Building long-term health is all about adopting doable, daily habits that work—it’s not about creating restrictions, complicated rituals or extreme attitudes that inevitably set you up for failure. These 20 basic self-care habits are super-simple, tried-and-true moves you can make daily without breaking a sweat. They may not yield “instant results” but you’ll definitely be happy (and healthy) when you’ve done them.
1. Drink water all day long
Water influences every one of our bodily processes. Making a point to drink it daily (about two litres per day is the general recommended amount for women), will help keep your digestion working, your kidneys flushing toxins like they’re supposed to, your focus sharp and your skin glowing.
2. Eat real food
Michael Pollan doled out some solid diet advice in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Pollan isn’t dogmatic about his eating philosophy and for good reason. He’s about keeping it super-simple (eating food your grandma would recognize, not overindulging too frequently and keeping moderating your meat intake) because stressing out about your diet just isn’t healthy.
3. Keep it high vibe
If you want to keep your stress levels in check, practice positive self-talk. Notice when you’re catastrophizing, judging and filtering out the positive and selectively hearing the negative. When you do notice you’re thinking your way to crazy-town, don’t judge yourself—just laugh at yourself.
4. Listen to your body
Don’t resist the urge to go to bed, to eat, to drink water, to move slower or take a few deep breaths. You’re a human with needs. Train your body to trust you and it’ll support you.
5. Don’t let Google diagnose you
Spare yourself the crazy-making of scavenging the internet for your health information when you need it most. Go to the doctor to get your questions answered.
6. Wrap it up, get tested
At minimum, sexually active people should get tested once a year, even if they practice safe sex. Get tested again, on top of the once a year rule, after having unprotected sex.
7. Unplug an hour before bed
Studies have shown that browsing light-emitting devices like iPads and e-readers at bedtime mess with your sleep. Spend that digital-free time doing something enjoyable and relaxing like reading, journalling, adult colouring or taking a bath.
8. Sit up straight
Slouching can put strain on your muscles and stress on your spine, which can lead to constricted nerves, and problems with muscles and joints. Improve your posture and keep your fitness goals within reach. See these six ways to straighten up.
9. Focus on your breath
Do this anywhere, anytime and make a point do it daily. Push out your belly and suck air through your nose until your lungs are full. Hold for a count of three, then slowly exhale out your mouth. The dose of oxygen will make you feel calmer and more alert.
10. Take the stairs
This one’s a no-brainer. Walking just two flights of stairs per day can lead to six pounds of weight loss over one year, according to Duke University researchers.
Laughter is the best medicine. It not only eases stress, but it also triggers the release of endorphins, dissolves distressing emotions, promotes social bonding, and attracts others to us. When we laugh, we’re in a happy place—that’s always a healthy place to be.
12. Floss daily
No matter how thoroughly you brush your teeth everyday, you’re missing a good chunk of their total surface if you don’t floss. Keep your oral health humming and floss daily.
13. Don’t isolate yourself
One major reason women tend to live longer than men? They builder tighter social networks and are more likely to actually share their problems. Facing life’s hardships alone is one guarenteed way to make you older, quicker.
14. Lift weights when you work out
Incorporating resistance training into your workout is an effective way to combat loss of bone mass as you get older, which makes you more resistant to injury. Thirty minutes spent lifting weights twice a week is all you need.
15. Get a good sports bra
A good sports bra can be the difference between a great workout and no workout. Try this dressing room “workout” to test a bra when you try it on: reach your arms overhead and windmill them 10 times in each direction. If the bra shifts, the straps slip or rubs you the wrong way, it’s not right. Try bending forward and stretching. Jog in front of the mirror. If your breasts move up and down more than an inch or you just feel uncomfortable, it’s not supportive enough.
16. Know your survival dish
On those days too tired to think about making a proper dinner, it’s handy to have a go-to recipe that requires next-to-no effort and ingredients you always on hand. Don’t be forced to eat crap when you don’t have to.
Always having a book on the go helps support your growth mindset, keeps you stimulated and boost your memory and your analytical skills. Reading is never a waste of time.
If you can sweat it out for one hour per week, you’ll reap a range of benefits: improved heart health, lower blood pressure, increased metabolism, and a whole lot more.
19. Splurge on supportive footwear
The shoes you stand in, walk in and run in affect your entire body. Make sure you’re supported with proper footwear and save yourself aches and pains—and long term health problems—later.
21. Take Vitamin D
The sun vitamin is key for strong bones and keeping a positive mood—and roughly half of us are deficient in it. Take a 1,000 IU supplement each morning and build up your immunity to osteoporosis, diabetes and heart disease.