Did you happen to wake up this morning, eat a plant-only breakfast, workout for the recommended 30 minutes, keep your stress levels down, make zero splurge-y purchases, pack your own lunch, connect with your friends and family and disconnect from social media today? No? Cool. You’re right here with the rest of us mortals.
Before you think we’re giving you a free pass to do absolutely nothing to be healthier, listen up: We can all make changes. And just because you can’t be perfect about your habits—who among us can?—doesn’t mean it’s not worth working toward small changes that make you feel better.
Whether you start to adopt a few at a time, or vow to make them all a part of your life right now, here are 18 healthy habits every woman should have.
1. Start fresh every single day
It might sound a little corny, but every day could—and should—be considered a fresh start. Had a fight with your mom/boyfriend/landlord yesterday and didn’t resolve it? Had an awful day at work that you went to bed thinking about? Not thrilled with the way your friends treated you while you were out last night? Today’s a new day, and you should use it to approach the problem with fresh eyes and commit to either resolving the issue if it’s important, or move on completely if it’s something small or petty. You’d be surprised how insignificant problems might look once you put a few hours of distance between you.
2. Understand that exercise doesn’t have to be a big time commitment
We don’t have to tell you that the biggest healthy habit every girl should have is exercising regularly, although so many of us claim we simply don’t have time. We hate to break it you, but that’s not really an excuse, as there’s mounting evidence that short but frequent bouts of exercise can yield some major health benefits.
For example, a study published by the American Journal of Sports Medicine in 2006 showed that short walks after dinner were more effective than long exercise sessions in reducing the amount of fat and triglyceride levels in the bloodstream after a hearty meal, according to WebMD.
3. Drink something warm in the morning
A glass of lukewarm water with lemon (and cayenne pepper, if you dare) first thing. This morning drink gets your organs going, and fresh lemon juice and cayenne pepper both have major anti-fungal, immune boosting, and detoxification properties. Plus, Lemon juice is nature’s best tool for aiding in digestion and regularity, destroying bacteria and cleansing the system.
4. Cut back on evil sugar
If you cut anything from your diet today, make it sugar. In and of itself, sugar has no nutrients, no protein, no healthy fats, and no enzymes, making it empty calories that have disastrous effects on our health.
5. Clean smarter
Google “how to make your own cleaning supplies.” Seriously, do it now. It’ll not only save you money, but it’ll cut your exposure to chemicals.
6. Count to 10 when you’re pissed off
This healthy habit is one we all should adopt: Before reacting, take a beat. You’d be surprised at how much perspective you can gain in 10 seconds, as opposed to irrationally firing off an email, or confronting someone out of sheer anger before collecting your thoughts.
7. Start biking
Even if it’s just to do a few errands on the weekends instead of driving, cabbing, or taking the subway. Most cities have bicycle sharing programs for people who aren’t owners .
8. Put. Down. The. Cell. Phone.
Not only is it incredibly rude and predictable to always be on your phone, but obsessively stalking your cell before bed can have serious health effects. According ot the Daily Mail, staring at your mobile’s screen at bedtime causes people to take longer to reach the deeper stages of sleep and to spend less time in them. Bad news, as deep sleep is essential for your body to rejuvenate cells and repair damage suffered during the day. Seriously, Instagram can wait until morning.
9. Take care of your clothes
Wash them properly, hang them up, and fold them instead of tossing them on the floor, and get things repaired if needed.
10. Practice the 20/20/20 rule
If you stare at a computer all day with no breaks (we’re totally guilty), try practicing the 20/20/20 rule, which doctors say reduces eye strain and redness: Take 20 seconds to look at something 20 feet away every 20 minutes.
11. Eat whole foods as much as you can
Processed foods and sugar have been proven to cause inflammation and drops in mood and energy. Instead, it’s key to eat plenty of leafy greens, lean protein, good fats, and complex carbs, as these nutrients help keep our blood sugar levels in check, according to MindBodyGreen. Plus, Good fats like olive oil, avocado, even a little dark chocolate, as well as complex carbs like whole grains and brown rice also help to create feel-good serotonin.
12. Drink water
It’s not rocket science: If plants—which are living things—wilt without water, we will too. Try keeping a large water bottle at your desk throughout the day and refilling it each time you’re done. Water hydrates our organs and our brain, so we’ll not only feel more awake, but look it, too. Dehydration has been shown to cause agitation, fatigue, and general unpleasantness. If you’re freezing and craving something hot, drink green tea, which is packed with antioxidants due to its high content of flavonoids.
13. Stop beating yourself up
About every little thing that happens at home, at work, or socially. If you’re really regretful or unhappy about something specific (snapping at your boss, not calling your family enough, drinking too much at a friend’s party and doing something silly) address it head-on, otherwise move on. Harping on things can only add extra anxiety to your life.
14. Make your home a place you want to be
Spending a little time and money tweaking your crib to make it feel more comfortable is key to your well-being, and small things can can make a huge difference. Like what? For starters, try swapping out the lighting—replace all gloomy yellow-casting bulbs with those that emit white light (they’re the same price) or try “full spectrum” bulbs, which mimic natural light.
All-white walls can be depressing, and paint is the cheapest way to completely change your space, so why not find a shade you love and spend the weekend redoing your walls? From there, add a couple of new rugs, hang things on the wall, and decorate your desk, coffee table, or bedside table with fresh flowers and a stack of cool books.
15. Cook (a little) more
It’s unrealistic to expect busy women to cook every meal, but it really does make a difference in your overall health. A realistic way to go about it: replace one weekend dinner out with a nice meal made at home, and one takeout meal during the week with a healthy, easy dinner recipe.
16. Read labels
On everything, from food to cosmetics to shampoo. It’s important to take ownership of what you put in and on your body.
17. Listen to your body
You know what they say: Pain is your body’s way of telling you something’s wrong. That doesn’t mean every little ache is serious—most aren’t—but be attuned to your own body. On the same note, if you really feel that something isn’t right, don’t be scared to go to a doctor—isn’t it better to have piece of mind right away, than constantly worry?
18. Always, always, always wear a seatbelt
Even in a taxi. This one should be self-explanatory.