Fact: No matter how passionate one might be about their New Year’s resolutions, most will have forfeited them before Valentine’s Day arrives.
Also fact: You don’t have to be one of them if you resolve to make a resolution on a daily basis.
Whether you greet the day with a word like “hope” in mind or resolve to drink an extra glass of water at lunch, you don’t need a new digit on the calendar to set, and sustain, both bite-sized and grand goals.
Steps to Kick Start a Healthy Lifestyle
If you do resolve to always be resolving, the lion’s share of your focus should be on enhancing your physical, mental, psychological, spiritual and intellectual health. Why? Because a mounting body of research reveals that well-being is the key to happiness. We don’t even need science to intuitively know this, either: The healthier we feel, the greater our relationships, work performance, sleep, sex, skin, mood—you name it.
What’s less clear is how to get started, which is why this post exists. Keep reading to make daily health resolutions that will stick.
Make a list
All too often, we forgo seeking the counsel of a health professional and do so for any number of reasons—we’re pressed for time, we can’t seem to get a breather at work, we’re worried about the cost of care, we’re embarrassed about the state of our health, or we fear we’re overreacting to a mild, albeit troublesome symptom.
And yet, the earlier you pursue advice on a health issue, the higher your chances of being able to nip it in the bud—or prevent one from happening.
To this end, take ten minutes or so and list down any persistent symptoms you’ve experienced in the last month. Do you feel bloated after eating certain foods? Are you struggling to fall and stay asleep at night? Have you been getting inexplicable headaches, or feeling less energetic? Have you noticed any changes to your skin or hair or period or weight or concentration levels? Write them down, stay off the internet, and schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider. Peace of mind, after all, is priceless.
Invest in a quality SPF
Even if you live in a temperate or cold climate, wearing sunscreen on a daily basis ought to be a non-negotiable: Study after study demonstrates that it’s as essential to your health as brushing and flossing twice a day and ensuring you drink adequate amounts of water. It can also save you from bemoaning the state of your skin: Research reveals that 90% of skin damage is due to the sun’s harmful rays.
Invest in a broad-spectrum, mineral SPF and keep it next to your toothbrush holder to remind yourself to slather it on during your morning routine.
Narrow down your social accounts
Data indicates that the average American holds five social media accounts and spends one hour and 40 minutes on them per day. Studies also assert that the more time you commit to scrolling through your feeds, the higher your risk of clinical depression.
If you must stay on some form of social media—for work, or because it’s the only way to connect with your sibling who is traveling around the world—choose one or two and refrain from checking it compulsively. That’s time that could be dedicated to body and soul-nourishing practices, whether it’s practicing the piano or going for an evening walk with your dog, neighbor or partner.
Choose a glass (or clean out your Hydroflask)
Whether you work from home, in a restaurant, in an office or at a factory, select your beverage container for the day as you’re prepping your morning coffee, tea or smoothie. Aim to refill it 8-10 times throughout the course of your day to guarantee you stay amply hydrated: Adequate hydration can help you stave off headaches and fatigue, while also bolstering your focus and energy. It may also promote longevity and help you ward off chronic diseases.
Perform a kitchen detox
Roughly half of all Americans have a preventable chronic disease—and that prevention is found in nutrition. The standard Western diet may be ubiquitous, easy to consume, affordable and convenient, but it’s sorely lacking in the fundamental vitamins and minerals you need to function at your peak (or function, period).
When your kitchen is overwhelmed with nutritionally wanting, “empty” calorie foods, it’s all too simple to fill up on, well, junk. Give your nutritionally inferior snacks, unopened bags of white sugar and processed meats brimming with inflammation-causing nitrates to the garbage can. The open shelves in your refrigerator and pantry may inspire you to stock them with fresh, organic produce, lean proteins and nutritionally superior snacks like nuts, seeds, olives, dried fruit and hummus.
Damp down—or go dry
If you’re on a mission to get as healthy as possible, you may want to consider the role of alcohol in your life. A glass of resveratrol-rich red wine here and there may encourage heart health, but anything that exceeds one serving per day for women and two for men may place you in dangerous territory: Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to a spate of health complications, including mood disturbances, memory loss (in the immediate and the long run), cardiovascular issues, cirrhosis of the liver, and malnutrition (and this is just the start of the list).
It doesn’t need to be January 1st to jump on the dry (or damp) bandwagon, either: You can experiment with sobriety or curbing your intake any time, assess how you feel, and decide if it’s a lifestyle that’s right for the new, revitalized you.
Create a bedtime routine
When we speak of jumpstarting a healthy lifestyle, we may think almost exclusively of nutrition and fitness. And while these are imperative to holistic health—if not its hallmarks—sleep is critical to every, single, physiological function, including your motivation to eat smartly and exercise the next day.
At the same time, widespread economic uncertainty, ongoing deadlines, young children in the house, an ill parent, schoolwork, existential crises and the blurring of boundaries between home and work means that many of us faceplant into our pillows, which can lead to difficulty falling (and staying) asleep, general sleep disturbances, a stronger propensity for nightmares and flat-out insomnia.
A consistent bedtime routine can ease you into a more rejuvenating night’s sleep—and give you the energy, and incentive, to make wise, healthy decisions the next day. In the one to two hours leading up to sleep, you may want to perform a series of steps that will inform your subconscious you’re preparing for rest: a soothing skincare regime, a warm bath or shower followed by lotion or an essential oil, changing into your pajamas or nightshirt, turning down the lights in your bedroom and closing down your devices.
And if you’re on the hunt to lose holiday weight, bear in mind that skimping on sleep can mess with your levels of leptin and ghrelin—two hormones that have a hand in hunger and satiation (and may leave you absolutely ravenous the day after a poor night’s rest).
Round out your nutritional profile
The vast majority of the vitamins and minerals you require ought to come from a well-balanced diet comprised of fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, healthy fats, lean protein and quality dairy products (e.g., Greek yogurt vs. ice cream).
And yet, dietary restrictions, certain health conditions or a hectic lifestyle can all interfere with your capacity to consume the nutrients you need to thrive.
Vitamins and supplements can help you fill in these gaps in your nutritional intake. From a daily multivitamin to upping your vitamin D during the sun-less winter months, there are a variety of ways to use vitamins and supplements to your advantage.
Pair socializing with exercise
The people who live the longest, most gratifying lives are not the richest (unless we’re talking about rich in experiences). Nor are they the thinnest or fittest, or incredibly successful in their professions, or live in staggering mansions, or do without sumptuous foods on occasion.
Rather, they prioritize two things that are available to many of us: Connection and physical activity. They engage, in person and often, with their friends, family members, and community, and they weave physical activity into their daily activities.
As you kick off the new year, endeavor to do the same and perhaps simultaneously: Attend a dance class with your best friend. Take an evening walk with your partner after dinner. Challenge your colleagues to a game of volleyball. Jump on that trampoline with your children, and hike with your family. Everyone involved stands to gain a burst of vitality from doing so and may galvanize you to maintain your resolution to never stop setting tiny and titanic goals all year (and life) long.