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 50 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. Check your credit card statements, bank statements, and pay stubs regularly.
This one’s definitely a mental health habit that we all should be extremely diligent about. With security breaches happening left and right, it’s key to take ownership of your own finances by always knowing exactly where your money went, when it’s coming in, and any inconsistencies that arise.
4. Adopt a “meatless Monday” mentality.
Did you know that cutting out meat—even if it’s merely once a week—can drastically decrease your risk of heart disease by up to 19%, according to a Harvard University study? Eating a diet heavy on red and other processed meats have been shown to increase the risk of diabetes, obesity, and other health problems. Cutting back on meat can also impact the environment by reducing the amount of fossil fuel and water that’s used to raise livestock. Do yourself a favor and dedicate one day to fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, and nuts.
5. Drink a glass of lukewarm water with lemon (and cayenne pepper, if you dare) first thing every morning.
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.
6. 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.
7. Don’t try to keep up with the Jonses.
Never try to keep up with that one friend who always has the new “It” item—it’s a dangerous game to play, one that not only can harm your wallet, but can also wreak havoc on your self-worth, if you let it.
8. Use a retinol if you’re starting to get wrinkles.
Instead of continuously wasting money on the latest anti-aging creams, ask your dermatologist to prescribe you a good retinol product—it’s the only thing that really works, anyway.
9. Check in with HR.
Ask your office Human Resources department to remind you of benefits you’re probably not using, such as flex spending accounts for prescriptions, transit cards, or classes.
10. 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.
11. 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 .
12. 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.
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. Don’t do drugs.
It might sound funny when put so succinctly, but you’re never going to save any cash with bad habits. Plus, legal fees will be a bitch if you get caught.
15. Likewise, don’t smoke.
Between exorbitant cigarette prices and health bills down the line, it’s so not worth it.
16. 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. (Here’s a starter guide filled with 101 tips to care for everything in your closet.)
17. Consolidate and pay off debt as soon as possible.
If you have debt, make it a point to consolidate it to a lower interest and paying it off ASAP. Money paid in interest is money thrown away, ladies.
18. Don’t overdo the booze.
Theres’s nothing wrong with a few cocktails now and again, but overdoing it on the regular can lead to a host of health problems, including (but not limited to) sleeplessness, weight gain, and—according to some reports—a heightened risk of breast cancer.
19. Don’t snack if you’re not hungry.
Mindless eating can lead to weight gain and general unfulfillment, so be sure to eat—and enjoy—when your body tells you it’s physically craving food, not when you’re bored, stressed, or upset.
20. Practice the 2/30 rule
While we love vegging out in front of the tube as much as the next girl, we understand that too much “Real Housewives” could lead to Real Problems. According to Reader’s Digest, a large-scale study of over 9000 people found that those who watched more than two hours of TV a day ate more, while downing more sugary sodas and high-fat, high-cal, processed snack foods than those who watched less. Try following the 2/30 rule: limit TV to two hours a day, and be sure to get in 30 minutes of exercise.
21. Take pains to prevent getting sunburned.
You don’t need us to tell you about the importance of wearing sunscreen, but it’s key to remember that—apart from SPF—it’s key to wear sunglasses that block 90% of both UVA and UVB rays, and to avoid exposure to the midday sun (10 a.m. to 4 p.m. standard time or 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daylight saving time).
22. 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.
23. Don’t rely on pills to sleep.
Try experimenting with other methods first, like exercise, natural sleep aids, and proven relaxation techniques.
24. Consider taking liquid chlorophyll.
Chlorophyll is the dark green pigment found in plants, but it also has amazing benefits for humans. It has a similar molecular structure to hemoglobin (the substance that’s responsible for transporting oxygen around the body), and just one tablespoon a day can boost red blood cells, improve oxygen, increase energy, help body odor, protect from cancer, help regulate bowel movements, and increase magnesium, vitamins, folic acid, iron, calcium and protein.
25. Don’t skip your yearly gynecological appointments.
We’re all busy, and it’s easy to push them aside, but it’s key for women to get yearly pap smears and talk to her doctor about what’s going on with her body.
26. 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.
27. 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.
28. Practice safe sex.
Unless you’re trying to have a kid, why would you sleep with someone without protection? Exactly. Use what you prefer, but don’t rely on the guy to have condoms, that’s a dated mentality.
29. Smell an orange.
Several studies have found that the scent of oranges can reduce stress and improve mood. Try eating a fresh orange for breakfast every morning (and inhaling its scent), or dab some orange oil on your wrists a few times a week.
30. 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.
