20 Bad Health Habits To Ditch In Your 20s

by Dacy Knight

Your 20s see you through from your awkward teenage years to your transformation into a full-fledged adult. The decade is all about experiencing new things, taking on new challenges, making mistakes and learning from them, and working towards becoming the person you're meant to be. For those reasons, there's no better time than your 20s to ditch bad health habits and get on to being that better you.

Habits form from routine behaviors, and they're most easily broken while you're still growing and malleable. While you're in your 20s figuring out just what kind of life you want to lead — from big career decisions to relationships to yourself — it's a good time to establish the kind of behavior you'll want to follow for the rest of your life.

While you may be feeling young, wild, and free, your decisions today directly impact your life down the road. No one's perfect and it's good to be open to change, but when it comes to your health, there are certain things you just can't argue with. Science proves that certain behaviors are linked to well-being and longevity, while others affect you negatively, causing suffering now and even later in life. All it takes to ensure you're giving yourself the best chance at a long, happy life, is breaking some bad health habits we're all inclined to give in to. Simple choices you make today will set you up for future success, tomorrow and beyond. Here are the habits you need to ditch, and how to break them.

1. Not getting enough sleep

One of the biggest bad health habits plaguing twentysomethings is not getting enough sleep. Eight hours of shut-eye is said to be the healthy ideal, but between late nights at high-pressure jobs and staying out super late on weekends to blow off steam, many in their 20s are not meeting this quota. It's proven that lack of sleep affects you throughout the day and undesirable things happen to your body when you sleep poorly. Sleep deprivation affects your body's immune system, hormone levels, mood, and decreases your ability to focus. Still, sleep, let alone good sleep, is hard to come by. Unhealthy bedtime habits and bad habits keeping you up at night can be blamed for making things worse.

Break the habit:

You need to be proactive about making an effort to get more sleep. It is recommended to avoid caffeine for eight hours before bedtime and to remove distractions as you wind down for the evening. Watching your favorite show at the end of a workday might seem ideal, but you're apt to fall asleep with your laptop in your bed much later than planned and your quality of sleep will suffer for it. Have an evening routine that signals to your body that it's time to catch some Zs, like a hot shower and taking a few minutes to stretch. Block out excess light and sound from your bedroom as much as possible.

2. Forgoing sunscreen

It's well known that scary things happen when you don't wear sunscreen, yet it's one of the simplest health habits that we still get wrong all too regularly. From not using sunscreen correctly to not wearing it at all, twentysomethings put themselves at risk for a lot of sun damage that is actually avoidable. Sunscreen is important for more than just cosmetic reasons, but your future self will thank you later for protecting yourself from sun spots, broken blood vessels, and wrinkles.

Break the habit:

Train yourself to wear sunscreen daily, even when it's overcast. If you wear makeup, chances are your foundation has sunscreen built in. Otherwise, check out these non-greasy sunscreens you can wear under your makeup. If you lather up before sun exposure but still find yourself getting burned, you may be applying sunscreen wrong. Study up on these sunscreen mistakes everyone makes to improve your sunscreen game in the future.

3. Not drinking enough water

Chances are you're not drinking enough water. If you relate to any of these signs you're dehydrated or are experiencing any of these things happening to your skin, it's time to drink up. Staying hydrated has tons of immediate benefits to your wellbeing. It helps to clean toxins from your body via your kidneys, keeps your muscles and joints working better, and helps keep you motivated and your memory sharp. The ways drinking enough water changes your body are hugely positive and definitely worth the extra effort to get in a few more glasses each day.

Break the habit:

Carry around a water bottle and get in the habit of drinking regularly. You should be drinking at least four to six eight-ounce glasses a day. One of the best ways to tell if you're hydrated is monitoring your urine color, which should be a light yellow. If you're still challenged to meet the quota, try these little tricks to drink more water. You'll be surprised by what a difference staying hydrated can have on your mood and overall functioning.

4. Skipping breakfast

Your parents told you for years that the most important meal of the day is breakfast, but as a busy twentysomething it's the meal most often skipped. It's easy to rush out of your apartment and rely on a coffee to get you through until lunch, but skipping the first meal of the day can have some serious consequences for your health. There are scientific reasons to eat breakfast, including kickstarting your metabolism, improving your mental functioning, and encouraging you to make healthy choices later.

Break the habit:

Make time in the morning to make a little breakfast. It doesn't have to be a full-blown production to provide you with the healthy nutrients you need to boost your morning. Try your hand at one of these on-the-go breakfasts that will make your mornings more delicious without cutting into your commute.

