The 5 Health Goals You Should Have In Your 20s
The biggest challenge faced by twenty-somethings is how to make time for your health in an already jam-packed schedule.
Often, the hardest part is knowing where to start.
Here are the top 5 health goals you should have in your 20s – and some easy ways to get the party started.
#1 Make sleep your friend
Just because we can go without sleep doesn’t mean we should. Don’t forget that a ‘sleep debt’ needs to be paid back – and like with your finances, the longer you leave it, the heavier the penalties will be.
Susceptibility to illness and a greater demand on other resources like diet are an inevitable part of compounded exhaustion.
One of the reasons why sleep is so important is because it helps to reset a lot of the different energy signals constantly traversing your brain. It also helps to lay down memories so that you’re able to better recall what you’ve studied and helps to detoxify a lot of potentially harmful chemicals.
Try committing yourself to five ‘before midnight’, eight-hour sleeps a week and reserving two days a week for those unavoidable late nights.
When you are well-slept and energised, your to-do list will feel all the more manageable.
#2 Eat for energy
The key to eating well is organisation. If you like to prepare your own meals, dedicate some time to buying fresh ingredients and planning your meals in advanced.
If you are time-poor (or don’t like to cook) do your research and investigate healthy take-away options in your neighbourhood so that you can get a healthy meal quickly and easily – that doesn’t cost a fortune.
Eating should be about giving your body what it needs to perform at its best capacity.
Instead of eating foods to achieve an aesthetic goal, or eating out of convenience or boredom, eat foods that will give your body the energy it needs.
When treating yourself, do so with a sense of celebration – and not consolation. Be conscious of turning to food as a crutch.
If you’re worried about finding the willpower to eat well, you’ll be pleased to know that the healthier you eat, the more your body will crave what it needs.
#3 Be mental health aware
Many of us don’t pay attention to our mental health until we experience something that needs urgent attention.
Self-care might be as simple as talking out your feelings with a friend or relative, keeping a journal for some daily reflection, or just dedicating some solo time to going for a walk.
There are also a lot of fantastic learn-to-meditate apps for your phone. A great, easy-to use option is ‘1 Giant Mind’; of the paid apps, ‘Buddhify’ is very user-friendly, and offers how-to’s for a multitude situations (e.g. ’walking through the city’, before bed’, ‘stressed at work’).
If you think you might require extra assistance, I recommend having a chat to your GP and asking about taking advantage of the government-subsidised therapy sessions with a psychologist of your choice.
#4 Be sexually responsible
For many of us, our twenties are a time to work out who – and what – we are into sexually.
It’s important to remember that many of your peers are still working things out for themselves too. As such, it’s important to practice sex that is safe and responsible.
This means never assuming the STI and HIV status of any of your partners and always using protection.
For those sleeping with men, condoms are still the safest form of contraception. For women, a diaphragm or dental dam is a great way to play safe.
Put a six-month STI/HIV screening into your diary (it may help to group it together with your six-monthly dentist appointment to help you remember it). Some major cities have free sexual health clinics, so this might not even cost you at all.
#5 Work out what fitness means to you
You can’t open Instagram these days without being faced with seemingly impossible standards of physical fitness.
While social media presents itself as ‘real life’, it’s important to remember that many of the representations of bodily perfection we see online are the result of a full time occupation.
For the rest of us, the notion of ‘fitness’ is all about working out what that means to the individual. I like to encourage patients to make ‘vitality’ or ‘feeling energised’ their measure of fitness, not just an external indicator like being skinny or having a six pack.
A healthy lifestyle is all about integrating exercise into your lifestyle in a way that feels harmonious and rewarding. If motivation is an issue, try combining it with something you love, like catching up with a friend for a walk or run – which is better than basing all socialising around drinking alcohol.
Exercising for 10 minutes a day, five times a week has been proven to be more effective than one hour-long session – so take pleasure in making small steps to your fitness goals and train your brain to crave that daily endorphin release.
The main ingredient of a healthy lifestyle is that you spend your time doing what makes you feel (truly) good – and surround yourself with people who make you feel good too. Your 20s are some of the best years of your life, so enjoy them!