5 Things You Can (and Should) Do for Your 20-Year-Old Self
Turning 20 is a big deal. It comes with new responsibility, because now, you’re seen as a little older and a little wiser. It’s time to be more in control of your life and how you live it.
There are so many positive changes you can make in your 20s that will set the tone for years to come. The following are five examples of habits to pick up now so that your next decade is the best one yet—and just the beginning of the happy, healthy and successful story that is the rest of your life.
Let’s get money advice out of the way first. If you start saving for retirement in your 20s, you will have to put away a much smaller percentage of each paycheck in order to have a nice, livable retirement fund waiting for you in your 60s. If you wait until you’re 35 though, you’ll have to save double the amount to have the same cushion at 65.
It’s also important to remember to save a little bit even if you’re paying off student loans. Work your company’s 401k system so that you save enough to qualify for company matching—it’s free money received simply for saving. At the same time, pay 10 percent or less of your income on student loans, bumping up that percentage when you start making more money on the job.
2. Take care of your physical health.
Your 20s are a good time to start paying closer attention to your personal health. Of course, this includes the usual suspects: exercising regularly and reducing your sitting time, drinking lots of water, sleeping enough each night, eating a balanced diet, drinking alcohol sparingly (once you’re 21). The list goes on.
You should get into the habit of caring for your body in other ways, too. A good example of this is your skin. Start by wearing sunscreen daily to help prevent sun damage and aging, and cleanse and nourish your skin with moisturizer. By the time your 30th birthday rolls around, you’ll be glad you did.
3. Pay attention to your mental health, too.
You’re reaching adulthood in a time when mental health is much better understood—lucky you. Which is why you should take advantage of a world’s worth of knowledge in this arena and pick up some ways to strengthen and fortify yours.
So many small changes to your daily routine can make a huge difference in the way you feel. For example, reflecting on your day in a journal can shed light on what’s causing you anxiety, and help you work out how to solve it. Daily meditation can help you concentrate and approach problems more mindfully, too.
Learn who in your life is good for you, and who is draining you of positive energy. Studies show this switch is likely to go off by the time you’re 25. That’s when people tend to realize it’s more important to have quality friends than a large quantity.
But now that you’re turning 20, you’re likely to start maturing and realizing this, anyway. Why not hasten the process and find those friends who make you feel confident, secure and happy? The same goes for your romantic relationships, too; don’t waste time on someone who doesn’t build you up and make you want to be better.
5. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Despite the fact you’re the oldest you’ve ever been (and that 20 sounds way more adult than 19), you’re still growing and changing. You’re not going to do everything perfectly the first time around. You might find you don’t love the career path you’ve chosen, or that you went a little too wild on a night out, or maybe you’re single and surrounded by friends who are in relationships. No matter what, you can’t be too hard on yourself.
It’s important to remember that things will fall into place when they’re supposed to. Time will be your greatest lesson of all the above on this list. You’ll realize who you are and who you want to be, and that will guide you to achieve mental and physical health, financial success and a rich personal life, too.
The best thing to do for yourself at 20, then, is just to live as best you can and see what happens. Your life is only just beginning.
Related: Why Is Adulting So Hard?