Before one year ends and another begins, many people start thinking about the ways they can reset the goals and habits that may have gotten off track during the holidays or even long before that. However, New Year’s resolutions — whether you want to exercise every day, swear off mindless snacking, or end your day with a mindful meditation — are notoriously hard to keep because you’re forcing your body and mind to make sudden behavior changes.
According to Mental Health America External Site, it takes an average of 66 days — but may take as long as 8.5 months — for a behavior to become a habit, and most of us have long abandoned our “new year, new me” outlook by then.
To set yourself up for success, don’t make several behavior changes all at once. Instead, introduce easy habits and routines that will help you live healthier one-by-one. Once you’re comfortable with one, add another and then another. This practice is called habit stacking and can help you maintain your new routine for much longer than if you made the same changes all at once.
Ready for ideas on how to have your healthiest day ever? Let’s dig in to some easy, unintimidating, and healthy behavior changes you can strive to make on Jan. 1 — or any time of the year.
Start your day off right
Every morning is the perfect opportunity to start fresh, no matter what kind of day you had before. Capitalize on the fresh perspective you get with each new day by implementing some of these healthy morning habits:
- Wake up around the same time each day. If you struggle to get out of bed in the morning or press the snooze button over and over, your body’s internal clock may be slightly off. Waking up at the same time each day can actually help you sleep better at night External Site, as well as brighten your mood, reduce dependence on caffeine, improve your alertness, and more.
- Drink a glass of water first-thing. Going without water for several hours can make you dehydrated, and this includes while you’re sleeping! Starting your day with a glass of water can help you wake up and feel refreshed.
- Don’t skip breakfast. Eating breakfast helps kickstart your metabolism External Site and gives you a burst of energy so you can focus at work or on completing tasks for the day, according to WebMD®. Try to avoid high-sugar or high-fat foods, which will counteract breakfast’s benefits, and stick to oatmeal, smoothies, or fruit and yogurt. If you need inspiration for breakfast, check out these healthy breakfast recipes.
Get up and get moving
People often think healthier habits start with hitting the gym on a regular basis, but you can break it down to be simple and non-intimidating if you’re just getting started.
- Get up each hour. Sitting for extended periods of time can have a negative effect on your health External Site, because you use less energy than standing or moving around. To help introduce some movement into your day and combat the negative effects of being sedentary, set an alarm for 5–10 minutes before each hour. When that alarm goes off, stand up and stretch or walk around your house or the office.
- Incorporate exercise. You don’t need to work out for an hour every day to reap the benefits of exercise. By starting small, you can build up to more and more activity over time. A few ideas include spending time outside every day — maybe taking a short, brisk walk around your neighborhood — doing a few minutes of relaxing yoga at the end of a long day, or trying these four HIIT workouts for any fitness level.
- Trick your body into getting more activity.Whether you choose to take the stairs instead of the elevator, or park in the back of the parking lot to get those extra steps in, even the littlest changes to your daily routine can help you be more active and start on the road to a healthier you.
You are what you eat
Some of the hardest things to change when it comes to habits have to do with what we eat. Whether you have tried-and-true favorite foods you don’t want to give up or can’t resist late-night snacking, try making these minor changes over time.
- Add a vegetable to dinner. Most vegetables have low caloric density, which means you can eat more of them while consuming fewer calories — and still feel full. Once you’re eating a vegetable regularly with each meal, try making vegetables at least 30 percent of your plate and eat them before the rest of your dinner.
- Switch to whole-grain bread. White bread is made from refined flour and lacks important vitamins and nutrients — especially fiber. This simple swap from white to whole-grain bread will help you balance your meals and feel fuller.
- Grab a healthier snack. Instead of reaching for chips or candy when you hit that mid-afternoon slump, try munching on an apple or other favorite fruit. Fruit is high in fiber and nutrition, and will keep you energized without high amounts of calories or sugar.
End the day on a high note
If you’re busy throughout the day with work or taking care of your children, evenings may be the only time you have to relax a little. Here are some (yes, healthy) ways to make the most of this time.
- Do something you enjoy. End your day by setting aside time for yourself and something you enjoy, such as curling up with a good book, taking up a hobby, journaling, meditating, or connecting with a friend. Even if you have a busy schedule, making time for self-care is well worth it.
- Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep is critical to helping you feel awake and refreshed in the morning. But, it can also help you stick to your healthy habits, too. When you don’t get enough sleep External Site, your body doesn’t make enough of the hormones that suppress appetite, which means not only will you be tired and cranky, but you’ll also be hungrier and more likely to gain weight.
- Skip the screens before bed. Blue light emitted from smartphones and other electronic devices can make it difficult to wind down before you get some shuteye. Aim to put them down at least 30 minutes before you get into bed or keep them out of the bedroom altogether. You can use this time to give your body cues that it’s time to sleep, like showering, turning off the lights, and listening to soft music before bed.
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