Who doesn’t love a good makeover movie? Princess Diaries: royally iconic. She’s All That: Freddie Prinze Jr. was our generation’s first love. Clueless: Brittany Murphy looked bangin’ (even though that was way harsh, Tai). But life isn’t a late ’90s rom-com, and it takes more than a pair of contacts and a hair straightener to transform your life. Luckily, we’re out of high school and we’ve got bigger issues than getting the quarterback to ask us to homecoming (he always turned out to be a douche anyway).
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Instead, we’re focused on how to be our best selves and be happier. That means getting healthier, being kinder to ourselves, and getting sh*t done (because we deserve to have it all). No, a new wardrobe and a popular BFF won’t change your life, but these 17 insanely easy, good habits just might.
1. Make your bed
At the risk of sounding like your mom, please make your bed. Not only will it feel good to get into a made bed at night, but it’s important for the success of your day. Making your bed first thing every morning means one small win before you even have a cup of coffee, which subconsciously will motivate you to achieve thousands of small wins throughout the day (and you know what they say about small wins: they lead up to really big ones). Plus, Gretchen Rubin found in her research that it’s the easiest and most common daily habit you can do to boost happiness.
2. Organize to-do lists based on life goals
Making a to-do list is no revolutionary hack, but how are you setting priorities when you review what has to get done every day? Before making your next to-do list, ask yourself where you want to be in 5-10 years. Everything on your to-do list should be taking a step towards achieving these goals. For example, strategize business growth, spend 30 minutes taking an online class, or work out if your goal is to be more active. In other words, to-do lists of even the simplest tasks could have a long-term perspective.
Making your to-do list with goals in mind will show you where you should be spending time and where you can be spending less time. Of course, you’ll always have to do the mundane house chores or tedious tasks, but figure out where you can outsource these items, and prioritize what will get you closer to your goals first thing so you make sure to get it done (yes, that means a workout or the brainstorm meeting you’ve been putting off).
3. Eat more leafy greens
Getting healthier is not always a dramatic transformation. In fact, it’s typically a series of small habits and minor additions to your diet that snowball into a healthier lifestyle that’s all-around better for you. Don’t focus on cutting out food groups or limiting what you can and cannot eat (that can lead to bingeing or an unhealthy relationship with food). Instead, focus on adding leafy greens to at least two meals a day. Add spinach to an omelet, throw kale in a pasta sauce, and order a side salad when you’re eating out.
4. Give yourself deadlines
You know from college all-nighters and projects at work that if there’s a deadline you have to meet, you find a way to get it done. What makes an assignment our bosses give us or a paper for “Shakespeare 101” different from a personal goal is that we don’t usually have a deadline to motivate us to accomplish it by a certain time. No matter how small or specific (like replacing your old couch, making friends with a coworker, establishing an emergency fund, or running three miles), give yourself a specific and realistic deadline.
If you’re still having trouble sticking to goals because you know your deadlines are “flexible” when you’re the one setting them, sign up for a marathon, announce the launch of your side project or business with a release date, or let a friend or family member know your deadline so they hold you accountable.
5. Instead of taking a social media break, get up and move
You know it, you love it, you depend on it: the momentary pause from uninterrupted work to take a quick scroll through social media. At this point, opening Instagram might feel like second nature when you just finished one task and need a refresh before moving on to the next. But instead of scrolling through Instagram, checking Snapchat, or refreshing TikTok, get up and move your body to refresh yourself in between work tasks. A few jumping jacks, a mini dance party, a yoga flow, or just some stretches are enough to energize your body, reset your mind, and will help you focus better for the rest of the day.
6. Read more
I’m the queen of excuses when it comes to reading more often. “I’m too tired,” “I don’t have any new books,” and “How am I expected to do anything else in my free time when all six seasons of Sex and the City are on Hulu!?” are excuses I use on a regular basis. But reading is not only enjoyable; it’s good for you. Whether it’s winding down before bed, taking a break in the afternoon, or as the ritual that you look forward to when starting your day, fit in some more time to read. As for what to read? Start with inspiring books, books to educate yourself, or enjoyable books that should be on your summer reading list.
7. Say “thank you” instead of “I’m sorry”
I have a terrible habit of saying “sorry” all the time. I say “sorry” when I need someone to repeat what they said or I bump into a stranger, and I apologize profusely for being late or making a mistake. While “sorry” is just a word, language can affect the way we think and feel about ourselves, and women, in particular, are taught to be polite by putting themselves down. Instead of “sorry,” make a conscious effort to say “thank you” instead.
“Thank you for being patient!” instead of, “Sorry for being late!” is another way to practice gratitude, but it’s also a consistent way to be kinder to yourself. BTW, saying sorry in relationships is crucial when you made a mistake or hurt the other person’s feelings, but showing gratitude can be even more important.
8. Tidy up your space before bed
I know, I know: the last thing you want to do at the end of a long day is clean (the horror!). But dishes in the sink or laundry piled on the chair (we all have that one chair), can prevent us from feeling fully relaxed while going to bed at night or might make us more stressed starting the next day. Clutter in your space can translate into clutter in your mind, so dedicate five extra minutes before bed to run the dishwasher, wipe off kitchen counters, and declutter any papers or laundry that has piled up in the bedroom. A less cluttered bedroom can help you sleep at night, while a clean kitchen can make you happier the next morning.