5. Sweating the small stuff

As human beings we're inclined to get worked up about the small stuff, especially in our 20s. Graduating from college and stepping out into the real world comes with its own loaded set of stresses, and while we navigate adulthood it can be difficult to parse through what matters and what doesn't matter so much. Life is stressful enough as it is without fixating on the little things.

Break the habit:

Become aware of the difference between what seems important now and what really matters in the long run. Life is about making mistakes, as long as you learn from them, so accept imperfections and minor trials as bumps in the road. When small things don't go as planned, make a note and move forward, knowing you're still going in the right direction. Always keep the bigger picture in mind, and appreciate everything that's going right. It's natural to still get bummed about the small stuff, but don't let it eat at you. And don't forget, it's all small stuff.

6. Not making time to relieve stress

When stress does build up, it's important to find healthy ways to relieve it. Regular stress takes a toll on your health and body if left unmanaged and can even turn into depression. A high-stress lifestyle results in changes in hormone levels which in turn raise blood pressure and blood sugar, lower your immunity, and negatively affect your mood.

Break the habit:

You should be incorporating activities that reduce stress in your everyday actions. There are plenty of different things you can do to reduce stress in your life, like these hacks for de-stressing and other scientifically proven ways to relieve stress.

7. Binge drinking

It comes as no surprise that binge drinking is a bad habit of the twentysomething set. The ways alcohol affects your health are well known. In addition to disrupting your immune system, binge drinking on a regular basis can increase your risk for liver damage, high blood pressure, and depression.

Break the habit:

There's no getting around the fact that it's healthiest to enjoy yourself in moderation. Make a plan before your night out about just how many drinks you plan on consuming, and stick with it. When you're out, pace yourself with a full glass of water between drinks.

8. Smoking

It goes without saying that smoking isn't doing any favors for your health. Among the many detrimental effects, smoking ruins your skin, is bad for sexual and reproductive health, and causes diabetes and cancer.

Break the habit:

Despite the obvious health reasons, there are tons of reasons to quit smoking that have nothing to do with your health. It's a long hard process but well-worth it in the long run. What better time to break the habit than in your 20s?

9. Staying in toxic relationships

When it comes to relationships in our 20s, we're young and experimenting. We're still figuring out just what it is we want in our partners and who we are ourselves. Although we're still learning, and although every partnership comes with inevitable bumps in the road, no one should have to tolerate a toxic relationship. Sometimes there are obvious deal breakers, but other times you can find yourself in a toxic relationship without realizing it. This extends to friendships as well. If you can break the habit of sticking around and staying with toxic individuals in your 20s, you'll be setting yourself up for much healthier relationships down the line when things get more serious.

Break the habit:

Step one is realizing you're even in a toxic relationship by recognizing the signs your partner or best friend is toxic. Your partner, and your friends, should make you feel happy, secure, and loved. Even when you're in disagreement you should be able to work through your problems with respect and understanding. If they continually bring you down or demonstrate that their affection is conditional, it's time to rethink the partnership.

10. Not practicing safe sex

We all know why you should pledge to practice safe sex, but sometimes it's easier in theory than in practice. Whether you're in a long-term monogamous relationship or engaging in casual sex, you should always be protecting yourself physically and emotionally.

Break the habit:

Whatever your contraceptive method of choice (pull-out doesn't count), make sure you're always prepared when the moment arises. You should be getting tested for STDs once a year at minimum. Also, pee after sex.

11. Not taking oral hygiene seriously

There's no better time than the present to start taking care of your teeth. Make sure your chompers are still there when you need them years from now by putting in the extra few minutes to take care of them today. There's a reason your dentist gets on your case about not flossing. Even if you do floss, there could be flossing mistakes you're making, so the next time your DDS offers to demonstrate the proper method, watch and listen. If you've gotten into the habit of calling it a night before making it to the bathroom to brush, fix that habit now. When you don't brush regularly and skip on flossing, you're setting yourself up for gum disease and even non-mouth-related diseases. Bad oral hygiene is a precursor to other health problems.

Break the habit:

Incorporate flossing into your morning and evening routine before you brush. Once your mouth feels minty clean you're more likely to skip over the flossing step. Make an appointment with your dentist and schedule a cleaning every six months. Follow these tips for better oral hygiene to step up your game between cleaning sessions and really impress your dentist on your next visit.

12. Going to bed without washing off makeup

Another step you need to add to your bathroom routine is washing your face. There's a list of gross things that happen when you don't wash your face, including breakouts and premature aging. Makeup clogs pores and oil glands and can cause eye irritation. Furthermore, it traps free radicals throughout the day which can then wear down collagen. Even if you don't wear makeup, it's important to wash at the end of the day to clear oil buildup and anything your hands might have touched and brought to your face unknowingly.

