It’s not easy to make New Year’s resolutions when there’s a pandemic raging and so many of the factors that impact our health and well-being are out of our control. Self-care won’t change the anger or apathy so many people feel about where we are in this moment. And alas, diligently following all of the most up-to-date public health guidance won’t necessarily keep you from getting infected with the COVID-19 omicron variant.
But one thing you definitely can do is take it easy on yourself when you make your 2022 resolutions. Remind yourself that you can’t change the course of the pandemic, but you can be kind to the body that has carried you so far. You can carve out small moments to take care of yourself, even when taking care of yourself feels futile.
With that in mind, here are five easy health resolutions for 2022 that have absolutely nothing to do with losing weight, and that seem doable even in the face of an ongoing pandemic.
1. Stop assigning a moral value to your food.
After the holiday season, far too many people are filled with guilt about everything they’ve spent the past days or weeks eating and drinking. As Ashley Broadwater wrote in a recent HuffPost piece, people often berate themselves by saying things like: “I was so bad for eating XYZ.”
The issue with comments like that is that they assign a moral value to food, conflating what you put in your mouth with your value as a person. But foods are not good or bad. Sure, some are more nutrient-rich than others. But you’re never a bad person for eating a particular way.
So in 2022, particularly at the beginning of the year, when you’re being pummeled by ads for diets and gyms, make a conscious effort to push back against the “I was so bad” mentality. Marisa Moore, a culinary and integrative dietitian in Atlanta, told Broadwater that one simple strategy is to really be aware of when you find yourself slipping into moral judgement zone, and flip the script.
“Instead of using judgmental words, you might think or say how you chose to enjoy your favorite food this weekend,” Moore said.
2. Move your body.
Need another reason to strike “lose weight” from your 2022 resolutions? A study published last fall found that exercise is much more important than weight loss when it comes to boosting longevity and improving heart health.
“We would like people to know that fat can be fit, and that fit and healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes,” study researcher Glenn Gaesser, of the College of Health Solutions at Arizona State University, said in a statement at the time.
So in 2022, resolve to move your body more — and remember that you can keep it pretty simple. The CDC recommends that adults need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, plus two days of muscle-strengthening activities. But that doesn’t mean you have to hit the gym. Take a walk a few days a week, or mow your lawn. Then do some gardening or yoga for strengthening exercises.
Just remember, moderation is key. Too much exercise can actually be a bad thing for your mental and physical health, so give yourself permission to spend plenty of time lounging on the couch.
3. Ask for help.
As Lindsay Holmes, HuffPost Wellness’ senior editor, recently wrote, there are limits to how much any of us can “self-care” our way into feeling better given everything that’s happening in the world as we cruise into 2022.
Which is why one of the best things you can do for your own well-being this year is to ask for help. What that means is personal. Maybe you recognize that now is the time to start therapy — which Holmes reminds us all is a strength, not a weakness. (Here are some affordable options.)
Or maybe you’re an exhausted parent who needs a break. Ask a family member to watch your kids one night, even if they don’t offer. Take some time for yourself. Find ways to tap back into your parental joy.
Think about the areas on your life where you really could use a bit of extra support right now, and go ahead and ask for it. You’re not an imposition and, as the pandemic has showed us, we really all depend on one another in ways big and small.
4. Continue being responsible when it comes to COVID, but don’t beat yourself up if you get sick.
In a matter of weeks, the omicron variant has really changed the pandemic. It’s increasingly clear that you can do all the right things — get vaccinated and boosted, wear your mask indoors, avoid social gatherings, etc. — and still get a breakthrough infection. In fact, experts are going so far as to warn that most COVID infections may soon be breakthroughs.
That’s difficult to hear if you’re someone who has been taking this pandemic seriously from the get-go, and you’ve been relatively COVID cautious all along.
Which is why, as we head into 2022, you should vow that you won’t see it as a moral failure or somehow shameful if you do get infected. Yes, continue to take the pandemic seriously. Yes, continue to follow the most recent public health guidelines, whatever they are.
But as Julia Reis recently wrote in a HuffPost Wellness piece: It’s not your fault that omicron is so contagious. Resolve to repeat that to yourself if you do test positive as the variant surges.
5. “Habit stack.”
Habit stacking is a term coined by author SJ Scott in his 2014 book on the topic, and it’s a great way to carve out time for self-care, even if you feel completely overwhelmed.
So how do you do it? Pick one small new habit you’d like to work on in 2022, make a list of the everyday habits you already have, then stack them in a way that makes sense, explained Alexandra Frost in her recent HuffPost piece on the tactic. For example, you might decide to “meditate for just one minute while brewing your coffee,” Frost says. Do that until it becomes a daily habit, then you can stack on another one.