9. Sit up straight
Bad news for all the other slouchers out there: your posture might be affecting your physical and mental health. Practice better posture for overall health by straightening your back and relaxing your shoulders (and stop looking down at your phone while you’re at it!). Did you sit up taller just now? Good. Start consistently working on improving posture throughout your workday. If you want to be as extra as I am, you can also try setting reminders through phone alerts or sticky notes around your apartment, or you can set a note as your phone wallpaper to remind you to correct your posture whenever you check the time or read a text message.
10. Take the stairs or walk extra steps
Taking the stairs instead of the escalator or parking a bit further away from the grocery store will add up. If your schedule is so packed that fitting in a workout is causing you more stress, it might be hurting your health instead of improving it. It’s time we stop thinking of “exercise” as an hour-long HIIT class and make it about living more actively by moving whenever we can. As a rule of thumb, moving more often than you sit will make a big difference in your overall health and wellbeing.
11. Say “no” when you mean no
How often do you avoid saying “no” when you want to? Do you find yourself doing favors for others when you’re already stretched too thin? Do you pick up work for coworkers when you’re too busy, say yes to plans you’re not excited about, or hang out with friends to avoid FOMO (even though you want a chill night in)? One of the most powerful things you can do for yourself is to say what you mean and be true to what you need. Master the art of saying “no.” Say, “I’d love to help you, but I can’t give the time and effort to this task that it deserves,” and “I need a night by myself tonight, but let’s get coffee this weekend,” whenever you feel the need to please.
12. Manage your money based on what brings you joy
Listen, I’m the last person who should be giving financial advice. As a self-proclaimed “creative,” I never even thought about taking a business course in college, and the extent of my money knowledge upon graduation was how to budget for Starbucks. But one piece of financial advice really clicked for me: money is your life’s energy. I started understanding money in a different way when I realized money was just an exchange of value for the effort and energy we’re giving about 40 hours every single week.
So be thoughtful about how you want to spend your life’s energy; does it really bring you joy to go to drinks with that friend you don’t have fun with or to buy the top you’ll never end up wearing? Managing your money based on what does and doesn’t bring you joy will reduce stress that comes with spending money on the vacations, items, and experiences that you truly love. Also, invest in yourself: get the gym membership, purchase that online course, and open a savings account. The more money you put into something, the more likely you are to keep it up as a habit.
13. Mute (or unfollow) most social media accounts
You may be the sum of the five people you spend your time with, but you’re also the sum of the five people you consume on Instagram. Unfollow or mute all the accounts that do not make you feel inspired, happy, or confident, and then crowd out the accounts that aren’t serving you with accounts that inspire you. Follow other women whose careers you admire, and find accounts that will bring you positivity whenever you are tempted to scroll (like, I don’t know, @theeverygirl, for a totally random example).
Also, rethink whether the bloggers, celebs, and brands you follow are providing you with inspiring content, or if their posts just make you feel bad about where you are in life. Likewise, it’s time to mute or unfollow that frenemy you had in high school or your sorority sister’s ex-boyfriend’s cousin that you met a few times. Instead of watching other people’s lives, go live your own.
14. Get more sleep
Easier said than done, right? But don’t worry: even though it might feel like getting more sleep is impossible, it’s a habit just like anything else. Detox your sleep routine, try some of our favorite products, or stop looking at your damn phone to fit in a little more (quality) beauty sleep. You can also try getting to bed just five minutes earlier than the night before until you wake up feeling refreshed and energized instead of zombie-like. Also, let’s all stop hitting the snooze button, OK? It’s only confusing the body, and if you’re going to sleep early enough (curse you, Netflix!), you should be waking up naturally and easily.
15. Donate $5 to a new organization or charity every month
It may sound counterintuitive to spend money more often if you’re like me and your bank account is a constant source of stress. However, feeling a lack of something (whether it’s time, love, or money) is all mental, no matter what. It’s a cliché glass-half-empty situation; realizing you have enough water (or money) to give some away will show you the glass is half-full instead.
But more important than even our own finances is what we can do to help other people. Compassion, support, and empathy should be a part of our routines, just like brushing our teeth or doing a load of laundry. Take the time to educate yourself on organizations and charities that need your help, and then donate what you can regularly (FYI, even the price of one latte can make a difference).
16. Set your alarm a few minutes earlier than you need to
If your mornings feel more like a race against the clock or an episode of Chopped, consider waking up extra early to have a slow, calm start to your day. You might have limited control over your mornings (like an early work start time or a child to take care of), so waking up just 10-15 minutes earlier than you need to will help you feel more in control and calmer throughout the entire day. Whether you spend your time meditating, indulging in a luxurious skincare routine, or just brewing a cup of coffee with a moment of silence, you will not miss the 10 minutes of extra sleep.
17. Limit your decision making
We make a lot of decisions every single day, even just within the first few minutes of waking up: whether or not to hit snooze, what to wear (which is approximately 100 different decisions), when to turn on the coffee pot, to be or not to be (that is the question–especially when you didn’t get enough sleep last night). The little decisions add up to be overwhelming. Decision fatigue is a real thing, and it’s why we opt for pizza delivery instead of cooking at the end of a long day or forego the workout altogether if we have to think about which time slot works best.
To keep up with healthy habits, limit decision making as much as possible and reduce decision fatigue. Meal prep all your lunches, sign up for workout classes in advance (or put a workout in your calendar so you can’t skip it), and try a go-to outfit formula so you don’t have to think about what to wear. The purpose of forming habits is so you don’t have to think about whether or not to wake up earlier, go to bed sooner, or do the dishes after dinner; you do it because there’s no option not to.