If you’re like me, you probably look to January 1st as a new beginning. A time to restart on goals that you might not have accomplished last year. The New Year is when many people set resolutions for themselves, many revolving around health. These are often hard to maintain though and many people give up on their goals in just a few weeks’ time. However, small habits can have a big impact, so I always believe it’s more important to start with those to reach your goals.
Small Habits to Help You Stick to Your Long-Term Resolutions and Goals
Here are five easy habits to start the year off right.
Sleep is so important not only for your mental clarity but for your physical and emotional health as well. Studies have shown that inadequate sleep contributes to obesity. So one easy habit to fall into is sleeping the recommended seven hours per night to help keep excess weight off. Not only because it allows your body’s metabolism to reset each night, but also because it will stop you from reaching for a sugary snack to keep you going mid-afternoon.
Also, sleep will help you stay alert during those tough morning meetings, lessen major mood swings and make you overall a more agreeable person. The CDC recommends getting at least seven hours of sleep per night – something two-thirds of Americans aren’t doing. So set down the phone, let the work wait until the morning and go to sleep. Schedule it on your calendar if you have to.
2. Drink More Water
Most people I know don’t nearly drink enough water as they should. People often consume coffee, soda, or other flavored drinks before water, which is bad. Water is crucial to a healthy body and something that is easy to fit into your new year’s goal. It helps you feel full faster, keeps you energized throughout the day, and helps your digestion. It might be hard if you’re used to chugging on soda all day but making an easy swap for regular (or seltzer water) will be a great way to stay hydrated and on track to reach your goals.
The best part is water is free and available literally everywhere. Bring a reusable water bottle and fill it up anywhere – the water cooler, the bathroom sink, or even the hose outside your neighbor’s house (not recommended, but still a viable option).
3. Find Ways to Move
I am a firm believer in starting small. There are too many people that try and achieve big resolutions by changing too many things too soon. So instead of promising yourself you’ll go to the gym every day or run a 10K by March, start by introducing small amounts of exercise into your daily routine. You don’t have to buy a bunch of new equipment or try out the latest and greatest fitness trend – you just need to start moving. Park extra far from the building at work to get more steps in, do a quick circuit routine right before you take a shower each morning, or get a group together to play some disc golf on weekends – anything helps.
Getting healthy is a process and you can always do little things to help build up your health. Don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t accomplish your resolutions. Change doesn’t happen overnight and I think we need to stop pressuring ourselves to make big, lasting changes on New Year’s Day. Build up to the 5K or going to the gym. You’re more likely to stick to small, easily manageable goals – so get moving.
4. Read Nutrition Labels
One major resolution I see a lot is the desire to immediately change eating habits. This can be a great long-term goal as two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. However, throwing out all your old junk food and replacing it immediately with kale chips is a good way to set yourself up for failure. Instead, an easy habit to get into is reading nutrition labels. Don’t expect to change overnight, but simply by reading labels and learning what is actually in your food, you’re making huge strides toward healthy eating.
Being a mindful consumer can help you make smarter choices with the foods you already eat, instead of trying to force yourself into a whole new diet. By doing this one small habit, you’re helping educate yourself and can choose options that have less sugar and more real ingredients. From there, you can change your food habits even more, but slow and steady wins the race.
If you don’t know where to start and food labels seem confusing, check out this article on decoding nutrition labels from the Dietitians of Canada.
5. Find Time to Do What You Love
It’s easy to get bogged down by resolutions and all the things you want to change in your life, but the New Year isn’t supposed to be a time of stress and anxiety. While being healthier or reading more or being more outgoing might be your resolutions – don’t let them cause you distress or take over your life.
It’s important to carve out time for yourself and do what you love, no matter what it is. If you love reading in the bathtub, or knitting, or even just relaxing in front of the TV – make time for that. Even if what you love goes against your resolutions, you should incorporate it into your life anyway. Life’s too short not to do what you love. Your mental health is just important as your physical health, and by doing the activities that you love to do, you’re giving yourself that mental self-care.
Last Word on New Year’s Habits:
New Year’s Resolutions often fail and one of the main reasons for that is because people try and change too much too soon. It’s easy to tell yourself that come January you’ll change your diet, work out every day and practice meditation, but it’s simply not realistic. If you try and take on too many goals at once, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Instead, make a list of big goals, but break them down into smaller, more attainable habits that you can do every day. Getting healthier and sticking with it is a marathon, not a sprint, so treat it that way.
These habits are small and hopefully achievable for everyone that wants to use them. However, don’t feel bad about not sticking with something or not being able to commit fully. We are all too hard on ourselves and put so much pressure to do better on New Year’s. Just remember that while New Year’s is a great time to reflect and try some new things, you can add habits and make goals any time of the year. These won’t happen overnight, and it may take months or years to establish life-long habits, so give yourself a break and enjoy life.
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