Picture yourself five, ten, twenty years from now. Will you be vibrant, strong and aging gracefully? Or will you be degrading fast and looking older than you are?
It’s important to realize that the choice is in your hands. Since getting older is an extremely slow and gradual process that is happening by the minute, it’s those little habits that we do every day that can determine how healthy and happy we will be down the road.
Luckily, the choices and habits that promote wellness as we age are also great ways to take care of yourself now. It’s never too late to slow down the clock by embracing a healthier lifestyle. Here are the top 10 daily habits to avoid if you want to stay “young for your age.”
Indulging too often
If you usually say yes to dessert and other treats, such as pastries and candy bars, you may find yourself aging prematurely. Not only does sugar cause widespread inflammation in the body that can lead to disease, it also directly affects appearance. Sugar molecules initiate a biochemical process called glycation, which leaves you looking tired, puffy and wrinkled.
Let’s not forget that consistently giving in to temptation (i.e., reaching for the donuts when you promised yourself you wouldn’t) can also result in a loss of confidence and self-trust. Being unwavering in your resolve to eat healthily will help you achieve more of what you want, leading to a happier more youthful future.
Skimping on sleep
Those who say “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” may in fact find themselves there sooner. Scientific studies have clearly shown that sleeping less than seven hours per night on a regular basis can shorten your life, not to mention leave you mentally sluggish and overweight.
The healing and detoxification processes that occur during sleep are vital for a strong, resilient mind and body. For example, the “sleep hormone” melatonin contributes to cellular repair which wards off cancer. The human growth hormone (HGH) is also produced during sleep, which gives us good muscle tone and youthful vitality.
Exercising only because of guilt
Do you schlep to the gym and slog on the treadmill only when you want to lose weight? While any exercise is clearly better than none at all, the guilt-based model reflects an attitude that could be aging you.
People who stay healthy later into life often have physical fitness, strength and balance to thank. It’s important to take pleasure in moving your body and to enjoy the rush of blood, sweat and endorphins that comes along with it. Make exercise an enjoyable ritual, rather than a dreaded punishment.
Not taking proper care of yourself
When was the last time you took care of — not your dog, not the house, not the kids, not your boss, not your partner — but yourself. Even for half an hour, or perhaps a whole evening? While this sounds impossible to many of us, the fact is, no one is ever going to make the time for you. It’s something you must do for yourself, and it’s an important way to prevent premature aging.
Start by establishing small “me-time” rituals throughout the day, even if it’s just a quick journal entry before bed, or a walk around the block in the morning. These small self-love gestures go a long way toward life satisfaction and ultimately long-term wellness.
Using alcohol as stress-relief
While a sociable glass of wine a couple of times a week is certainly not an issue, using alcohol as an escape from daily troubles might be making you old before your time. Not only because of the physical effects of the alcohol (like inflammation and a slower metabolism), but also because this indicates issues are being left unresolved and trapped inside.
Try writing down things that are bothering you instead of automatically reaching for a glass at the end of a long day. Even this small action helps shed the load of stress, and may bring clarity and resolution to a problem.
Grudges are a great way to waste energy and vitality that we would rather conserve. Don’t let an old spat continue to sap your happiness today — practice forgiveness and experience better mental and physical well-being. Studies show that learning to let go even results in lower blood pressure, less stress and anxiety, and lower incidences of depression.
Cancelling social engagements
Carrying on from previous points, keeping a social engagement you’ve made is a way to keep a promise to yourself. It’s also an opportunity to recharge. The calendar is probably full of playdates, appointments for the kids, or grooming for the dog, but what about your social life?
As if the pure joy of catching up with friends isn’t enough of a motivator, research also indicates that close friendships are a good predictor of long-term health and longevity. Those with better maintained friendships exhibit lower incidence of obesity, depression and heart disease. So make sure those girls’ nights take priority!
Using conventional toiletries
If you spend half an hour a day washing with face wash, body wash, shampoo and toothpaste, only to layer on the moisturizer, deodorant and makeup, it’s likely that all of these products are adding up to a significant toxic load on your body.
Conventional self-care products contain sulfates, parabens and phthalates — chemicals that alter your hormones and poison your organs. Try switching to natural alternatives using ingredients like coconut oil and baking soda instead, and buy non-toxic makeup. A glowing youthful face doesn’t need all those products anyway!
Not taking time for intimacy
Not to get too nosy or anything, but when was the last time you had sex? Or enjoyed an affectionate physical exchange with someone you care about? Studies indicate that people with regular and satisfying intimacy practices enjoy brighter skin, a clearer mind, and better resilience to stress, not to mention a stronger immune system and less chronic pain. All of these benefits clearly result in a more youthful overall state of being.
Try scheduling in time for intimacy — it may not seem sexy, but removing distractions and creating the ideal conditions might lead to a better experience than the average rushed and distracted session.
Taking life too seriously / sweating the small stuff
Which would you rather have, laugh lines, or frown lines? That’s what we thought. So make a point of rolling with the punches, going with the flow, and laughing things off whenever possible (and appropriate). Beyond showing up when you said you would, and putting in your best effort, there isn’t much else you can do in life, so why stress over it?
Realize that even the worst situations are transient. Having a little bit of optimism up your sleeve is a potent weapon against premature aging.
Try these awesome strategies to find peace and happiness anytime, anywhere!
Liivi is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and is training to become a doula. She inspires women to find peace and personal power by taking control of health and fertility naturally. Liivi‘s passion is ancestral nutrition and primal lifestyle design. She and her partner Will live between Toronto, Canada and Queenstown, New Zealand.