8 Things I Wish I Knew About Health and Happiness When I Was 21

0225-sticky_vg.jpgDo you ever wish you could send an email to your younger self with a few words of advice or warnings (like, "don't go out with you-know-who--you'll totally regret it!)? I celebrated my 32nd birthday last week, and I've been thinking about all the little things I've learned about health and happiness in a decade--some big, some little, but all important. Here's my list--what's on yours?

I looooved Erin's post over on Single-ish about the 31 things she wished she knew about dating when she was 21 (brilliant!), and I got to thinking about some of the bits of health and happiness wisdom I really wish I got years ago:

1. Don't be stingy--ever. Generosity--in all forms--is one of the quickest paths to happiness.

2. You are your best health advocate. It's funny, I spent my early years expecting that other people would take care of my health (my mom, my doctor, etc.). It sounds silly, but I really didn't wake up to the fact that this gig was mine, and I had to fight for my health care and be in the driver's seat. Lesson learned: Don't wait for your doctor, your pal, or your parent to suggest something that could improve your health--you be the one!

3. Your first job will, in all likelihood, suck, and if it does, be strong--you can do anything for a year. While I learned a lot during my very first job out of college--and I met some terrific people and learned a lot--there were times I'd take the bus home to my apartment and cry. I felt like the work drama I was going through would go on forever, but what I didn't realize then was that I was in control and that this was just temporary. It's funny how we perceive our current situations as never-ending--they're not!

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4. Make fitness a non-negotiable item on your to-do list.
Sure, there are exceptions--and who wants to live a rigid life--but a commitment to fitness means a commitment to health and happiness, and there's just not much that can trump the importance of getting my heart rate up.

5. Learn to let go of toxic people, but remember to forgive them. In my twenties I learned to forget, and in my thirties I'm learning to forgive. I like forgiveness better.

6. Realize that it's not all about you. I spent so much of my twenties worrying about what others thought of me (did I totally flub the work presentation? Did my editor think the article I wrote was awful? Did I look OK in that photo?). Heck, we all deal with this. But as soon as you realize that everyone else is in the same boat--worrying about what you think of them--you realize that all the worrying is so pointless. Most people are focused on their own anxieties, not yours.

See our tips: How to bounce back after life hits you in the face ...

7. Your teeth are important, but please, please, please--give your gums some love! At a recent visit, my dentist told me that I have receding gums, and I almost started crying, right there in the chair. She described that our gums recede due to poor care and also due to the natural aging process. I didn't like the sound of that. Gals, be kind to your gums! That means regular flossing and brushing lightly. Once they're gone, they're gone. They don't regrow--so show them some love!

8. You're capable of a lot more than you think. There was a time when I didn't think I'd ever be able to run long distances (um, yes I can!), have kids and still have an awesome career (check!), survive on 4 hours of sleep at times (hello--that was me last night after my baby was up sick!), or face my fears (been there, done that). The point: Don't be frightened by something you think you can't do--chances are, you totally have what it takes to do it/survive it.

Those are just a few things on my list, what's on yours? What do you wish you could tell your younger self about health and happiness?

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