The clean slate of a new year is a fantastic time to commit to making changes to support a healthier lifestyle. Saying you’re going to do something is the easy part. But where most people tend to falter with their New Year’s resolutions is the follow-through. Many people attempt to tackle broad goals like “walk more” or “eat healthier” that unfortunately don’t have the guardrails in place to ensure success.
As we know, wellness is the culmination of hundreds of tiny behavior changes over time. Nobody instantaneously starts to work out five days a week and prepare 90% of their meals at home and wake up at 5 am. While it would be nice to expect all of this to happen on January 1st, it’s just not realistic.
The following lifestyle resolutions that encompass exercise, nutrition, sleep, and more will help you to create realistic, attainable resolutions that will guide you towards creating a healthier life.
Go for a brisk walk after dinner every evening
There are many benefits to increasing your overall movement each day. An easy and fun way to move more is by adding a quick walk around your neighborhood after a meal. If dinner isn’t a great time, try walking before or after breakfast or lunch. It’s much easier to habit stack walking before a meal than simply resolving to “walk more.”
Sign up to participate in one fitness-related event
Depending on your goals and current fitness level, this might be a 5K, marathon, triathlon, or walk. Choose an event that feels approachable. If you’ve never run in your life, maybe a marathon isn’t the best option for 2021. But completing a 5K at the local charity event might be doable.
Work towards completing a challenging exercise
Certain movements just make you feel powerful. Being able to press, pull, or generally throw around your body weight using only your muscles is incredibly empowering. If there’s a movement you’ve been wanting to master, this year is the time to work towards it. Some of my favorites that take time to work towards are pull-ups, push-ups, and muscle-ups.
Create a training plan based on your movement of choice. Below is a logical progression for someone who wants to work towards completing a push-up. Do 3 sets of 8-12 reps of each exercise 3 times a week. Begin with 8 reps, and once you can do 12 reps easily, it’s time to move on to the next exercise.
- Push-ups on the wall
- Push-ups to a table/chair/elevated surface
- Push-ups on the ground from knees
- Lower slowly (5 seconds) to the ground from toes
- Push-ups from toes
Set a personal best
When it comes to fitness, we’re all competing against the same person, ourselves. Keeping track of your achievements, be it a race or a lift, can allow you to track progress and improvements over time.
One of my favorite resolutions from the past few years was to set a personal best in running a 5K, 10K, and half marathon. If you enjoy lifting over hitting the pavement, try to increase your back squat to your heaviest weight by the end of the year.
Try one new type of exercise or fitness class
Mix things up in the new year and keep your body guessing. If you’re strictly a weight lifter, take a yoga class. If you generally lean towards more gentle movements, go with a friend to try a HIIT workout. You may not know that you enjoy a particular type of movement or that your body needs it without putting yourself out there.
Move your bedtime and wake-up time 5 minutes earlier each week
If you want to wake up earlier to start a morning routine or simply have some more time to ease into your day, there is an effortless way to progress that won’t jolt you into trying to wake up 2 hours before you usually do. There is very little difference between you shutting off the lights in bed at 9:55 instead of 10 pm and waking up at 5:55 instead of 6 am. But after you do this for several weeks, you’ll be going to sleep around 9:30 and waking up around 5:30. Small changes build up to make a big difference over time.
Stop using devices an hour before bedtime
The light from our devices can confuse our brains when it’s time to wind down. Try to develop a calming evening routine that doesn’t involve your device. If you use a kindle* to read like I do, make sure you’re using the night mode setting to limit blue light.
Allow yourself between 7 and 8 hours in bed
Many people suffer from sleep deficits because they simply aren’t allowing themselves the opportunity to sleep. If you know that you need to be up at 7 am, rolling into bed around 2 am isn’t doing you any favors. Backtrack from the time you need to wake up and make sure you’re giving your body ample opportunity for rest.
Stop eating right before bed
The process of digestion can interfere with sleep. You should try to give your body around three hours to digest food before turning in for the night. That means if you plan to go to bed at 10 pm, try to wrap up dinner by 7.
Move the phone out of the bedroom
Keeping your phone in your bedroom, especially if it’s not in do not disturb mode, may have negative impacts on your sleep. If you rely on your phone as an alarm, consider buying an alarm clock* like we used to use back in the day. Your notifications and emails can wait until morning.