31. Treat big purchases like big purchases.
When someone buys a big new car or a big new house, they don’t buy a bunch of smaller, cheaper houses and cars a few months later, right? So if you buy that major investment bag, why buy five other, cheaper bags soon after? This will kick in buyer’s remorse both for the pricey bag you’re not using as much, and the cheaper bags, which you know you didn’t really need.
32. Never use your gym membership?
Cancel it and get into the healthy habit of working out at home using the many free fitness (and highly effective) tutorials available on YouTube.
33. Keep the change.
Drop your loose change into the same jar at the end of every day. Once a month, take it to the bank and get cold, hard cash!
34. 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.
35. 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.
36. Stand up for yourself.
One of the most unhealthy habits a woman can have? Not speaking up for fear it’s too aggressive. Not happy with the way a meeting went at work? Schedule some time with your boss immediately and be clear about why you’re feeling the way you do. Don’t complain, but be concise and firm. Same goes for personal matters—friends, family, and men aren’t mind-readers.
37. 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.
38. Take medication seriously.
This healthy habit goes both ways: On the one hand, women start to feel better and decide they don’t need to complete their dosage of medication, or refill it—a bad habit, as your symptoms might be waning but the illness can still very much live in your body. Conversely, if you experience strong side effects, or strange reactions, don;t just assume they’re normal—call you doctor immediately.
39. Don’t skimp on sleep.
Sleep is absolutely essential to our health—both physical and mental—and not getting enough can have some pretty major effects. The American Psychological Association points out that irritability and moodiness are some of the first signs a person experiences from lack of sleep. If a sleep-deprived person doesn’t sleep after the initial signs, they may start to experience apathy, slowed speech and flattened emotional responses, impaired memory and an inability to multitask. Adults should aim for six to eight hours a night.
40. 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?
41. Always, always, always wear a seatbelt—even in a taxi.
This one should be self-explanatory.
42. Wash your hands often.
It sounds obvious, but washing your hands really is the best way to avoid getting sick. According to Microbe World, we all carry millions of microbes on our hands (um, yuck.) While most are harmless, we can pick up some that cause illnesses, such as colds, flu, and diarrhea. When we forget to wash our hands, or don’t wash them properly, we can spread these germs to others, or give them to ourselves by touching our eyes, mouths, noses or cuts on our bodies. The best way to wash? Use soap and water for about 15 seconds (or the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday.) For extra protection, use a paper towel to open the bathroom door after washing.
43. Go on a social media diet.
This is a big one, ladies. According to science, our dependence on social media means we’re more lonely, narcissistic, and depressed than ever before. Which is why but limiting your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest intake could lessen anxiety, boost your self-esteem, and eradicate pesky FOMO (here’s a handy guide that shows you how to limit all things social.) Plus, it’s key to remember that all this stuff is ultimately making us less connected. Texting and tweeting are two of the most impersonal ways of communicating—it’s low intensity, and it requires low commitment on the part of both parties—while Facebook just makes us voyeuristic, not social.
44. Optimize your fertility if you plan on having kids.
Unless you’re actively trying to get pregnant, there’s no need to go overboard, but as women, it pays to pay attention to research ways in which we can optimize fertility, or at least ways to not harm it. Here’s a good starter guide.
Annoying but true: Flossing really matters! According to Web MD, it isn’t so much about removing food debris as it is about removing dental plaque, the complex bacterial ecosystem that forms on tooth surfaces between cleanings. Plaque is what causes tooth decay, inflamed gums (gingivitis), periodontal disease, and eventually tooth loss. Flossing or using an interdental cleaner is the only effective way to remove plaque between teeth.
46. Sneeze into your arm, not your palm.
We’re told as kids to cover our mouth when we sneeze, but it’s actually way more sanitary to sneeze into your sleeve, which lessens the amount of spreadable germs.
47. Stash snacks.
Keep healthy snacks like nuts, fruit, veggies and hummus, or Greek yogurt at work so you won’t feel the need to run to Starbucks at 3 p.m. for a Venti one-way ticket to calorieville.
48. Shop on a full stomach.
Never go grocery shopping when you’re super-hungry. Why? Because everything looks good, so you’ll undoubtedly start throwing in items you normally would never buy.
49. Learn to take constructive criticism.
Obviously, petty criticism shouldn’t be tolerated, but if someone’s taking the time to try to tell you that what you’re doing could be more effective, let them. Lessening your defenses is a healthy habit that’ll pay off in the long run at work, at home, and in relationships.
50. Never let Google diagnose you.
Guess what? Google may be a genius, but it’s not a doctor, and therefore has no power to accurately diagnose you. Do yourself a favor and see an IRL physician before you convince yourself you have scurvy or Scarlet Fever when you really have a tiny cold.
A version of this article was originally published in February 2014.