in a while; you don’t need to do everything, all the time. Reflect, laugh at yourself, laugh at someone else (discreetly), let go. Practice relaxation, and it’ll be a valuable skill to call upon when you really need it—because, again, stress and anxiety come far too easily.
If jumping into all six at once seems like a lot, try one on for size each day of the week, then take a break on Sunday. You’ll notice the difference, and soon you’ll probably be doing all six (or even more) every day without even thinking about it. Don’t plan to feel better later—be better now.