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 a break and getting into a good book can be a welcomed break from the chaos we are constantly surrounded by.
8. Take a break from Social Media –
Social media allows people to post all the great things about their life and leave out all the bad parts, which creates an image of perfection that any individual would be hard pressed to live up to. It makes sense that people are eager to share the exciting and happy parts of their lives, and want to keep the difficult parts hidden, but this can create a lot of unnecessary stress and pressure to measure up to the people we compare ourselves to on Social Media. Everybody does it – you log on to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and see the success and mile stones of other peoples lives and compare them to your own and think about your own shortcomings, and as we’ve learned from a number of articles documenting the insane lengths certain people go to create a very perfected public image, its usually far from the truth. So give yourself a break from the phone, and focus your energies on developing these healthy habits to make your life more fulfilled in reality, not just on a screen!
9. Take time for yourself –
This is so important. We often get so caught up in work, relationships, social functions, and the fast pace of society that we forget to take time for ourselves. Setting aside some time to do something – anything – that makes you feel good about yourself is such an important thing to factor into each day.Whether its any of the above mentioned things – exercising, reading, walking, meditating, taking a bath, painting, playing music, getting a massage – take the time to do something that is for you and only for you.
10. Treat yourself –
Set aside some time and money once a month to treat yourself to something. Get a massage, get your nails done, go to a museum, have a guys/girls night out, have a romantic dinner with your significant other, try baking, go to a movie, watch a sunset or sunrise, get a facial – whatever it is, reward yourself and give yourself a day to enjoy stress-free. Having that to look forward to each month can really help ease anxiety and stress.
11. Manage your finances –
This is not anyone’s favorite task, but its a part of life, and there are ways to make it eaiser! Try using a finance app to track your spending and see where your money really goes each month, you may be surprised to see how quickly small expenses add up. Finance apps are easy to use, allow you to track how much you spend each month, set budgets, and see what categories you spend the most in. Some even allow you to connect to your bank account, so you don’t have to manually add transactions, and categorizes the expense for you. It may take a month or so to get an idea of what your budgets should be an adjust them accordingly, but this really made my life a whole lot easier.
12. Organize –
Organization is key. It can be stressful when things around your living/working space are chaotic and unorganized. Take a day (or two) to really go through your things and organize them, organize your closet, your shoes, your books, you kitchen and you’ll be surprised how satisfying it feels when you are done.Making your bed in the morning is a great way to start the day with things in order. Factor in 15 minutes before you go to sleep to straighten your room, or do the dirty dishes, or pick up things you have left lying around throughout the day. Waking up to an clean and organized living space makes me feel less anxious/stressed about starting my day.
Dedicate one day a week to do a thorough cleaning of your living spaceUse a playlist to stay motivatedInvest in some small things that will help you stay organized – a planner, shoe rack, closet organizers, desk organizers
13. Get enough Sleep –
Getting a decent amount of sleep every night can really affect your physical and mental health. Try to get to bed and wake up at the same time even on weekends. This will help your brain and body get used to a regular sleep/wake schedule . Exercising daily, eliminating alcohol and foods/drinks that are high in sugar/caffeine can help you become tired and prepared for sleep at an appropriate time. Avoid watching TV or looking at your phone right before bed, instead try reading a book next to a low watt lamp. Keep your bed reserved for intimacy and sleep and keep the environment in your bedroom relaxing low lights and with soft colors.
-Try an app like Lux that adjusts the hue for your computer screen
-Keep the lighting in your house dim 2 hours before bed
-Invest in a good pillow
14. Stop Procrastinating – Take responsibility!
Taking responsibility for your own life and your own happiness is, in my opinion, the hardest thing on this list. In 2016, realize that only you are responsible for making changes and making this year fulfilling for you. It’s time to stop making excuses or blaming other people/situations for your dissatisfaction with life. If there is something in your life that you don’t like, let it go. An unhealthy person always causing you stress? Let them go. Start taking action. It’s so easy to put things off, say you’re too busy, you’ve had a long day and you’ll get things done tomorrow. If you catch yourself scrolling through social media or watching youtube or the TV, take a moment to redirect the time and energy into something that will make you feel better and accomplished. All the other points are this list are fruitless without this, making this the hardest but probably most important element of this list.
15. Travel –
Okay, so I snuck one long term goal into this list just because I feel it is so important. Traveling can help put certain elements of our lives into perspective, and you get to experience the culture of the world. You get a break from daily life and get to experience something great. We exist on this plant our entire lives, why not explore some of it? Get an idea of what humans of all different cultures, races and religions live like. Set aside a certain amount that you feel comfortable with in your budget each month to go directly into a savings account to help you get to where you want to go by 2017.