Commit to cooking one dinner a week at home
If you survive on fast food and carry out, try your hand at cooking and have one dinner each week at home. There are plenty of easy, healthy weeknight meals that don’t take much effort. You can also make your home-cooked meal a fun event by inviting friends for a Taco Tuesday or Breakfast for Dinner Wednesday.
Substitute one beverage each day for water
Juices, sodas, and fancy coffee drinks can contribute empty calories that aren’t serving your health and wellness goals. Try substituting your lunchtime drink for a cup of water instead. Fueling your body with water and adequate hydration can help to increase focus and energy!
Limit late-day caffeine
If you generally drink coffee, soda, or caffeinated teas after lunchtime, it may be negatively impacting your sleep. The half-life of caffeine is around five hours. So do your body and mind a favor and keep the caffeinated afternoon beverages to a minimum.
Try one new fruit or vegetable per month
Figure out what’s in season and prepare one new fruit or vegetable each month. This is a great way to expose yourself to more vegetables, or even ones you’ve had before that weren’t prepared deliciously. I never enjoyed brussels sprouts until I spiced them properly and baked them in the oven. Such a different experience than having them overcooked in the steamer!
Read nutrition labels
Commit to not making a purchase at the grocery until you read and understand the information on the nutrition label. You might be shocked at some of the scary ingredients lurking in your favorite foods. Remember to do your best to steer clear of industrial seed oils, added sugars, and trans fats.
Read for 10 minutes before bed each night
There are tons of benefits of reading, and before bed is a perfect time to use reading as a way to relax and settle in for sleep. Allocate ten minutes in your evening routine to read. If you sleep with a partner, try to get them on board too!
Decrease phone use by 5% each week
Some people are spending 5+ hours each day on their cellphones. This includes calls and texts but also social media, games, or mindless scrolling. Review your usage to determine your average time per day. Then, take the total time in minutes and multiply it by .95 to calculate your new goal time.
For example, as I’m writing this, my daily average is 1h 39 mins per day or 99 minutes. If I want to decrease by 5%, my goal for next week is 99 X .95 = 94 minutes or 1h 34m per day. Use tactics like reading a book, taking a walk sans phone, or other creative ways to disconnect.
Have one drink less
If you regularly enjoy a few beers or several glasses of wine at dinner, try to have one less drink each time you indulge. This can help to save calories, improve sleep, and increase alertness.
Compliment yourself once per day
Negative self-talk is incredibly damaging. And it’s alarming how many people are guilty of putting themselves down. Make a conscious effort each day to give yourself a compliment like you would to a co-worker or friend. It can be as simple as “the way I styled my hair looks really chic” or “I managed that client conversation very professionally and turned our interaction into a positive experience.” View yourself and your actions through the lens of a good friend and be giving with your pleasantries and kindness.
Clear workspace clutter
Clutter in your workspace and living space can cause unnecessary stress. Use the clean slate of a new year to eliminate any extraneous items that made their way into your space in the last year. When you sit (or stand) at your desk for work, it should be like taking a breath of fresh air, not looking around at clutter wondering how you got buried—bonus points for setting a monthly reminder on your calendar to clear clutter and wipe down your space.
Create a chore list
Certain things in the house need to be done regularly. There are toilets to clean, sinks to wipe down, and furballs to vacuum. It becomes much easier to do these tasks if you know what needs to be done and when. Scheduling these recurring small tasks for the same days each week or month helps you develop the habit of cleaning regularly. Check out this post about being more productive at home for more detail.
Tips for Making Resolutions Stick
- Share with an Accountability Partner: This might be your spouse, best friend, sibling, or parent. Confiding your resolutions with someone who can check in on you can help boost your likelihood of sticking with them.
- Break Resolutions into Tiny Bites: It’s best to keep resolutions small, but even a moderate-sized resolution could benefit from some breaking down. Take the example of committing to cooking dinner at home one night per week. Break that down into the steps of taking time each week to look for a recipe, make a list of foods you’ll need, purchase the food, and finally prepare the meal.
- Don’t Quit: It can be tempting to scrap your resolution if you miss one workout or one night of cooking at home. But remember that big change happens one step at a time, and sometimes those steps go backward. Keep the end goal in mind of the person you’re working to become, and let that be your beacon to guide you back on track.
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