Happy New Year! We tend to see the new year as an opportunity to make changes and pursue new goals. And often we accomplish these goals by doing small things, day in and day out, that add up over time.
Why not kick off the new year with our 31 Days of Wellness challenge?
Check out these easy tips — one for each day in January — you can put into practice right away. You’ll find topics like eating well, being more physically active, managing stress, and much more. Are you ready? Your healthiest year yet starts now!
- Don’t skip meals. When you go without food for longer than three or four hours, your blood sugar drops. This can lead to overeating and feeling too tired to be active. Instead, stick to a regular schedule of three healthy meals and two snacks each day.
- Take time to enjoy your meals. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know when your stomach is full. You can consume a lot of extra calories in 20 minutes, especially when you are eating fast! Try different ways to train yourself to eat slowly. Chew each mouthful 10 times. Put down your utensils between bites. If you’re with others, take breaks to focus on the conversation.
- Focus on the facts. The Nutrition Facts, that is. Don’t let healthy-sounding terms on food labels mislead you. Words like “whole-grain,” “multigrain,” “light,” and “fat-free” don’t tell the whole story. Check the Nutrition Facts label for serving size and calories per serving. Those are the facts, no matter what else the label says.
- Make your kitchen healthier. Your success with any goal depends on your commitment to making it easier. Your living environment plays a powerful role here. Today, look at your kitchen and see what changes you can make to encourage your new healthy habits.
- Floss your teeth. Flossing is an important oral hygiene practice because tooth decay and gum disease can develop when plaque builds up on teeth and along the gum line. If flossing isn’t already part of your routine, getting started today can make a big difference in your oral health.
- Practice optimism. Give yourself the gift of optimism today. Make a choice to notice and appreciate what you have rather than what you don’t. Remember that no matter what the situation, how you perceive it is up to you. See the opportunity instead of the problem; you and those around you will benefit.
- Eat a rainbow of vegetables today. The color of a vegetable is a clue to some of the nutrients inside. By eating a wide variety of colors, you will get a broad range of nutrients. A mix of color on your plate will make eating vegetables more appealing, too!
- Go off the beaten path. Try a new location or route for exercise. Walk around your neighborhood or at a museum, nature center, or zoo. Use a guest pass to try a gym. Take your bike to a local park. A change of scenery will add a little spice to your activity routine — and you just might make some new friends, too.
- Wash your hands. Hand washing is one of the easiest steps we can take to protect ourselves from getting sick or spreading germs to others — and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most effective. Yet many of us don’t do it often enough. Why not start today?
- Try strength training. Strength training, also known as resistance training, is a great form of physical activity to add into a well-balanced exercise routine. Strength training can improve muscular strength, increase bone density, aid in weight management, improve posture and balance — and has many other health benefits.
- Give deep breathing a try. Breathing meditation could work for you if you give it a chance. Take a few minutes right now to sit comfortably and focus on the sensations of your breath — breathing in and breathing out. Let any thoughts that come into your mind drift by without getting involved in them. This takes practice, but it’s worthwhile. Enjoy the stillness.
- Volunteer your time. Becoming a volunteer can make an incredible impact on someone else’s life — but have you ever considered all the ways that volunteering can impact your own wellness? Aside from giving our lives meaning and purpose, helping others lowers stress and adds movement to your day.
- Experiment with cooked whole grains. They make a delicious substitute for white rice in casseroles, pilaf, or soup. Check cookbooks — especially those with vegetarian recipes — and the internet for ideas. Choose one of these whole grains to try this week: brown rice, wild rice, millet, whole grain barley (not pearled), bulgur (cracked wheat), or whole-wheat couscous.
- Make time for self-care. It can be among the first things we throw out the window when we’re busy. But research suggests that self-care is crucial to emotional health and well-being. Not taking time for ourselves impacts how we feel, think, and act.
- Treat yourself to a fruit smoothie or parfait. Both are refreshing ways to eat more fruit and drink more milk. For a smoothie, blend one cup of low-fat/fat-free plain yogurt, one cup of chopped fresh or frozen fruit (such as berries or a banana), and a half cup of 100 percent fruit juice. For a parfait, layer nonfat/low-fat yogurt and sliced fresh fruit in a glass. Top with a dollop of light whipped cream.
