With the new year now in full gear, many people are hard at work on fresh resolutions (or perhaps still looking for motivation to get started).
Getting healthier is always a top priority for many of us around the new year as we come off of the holiday binge and look forward to summer. "Healthy" can mean different things to different people, but generally, feeling good, looking good and taking care of yourself fits the bill.
From getting more exercise in or finding ways to deal with stress, concrete steps and a little encouragement always helps. The following 15 habits take a broad approach to getting healthier, and prove fairly simple to integrate into your routine. Get started and accomplish your goal of a healthier and happier 2015!
1) Remind Yourself What You Are Grateful For Every Day
Gratitude is a powerful tool for attitude adjustment. It can go a long way toward making you feel more positive and satisfied with life overall. People with more gratitude even sleep better at night, according to a University of Manchester study.
Every evening as you get ready for bed, take a minute to consciously think about everything that you have to be grateful for. This can be especially helpful if you normally find yourself dwelling on to-dos or negative thoughts.
2) Practice a Stress Relief Technique That Works
Stress is something everyone experiences, whether from work, family, money or other sources. Try a few different tactics to find a go-to technique for when you need to relax.
There are several recognized stress relief methods from visualization to deep breathing, to simply zoning out to calming tunes. Being prepared with an effective stress relief tool in your mental toolkit can be very useful when you need a breather.
3) Try to Learn Something New
Taking in challenges and teaching our brains new things is good for mental health, especially as we get older. If you've had a hobby or new language in mind, what better time than now?
Smartphone apps that teach you a new word daily or even brain-training games can be a great tool to give your mind a quick workout, or you could integrate a new hobby into your evenings a few nights per week. If you feel like you've been stuck in a couch potato rut, engaging your mind with something new is the perfect way to break out.
4) Dedicate Time to Helping Others
Doing good for others helps us feel better. It's something many of us know intuitively, and science also supports this philosophy as well.
You don't need to become Mother Teresa, but consider giving one afternoon a month to a local shelter or signing up for your office's volunteer events. VolunteerMatch.org is another way to find opportunities near you. A couple of hours each year is nothing in the grand scheme of things, but can make a world of difference to someone in need and for your own perspective.
5) Find a Fitness Program You Like
Dread the gym or hate routines? Many fitness experts will tell you that the key to getting fit is finding exercises that you like and find enjoyable. Thankfully, there are so many ways to exercise that you are bound to find ones that you like.
From dozens of YouTube personalities to DVDs to apps to live classes to simply walking around your neighborhood, try different types of fitness routines and find ones you like and can stick with. If you've yet to find your fitness match, make it a goal to try out at least one new program or method each week until you do.
6) Commit to Working Out Three to Four Times Per Week
On the subject of fitness, getting exercise not only helps you look better, it boosts immunity, brain health, mood and much more. Working out or staying in shape usually top New Year's resolutions lists but it can also be one of the harder ones to keep for many people.
One helpful way to stick with it could be not overdoing or wearing yourself out. Pick manageable times and workout schedules that you can stick to without getting overwhelmed. Even 30 to 40 minutes three or four times a week can make a big impact - you don't have to live in the gym so don't let that discourage you.
7) Take More Steps
Another good way to boost your overall activity level to simply walk more during the day. Newer research has shown that sitting all day is bad for health, this can be especially if you have a sedentary job.
Park your car further, walk or bike one day a week, take the stairs, or even take more trips to the water cooler. Monitor your progress with a wearable fitness tracker, pedometer, or smartphone app and challenge yourself to beat your own records.
8) Replace Soda/Coffee/Tea with More Water
Water is essential for health, and not getting enough can make you feel sluggish, bloated and even affect sleep. The average person should drink about 64 ounces of pure water each day. If you are more active or in a drier climate, you may need more water.
Use an app to remind you to fill up, or make a point of hitting the water cooler every hour. A squeeze of citrus or slice of watermelon can make good additions to your water bottle if you are trying to get used to drinking plain water.
9) Follow The Rainbow Principle for Your Plate
The more colors of fresh fruit and veggies you eat, the broader spectrum of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins you're nourishing your body with. Try to make sure every meal has at least a couple colors of veggies, and mix up what you eat regularly.
10) Bring Your Lunch and Snacks to Work
Rather than hitting the drive thru or the vending machine every day, try to pack a fresh sandwich, leftovers, or a healthy salad at least a few days each week. Toss in some sliced veggies, nuts, a boiled egg, apple or other quick and healthy snacks to help stave off sweet and salty cravings in the afternoon, too.
Set aside some time one day a week to chop up and wash veggies and divide individual servings of snacks like nuts and crackers. This way, packing a lunch takes only minutes during the week. Bonus: bringing lunch also gives you more time to enjoy on your breaks and more money to spend outside of working hours!
11) Cook at Home More Often
Beyond lunch, getting meals out may seem convenient, but you are paying for it both in the cost and your health. Take up learning basic healthy meals, and try to gradually reduce fast food trips this year.
For example, you might start by making your own egg muffins at home and freezing them for week ahead to skip the morning drive-thru. Blogs are a great, free resource for beginner cooks - ones like BudgetBytes.com and SimplyRecipes.com have many budget and time-friendly cooking solutions that make it easy and cheap to eat home more often.
12) Take Advantage of Break Times
If you get a long lunch at work, put that time to use and make sure you get away from the computer and your tasks for a bit. Savor your lunch, take a walk, use the gym, relax, take a quick nap or catch up on a book. The point is to do something for you! Research shows your productivity will be better for it as well.
13) Get More Sunlight
Direct sunlight helps your body produce Vitamin D and also helps regulate your body's internal sleep-wake clock. Try to get out in the sunshine for several minutes each day, especially in the morning and early afternoon. Even working near a window can help.
14) Stop Watching TV and Using Screens Late at Night
Studies show that TVs, smartphones, laptops and even eBooks steal your sleep and affect sleep quality. Higher electronic use in general is also associated with physical and mental health effects. Phase electronics out of your bedroom and wind down with paper books, music, journaling, or meditation instead, for example.
15) Make Sure You Are Getting Enough Sleep
Most adults need a minimum of seven hours of sleep to avoid the side effects of sleep deprivation. Track your schedule to make sure you are getting enough quality rest. Sleep is well worth your time if you want to get healthy, as it helps you in the gym, helps you make smarter food choices, helps your mood, and helps you learn. How's that for multitasking?
You don't have to include every idea or completely overhaul your routine to get healthier this year. Pick the goals that are most important to you, and start making those small steps to turn actions into habits. Remember, every change for the better is progress.
How do you plan on getting healthier this year, or what aspects are most important to you? Share your goals and other helpful tips in the comments.
Firas Kittaneh is the CEO of Amerisleep, an eco-friendly luxury mattress company. Firas writes more posts on the Amerisleep blog about getting better sleep, healthy living and being eco-friendly. Follow him on Twitter.