• Project Adulthood

12 Life-Changing Habits You Should Have Started Yesterday

Routine is boring, right? Well, no. There are certain habits that, if you start them early, will make your life significantly easier -- and more comfortable -- when you're older. Below are some of them.

12 good habits to start while you're young

1. Use the five-minute rule to get those pesky, annoying tasks out of the way

If something takes less than five minutes to do, do it now. Five minutes here and there is nothing. However, having to do everything at once is... hard.

Maximize the time when you're waiting aimlessly for something else to happen. For example, while waiting for the kettle to boil, can you take out the trash/feed the cat/wipe down the kitchen counters?

Tip: The Muse has a list of 27 productive things you can do in 5 minutes, broken down by categories like "if you're overwhelmed by work" and "if you want to declutter."

2. Build an emergency fund

Money might not make you happy, but it will give you freedom. Try to have enough money in your savings account to cover three to six months' expenses in the event that you suddenly lose your job/your car breaks down/you need medical attention/there's a natural disaster.

Tip: NerdWallet has an emergency fund calculator that tells you how much you should save for emergencies based on your rent, monthly grocery bill, debt repayments, and more.

3. Have a “Kiss My Ass” plan

Money will only get you so far. It’s always a good idea to have a plan B in place in case you suddenly realize that you hate your job.

Tip: Psychology Today has a whole section titled "The Plan B Life" on "redesigning your world when "Plan A" fails." Just don't go over the top. Science says that having a plan B can sometimes ruin your chance of success.

4. Save for retirement

Retirement may feel like a lifetime away, but the sooner you start saving for it, the better off you'll be.

Tip: NerdWallet has a retirement calculator so you can figure out exactly how much you need to save to retire by a specific age.

5. Learn how to say "no"

No need to be an asshole, but don’t be a pushover either.

Tip: Let the YouTuber Matt D'Avella teach you how to say no.

6. Eat healthy… at least some of the time!

Our metabolism gets slower as we age, which makes it much harder to maintain a healthy weight while eating junk food.

Make sure you:

  • Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit.

  • Replace processed foods full of sugar, salt, and chemicals with more wholesome choices.

  • Drink a lot of water.

Tip: If you find it difficult to drink water (I feel you), try flavoring it with fruit, berries, and herbs.

Bonus tip: For healthy food ideas, check out Bad Manners, which will literally bully you into eating healthier. Jamie Oliver's Quick & healthy recipes section is also a great choice, as are Gimme Some Oven and Budget Bytes. You could also subscribe to The New York Times Cooking newsletter.

7. Exercise

Even a few minutes a day can make a world of difference. Also, stretch. If you have hip and leg pain that even doctors can’t diagnose, it could be that your hamstrings are extremely inflexible.

Tip: DAREBEE is a free, non-profit, ad-free fitness resource.

8. Stand up straight

Correcting a bad posture when you’re old is very difficult, not to mention expensive.

Poor posture can lead to a lot of health problems, including neck pain, heartburn, and back pain. Standing up straight will also improve your confidence.

Tip: Fix your bad posture with the physical therapist Jared Beckstrand.

9. Wear sunscreen

Trust this song. Wearing sunscreen EVERY SINGLE DAY will not only potentially make you live longer but will also make you look younger. Obviously, you should probably also not tan.

Tip: The Environment Working Group has a sunscreen guide rated by scientists.

10. Take good care of your teeth

No need to do anything fancy. Just brush your teeth twice a day (morning and evening) for at least two minutes, making sure to brush every tooth. Don't forget to clean your tongue and in between your teeth once a day with a small interdental brush.

Tip: Stop flossing (if you want to).

11. Keep your mind limber

Once you leave school/college, you may be tempted never to study again, especially if your job doesn’t require it. Do so anyway. Read fiction and non-fiction books (enroll in your local library), take up a musical instrument, learn to draw/paint/make pottery, take up a new hobby.

If you only work, socialize, exercise, and chill out, you’ll get bored and become boring very quickly.

To quote Kreia from Star Wars, "apathy is death. Worse than death, because at least a rotting corpse feeds the beasts and insects." Amen.

Tip: Learn to play the fool, writes Austin Kleon, to keep learning new things in life.

12. Go to the doctor regularly

You know we had to include this one. Although scary, regular doctor checkups can help you find potential health issues before they become a serious problem and require intensive treatment.

Tip: Healthline has a good blog post on how often you should go to the doctor and what a regular checkup should include.

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