by Jessica Toomer
Do you know what’s better than a New Year’s resolution? A new habit. Resolutions are well-intentioned goals that usually don’t last long-term. Habits are routines we train ourselves to follow, a way to ensure long-term success. Most importantly, healthy habits are ones we can keep throughout our life, letting us age better, live longer, and enjoy the time we’ve earned.
These are nine easy-to-do habits that will improve your life in 2020. Which one are you going to try?
The best rule of thumb when starting any new venture is to start small, but when it comes to healthier habits, it’s best to start extremely small. Why? Often, a reason New Year’s resolutions fail is because people bite off more than they can chew. They plan to run five miles a day when they haven’t finished even one mile in the last few workouts. They plan to go to the gym every day when they haven’t had a gym membership in years. The best way to start living healthier is to do it one small step at a time – eat one healthy meal a day, commit to working out for just 15 minutes, or smoke one less cigarette. Eventually, you’ll be able to up the ante, adding onto these goals and meeting bigger ones.
You’ve probably been told before that sleep is an important part of any healthy living plan. But everyone’s idea of “adequate sleep” differs. The recommendation for adults 24-64 years-old is 7-9 hours a night, but 6-10 is also an acceptable range. Getting too much sleep can make a person groggy, irritable and unable to concentrate, but the real danger comes when you get too little sleep. Anxiety, depression, heart failure, high blood pressure, diabetes—they all can be traced, at least in part, to lack of sleep. If catching some Z’s is an issue, try mindful breathing techniques or aromatherapy. Putting your phone away half an hour before bed can also help.
It’s easier to stay committed to a goal when you’re keeping track of your progress. Reminding yourself of how far you’ve come is a valuable motivator and because most people benefit from visual cues, doing this in the form of a calendar, food diary, or exercise app almost guarantees you’ll stick with your habit. Write down your goal every day and what you’ve done to achieve it, that way, even on the tough days when working out or eating healthy seems too hard, you won’t be tempted to throw in the towel.
Remember what we said about visual reminders? Leaving a gym bag or a pair of sneakers by the door is a great way to make sure you don’t forget to exercise during the day. Even better, lay out your gym clothes the night before, so you’re already prepared to work out. It makes things more convenient and creates a routine which can quickly form into a habit.
If eating healthier is a goal in 2019, the best way to do it is by planning in advance. You don’t have to prepare every meal in one day. Start out by just planning your lunches for the week. Healthy, quick dishes like baked chicken and veggies or mason jar salads can easily be done in a day and set out for the week ahead. Once you’ve got one meal down, try planning two and so on. Knowing what you’re going to eat, and having it already made, will deter you from picking those greasier, fast-food options.
It might seem counterintuitive if your healthy habit for the new year involves losing weight or consuming fewer calories, but one of the best things you can do for your diet is to eat more often. Although some people choose to eat five or six micro meals a day instead of three large ones, you don’t have to go that far. If it’s easier for you to stick to the three-meal plan, just make sure you’re snacking on healthy options in-between – think almonds, fruits, or clean protein. The reason? It’s thought that if your body is telling you it’s hungry, then you’ve actually gone too long without food. You want to eat before you get to the point where your stomach is speaking to you, that way you’re not tempted to binge on unhealthy foods.
Drinking water is up there with getting enough sleep, in terms of things we all know we should do, but often don’t. But how much should you be drinking to reap the benefits? The age-old advice is eight, 8-ounce glasses a day but that’s changed over the years. Experts now say you should be drinking half an ounce to an ounce of water per pound. So, if you’re 150 pounds, you should be drinking anywhere from 75 to 150 ounces a day. That changes if you’re working out regularly or live in a hotter climate. And the benefits? Staying hydrated improves everything from your metabolism to your digestion and your mood.
Sometimes, the best method of accountability comes from the outside, which is why the next tip is to find a friend to keep you inspired. Grab a workout buddy to try out a new gym class, or make a lunch date with a friend at a healthy new restaurant you’ve been meaning to try. If you’re comfortable, join a support group, create a neighborhood running club, hire a personal trainer, or visit a nutritionist. Whatever your goal is, find someone that will help you on the path to achieving it.
Another great thing you can do to stay healthy is to check in on yourself. Women, that means giving yourself a self-exam in the shower. Men, that means also giving your body a checkup. Most importantly, everyone needs to make regular visits to their healthcare provider. Schedule that preventative physical exam, get your blood pressure tested, visit the eye doctor – if an illness is lingering or you just feel poorly, see your doctor. The best way to stay healthy is to stay on top of what happening to your body.
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