Break the habit:

Wash your face as one of the first steps to winding down for the evening. This will keep you from falling asleep with your makeup on after streaming a few episodes of your favorite show, or not finding the energy to make the trip to the bathroom once you're comfortable.

13. Eating too many processed foods

Even when we're trying to make healthy choices we're inundated by quick and easy fast food options that aren't really the best for us. There's a long list of reasons to eat less processed food, but finding healthy substitutes, especially when you're busy and on the go, can be a challenge.

Break the habit:

Combat your desire for picking up an easy food fix by preparing your own meals when you can. Prepare your own lunches at home and bring them into work, and substitute dinner deliveries with home-cooked meals. Not only will you be saving money but you'll know exactly what is going into your dish, and into your body. Follow tips for how to eat clean starting now that will also help you to begin craving healthy food.

14. Eating late at night

Late-night snacking is one of the big health mistakes you can make before bed. The calories you consume rev up your metabolism and raise your body temperature, interfering with your REM cycles and much-needed sleep. Late-night snacking has also been linked to poor memory.

Break the habit:

Move your dinner earlier if you can, and follow these tips to prevent getting hungry at night.

15. Doing the same workout

Making time to get active is an accomplishment of its own, so you'll want to be maximizing your time and energy. In addition to workout boredom, doing the same workout every time you hit the gym or go for a run is minimizing the effect your fitness routine is having on your body. Your body needs varied types of exercise so it doesn't adapt after time.

Break the habit:

Commit to switching up your routine on your workouts. It can be as simple as changing the route of your run or trying a new class at the gym. You can also keep things exciting by following these ways to get a better workout. You'll be thankful too for the change of pace.

16. Wearing workout clothes long after workouts

Twentysomethings are super busy, and workout clothes are super comfortable. But unless you're sporting freshly-washed athleisure, you shouldn't be running around for hours in your workout clothes. Staying in your sweaty gear is a big post-workout hygiene mistake. Wearing damp clothing, not to mention form-fitting sports bras and pants, for an extended period of time can cause acne and yeast infections.

Break the habit:

Shower as soon as possible after your workout. If your gym has facilities, take advantage. If it's going to be a while until you can shower, bring clean clothes to change into post-workout and then wash off once you can.

17. Walking in high heels

If you're a lover of wearing high heels, save yourself from future health ailments by wearing them smartly. Of the possible high heel mistakes you might be making, not taking them off might be one of the most dangerous. Even if your heels are super comfortable, they're not designed for long-term wear. Spending hours in heels puts stress on your back, hips, and knees that can bother you now but really hurt you later in life.

Break the habit:

Give your feet a break and stretch your toes by switching your heels out with flats while you're commuting (you'll be saving your heels from unnecessary damage as well), and from time to time while you're seated at work. Reserve heels with extra height for special occasions, and make sure you wear a comfortable shoe to get there.

18. Spending too much time on your screens

There's no doubt that twentysomethings spend too much time on their screens. Between jobs that require employees to stare at screens all day, to social media and streaming videos being two of the most popular pastimes, to our phones acting as mini-computers, it's rare we're ever completely disconnected from our screens. There are serious things too much screen time does to your body as well as science-backed reasons to take a break from social media.

Break the habit:

Make a conscious effort to disconnect from your screens throughout the day. Dinner should be an obvious break of time when you don't look at your phone. Avoid falling asleep with your computer in your bed or your television on. If you find yourself consumed by social media, consider taking a hiatus from a few accounts and reconnecting in real life with the people you care about.

19. Spending too much time indoors

While long hours at work and depleted energy levels once you're free are working against you, it's important that you make an effort to get outside. Our bodies need vitamin D, and staying cooped up indoors can be bad for your mental health, as well as increase your lethargy and bring down your mood.

Break the habit:

Make specific plans that take you outdoors on the weekends. Even without set activities, there are plenty of ways to spend more time outside. Forgo public transportation and walk instead when weather permits and you have the time. Take your pastimes outdoors, like reading or writing in the park.

20. Not keeping up with preventive healthcare

One of the biggest health mistake twentysomethings are making is not staying on top of preventive healthcare. This means staying up-to-date with regular appointments, vaccines, and exams. It's crucial to detect health problems before they become serious. Additionally, what may start as minor ailments can develop into serious problems if proper treatment isn't received.

Break the habit:

Schedule a checkup with your doctor. Create a health plan by discussing what screening tests you need and when, and make appointments with other health professionals you need to check in with, like your OB/GYN or dermatologist. While you were probably required to receive certain vaccines before beginning college, check with your doctor to make sure you're up-to-date and don't require a booster. If you're in a new city or have switched offices, make sure all your paperwork has been shared and updated so your history is accurate.

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