- Start a new healthy habit. What actions do you take every day? For example, having coffee with breakfast, flossing your teeth before brushing, and eating a cookie each night before bed. Habits can be both “good” and “bad.” Try reprogramming yourself with one positive new habit today.
- Track your progress. Studies show that those who track their activities regularly are likely to be more active in the future than those who do not. If you notice you are tracking less often, try posting your activity calendar in a more prominent place. Try setting up a reminder on your computer to prompt you to complete it. It takes less than a minute to record your minutes or steps, and the payoff is well worth it!
- Take an honest look at your leisure screen time. Many of us we spend all our free time focused on technology, and we have less time for the habits and activities that make us feel good and build resilience. To take a tech time out, start by tracking the amount of non-work hours you spend on the phone, computer, or watching TV for one week. You may be surprised! Screen time can be addictive. If you discover you’re spending more time in front of a screen than you are being active, make a plan to replace some of that viewing time with “doing” time.
- Be bold in the cold. A great way to fight the exercise blahs in the winter is to do something outside. Try cross-country skiing, winter hiking, or snowshoeing. Take your friends or family ice skating. Dress warmly, and go for it! You may discover that winter is your favorite time of year.
- Take an instant vacation with laughter. “Laughter is an instant vacation,” according to Milton Berle. When you’re feeling calm, make a list of things that make you laugh — a TV show, a movie, a joke you’ve heard. Pull out the list when you’re experiencing stress, and treat yourself to an instant vacation. You deserve it.
- Learn to spot fad diets. So many diets out there have endorsements from doctors, celebrities, and fitness professionals. Read our blog to learn some tips on avoiding the ones that are too good to be true.
- Practice good sleep hygiene. Start today by paying attention to the things you eat and drink in the evening. Make a point of avoiding napping during the day, exercising, and setting a sleep schedule.
- Avoid stress eating. Stress eating, also known as emotional eating, is eating in response to how you are feeling rather than hunger. Research shows that high-fat and high-calorie “comfort foods” actually can make us feel better. But a habit of stress eating can lead to weight gain and serious health concerns over time. That’s why we should try to understand how stress eating works and how to break the cycle.
- Practice gratitude. Gratitude means feeling thankful as well as expressing thanks and appreciation. And there is more to gratitude than meets the eye — practicing gratitude can have a positive effect on all areas of your life: physical, mental, emotional, and even social! Research has shown that individuals who regularly practice gratitude experience many benefits like lower stress and improved sleep.
- Eat breakfast. If you are a breakfast-skipper, I have good news for you! Plenty of healthy, delicious morning meal options are quick, inexpensive, and easy. Try this overnight oats recipe to get started.
- Schedule yearly checkup/screenings. It’s easier to treat a disease you never get. Find out which screenings you need and when, and take a step for your health this year by setting up an appointment.
- Try going plant-based for a day. A plant-based diet is pretty much what it sounds like: a way of eating that emphasizes fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts and seeds over animal products such as meat, fish, poultry, milk and milk products, and eggs. For some, that’s a vegan diet, while to others it may be some form of a vegetarian or flexitarian diet. But they all consist mostly of whole-plant foods.
- Make healthier choices at the grocery store. Your diet begins on the shelves of your local grocery store. Between the abundance of information from food labels and various types of marketing on products, grocery shopping can be a daunting task. However, having a set plan in mind and a grocery list in hand can make grocery shopping easier!
- Try a workout with your partner. More and more couples are hitting the gym together. Many couples report that working out together improves their relationship and is fun, too.
- Improve your health at work. Clocking over 40 hours each week at a job means that the average American spends about a third of our time in the workplace. With so much time spent in one place, it’s important to make sure we are making the most of that time and doing the best we can to stay healthy. By starting small and adding a few things at a time, you can make healthy changes manageable.
- Fit physical activity into your work day. Too much sitting and not enough moving can be bad for our health. So making movement a part of our daily routine — specifically during the workday — is a great place to start!
Now give yourself a big pat on the back. Take time to feel proud of every healthy change you make in your daily habits. Feel grateful for the new skills you learn. Admire yourself for your efforts and dedication. You deserve it!