Make 2016 your healthiest and happiest year yet
It’s a new year, so why not take advantage of the opportunity to really focus on the structure of your daily life? Sure, New Years Resolutions get a bad rep, but making small adjustments in just a few areas of your daily routines could dramatically enhance the quality of your life. The New Year probably rolled in and filled you with reflections on the past, leaving you with optimism and motivation for change in 2016 – which is great – but its important to remember to set small daily attainable goals that you can feel great about accomplishing. For this list we forget the big long-term dream goals (loosing 15 lbs, getting the dreams job, etc…) and focus on small easy healthy habits you can achieve on a daily basis that will improve your overall physical and mental health and create the foundation for reaching those long-term goals.
I’m grateful to have done the research for this article as it has helped me focus on the areas of my life that need improvement and given me some fresh motivation to start the new year.
1. Morning Routines –
I know this one gets a lot of hype – but I can not stress how much what you do in the morning sets the tone for your whole day. Waking up at a reasonable hour and committing to doing something just for yourself, even if you don’t have anything planned, really makes you feel accomplished and prepared for the day. Easier said that done, I know. But making a habit of getting up with your alarm quickly develops into routine. Whether its taking time to meditate, make a list of goals/tasks for the day, a list of positive affirmations, exercising or spending a few extra minutes preparing a healthy breakfast/smoothie, giving yourself extra time in the morning can dramatically enhance your mood and make you feel prepared for the day.
-Set an alarm away from your bed so you have to get up to turn it off
-Use an alarm with a puzzle feature to deactivate
-Keep your blinds open and allow natural light into your room in the morning.
-Buy a coffee pot with a timer so its made for you when you wake up
2. Eat Healthier –
A no brainer, right? The biggest thing to remember in 2016 is to ditch the diet craze. Diets are often full of unrealistic restrictions, and when you cheat or break the diet, it brings feelings of guilt that can cause you to give up on the diet altogether. As an alternative to diets, use common sense! Before you eat something, ask yourself if your body will benefit from it. Try to prepare your own meals. When you cook for yourself, you become more conscious of the types of food you consume. Try to eat colored foods, and do a little research on how each color impacts your health. Forget calorie restricting, and instead focus on eating more natural foods with nutrients. I like to use a fitness app to track my meals (I have found that logging my meals makes me more aware of what I will eat/snack on), but I ignore the estimated calorie consumption, a 100 calories from potato chips and 100 calories from seeds/nuts will not affect your body equally, so stop being concerned with numbers and start focusing on the quality of the food you put in your body. Try to eat at regular times, restrict eating after 8pm, and allow yourself a cheat day to indulge in something sweet.
-Prepare your own food
-Look up recepies and try to make a new meal once a week (its fun – even if the meal doesn’t come out so great)
-Read labels – if you don’t know what most of the ingredients are, probably don’t eat it.
-Use a fitness app to track what kind of food you eat (Lose it! Google Fit, Samsung Health)
3. Exercise –
Exercise seems to be the biggest thing everyone says they need more of, but rarely follow through with. Gym memberships sky rocket after the New Year, and typically after a month or two, life gets in the way, we loose our focus/motivation and the membership card becomes just another accessory on our key rings. In 2016, instead of making unrealistic plans to visit the gym 5 times a week, start making small adjustments. Try to incorporate a little activity into your day in the commute to/from work. If you take a train to work, maybe get off a stop early and walk the rest of the way. If you drive, park at the furthest spot in the lot or down the street to get some extra walking in. (This ties in with waking up earlier, because then you have time to do these things!) Also, walking gives you some time and space to be with yourself. Take the stairs instead of elevators or escalators. Blast your favorite album and dance while you clean your house. If you do push for a more intense increase of activity – playlists can really help get you motivated! Find what you feel connected with – for me its yoga, but I have friends that are avid bikers or runners – don’t obsess over a certain exercise or target area (running, abs, weights, legs, arms, steps) just make a conscious effort to get more activity into your day and if combined with other small adjustments in this list, you’ll start seeing changes in your energy levels, sleep cycles, and overall mood/happiness.
-Create playlists that boost your energy
-Incorporate more walking into your commute
-Opt for stairs over escalators/elevators
4. Create Playlists –
This is a big one for me – my library is filled with playlists for cleaning, running, sleeping, yoga/meditation, at the beach, feeling like winter, feeling in love, feeling good, etc… Music can have a HUGE impact on the way we feel, so why not make some playlists that can help guide you to/enhance a certain feeling? I work harder and I am more productive when I am happy and when my mood matches the task I am about to go into, so it makes sense for me to spend the time to make a playlist that will motivate me. Also, if i’m not feeling in the mood for something, or lazy, or aggravated and I put on a playlist of songs that make me feel good or give me energy, my feelings usually change according to the tone the music sets. Plus, creating playlists are fun and a good way to burn time in a way that will positively effect you in the future.
5. Ditch Soda/Sugary Drinks – Drink more water!
It all comes back to being aware of what you put in your body and what fuels your body. Soda is the obvious go to for unhealthy drinks, but you might be surprised by how much sugar is packed into beverages that are marketed as ‘healthy’. Reading labels is so important to really understanding what you consume. Water is always a safe bet. Hydration is important for so many things – our appearance, our skin, our energy and it helps you loose weight. You’ll also save money by cutting out sodas/flavored drinks and using a refillable bottle you can carry around with you. If you don’t like plain water, try enhancing it with lemon, cucumber, berries, etc…
-Buy a refillable bottle and keep it in your car/purse
-Drink a glass of water before each meal – it helps you feel full faster
6. While you’re at it, ditch alcohol –
Cutting alcohol out of you life can be so beneficial for you physical and spiritual health. Sure, I know it can be hard to participate in social functions with out the dulling of your inhibitions, but that’s a pretty huge red flag in itself, right? What is it that makes you feel insecure being around people that pushes you to alcohol to ‘loosen up’? And does the alcohol really make you more enjoyable to be around? Maybe spend some time reflecting on what it is that makes you feel so uneasy just being you instead of reaching for that drink. Of the many articles I’ve seen pop up in the last few months regarding personal transformations after quitting drinking, the most significant benefit (in my opinion) is getting to know yourself again, and learning to love yourself. Removing alcohol and activities that revolve around alcohol frees up a lot of time to engage in healthy habits. And really, whats to miss about waking up with a hangover and checking your phone and feeling full of regret? Cutting out alcohol helps you save money, loose weight, engage in more meaningful activities, get regular sleep cycles, and allows you wake feeling refreshed and with more energy. Plus – most importantly – you get to develop a better relationship with yourself.
7. Turn off the TV and pick up a Book –
We live in the age of Netflix, Hulu, OnDemand, Redbox etc… so picking up an actual book is not something that we do often anymore, but there are health benefits to turning the TV off and picking up a book. Reading is said to reduce stress and help you relax, increase knowledge and vocabulary skills, improve focus and memory skills, and could even help prevent/slow the progress of Alzheimer’s and Dementia. In a world where our attention is constantly being pulled in every direction, taking