New Year’s Resolutions are simultaneously inspiring and intimidating. Trying to overhaul your life and plan for the coming year isn’t as easy as the champagne-induced coma we all enter into on New Year’s Eve leads us to believe. This is especially true when it comes to sticking to healthier habit resolution… because This Will Be The Year.Then, as always, life gets in the way. But sustainable resolutions do exist, and even better, they can help you build the foundation for a long, healthy, happy life. It all comes down to knowing how to go about it. So instead of striving for an unattainable health makeover, try out one of these 17 hacks for a healthier year and life.
1. Drink A Glass Of Water Before Each Meal.
Say hello to hydration! Studies show that drinking a glass of cold water before meals has been shown to reduce consumption at meals by 20%. This trick could cut down your weekly consumption, and therefore cut your grocery bill, by a whole fifth. Not bad, H2O, not bad. Drinking water is not only healthy, but it can really save us money and help us eat less! Who knew?
2. Eat Slower.
By chewing each bite thoroughly and intentionally, you will help yourself ward off the inclination to scarf down food while your mind wanders. Besides, what’s worse than realized you forgot to actually taste your meal? Beginning your meal with less food on your plate, or even eating on smaller plates, are two good ways to remind yourself to eat more slowly so that your meal doesn’t end before it has even really began.
3. Keep Your Refrigerator ‘Lean & Green’.
Spinach, kale, green apples and avocados are the lean & green foods you should keep in your fridge at all time. Spinach is only ~$2.00 per bag and it really packs a punch of vitamin A, vitamin K, and potassium, while being a great salad base or steamed side dish. Kale is a bit more expensive than spinach at about ~3.50 a bunch, but of our recommended daily value, it gives us 206% vitamin A, 134% vitamin C, and a (holy cow) 684% of our vitamin K. Worth it? Totally worth it. Kale makes a great salad base, sauteed side, or crispy chip. Green apples are typically ~$1.50 per apple, or ~$5.50 for a pack of four and are both low in sugar and high in fiber. While I prefer my apples as a snack, or baked ~dessert style~, they are also great chopped up in a salad or in a morning smoothie. Finally, while avocados can be a bit pricey at $2.00 a pop, they have healthy fat, lean protein, more potassium than a banana, and tons of vitamins and minerals (consider this your multivitamin of the day).
4. Prep Your Meals Ahead Of Time.
Now that you’ve cleaned out your cupboard Kon Mari style and reorganized and stocked-up your fridge with all things green, the next step is making sure that you actually eat the health foods that fill your pantry and refrigerator shelves. But after a long day at work it can be tempting to stop at your favorite sushi-takeout restaurant for a white-rice packed no-cook dinner, or order in “healthy” helping of Pad Thai from Seamless. While it is occasionally okay for your health (and budget) to splurge on a to-go meal, it is not something that should become a routine (because face it girl, we can’t afford it). The solution for fighting The Pre-Made Food Temptation is meal preparation. Because I work a Monday-Friday job, I choose to meal prep on Sunday’s, but find what works for you.
5. Save Leftovers.
Saving leftovers functions like prepping your meals ahead of time. If when you cook you make enough for an extra meal (or two) you will have something easy to turn to when you’re hungry, as opposed to always turning to take-out and fast food.
6. Never Let Yourself Become “Starving”.
We know how it goes: you lose track of time, don’t end up taking your lunch break until 3:00pm, and since you haven’t eaten since a rushed breakfast on the way out the door, you just want to EAT EVERYTHING NOW. To keep yourself from binging out of “starvation” (and hanger) carry a few (healthy) snacks with you, leave them in your office desk, car door, and purse. By planning out snacks, and eating every few hours you can keep yourself satisfied and focused for longer periods of time.
7. Wear More Sunscreen. The easiest way to get into the habit of wearing more sunscreen every single time you go outside is to simply swap your everyday face moisturizer for one with at least 15+SPF in it. Skin cancer affect about 3.3 million Americans each year, help yourself avoid becoming a statistic with this classic and timeless health advice.
8. Find A Workout You Enjoy. Working out is not One Size Fits All. Give yourself the freedom to dislike something and discontinue it from your workout routine, and also give yourself the freedom to try new moves. Try new workout classes, new running routes, new weight-lifting exercises. Try out rollerblading or skiing or that new at-home dancing DVD. It’s all about finding a workout, or set of workouts, that you will feel motivated to do. It’s much harder to stick with activities you don’t like than ones you do, so find ones that put a smile on your face instead of a feeling of deep dread.
9. Sleep More. I know, I know. You’ve heard it before. We all need at least 7 hours of sleep each night. But abandoning our to-do list’s for two or three more hours of sleep just isn’t realistic for most of us. Instead, pick one day of the week where you will let yourself sleep in. Instead, begin going to sleep five to ten minutes earlier each night. In November my goal was to crawl into bed at 11pm so that I would be asleep by 11:15pm. Once my body had acclimated to that routine, in December I began climbing into bed at 10:50pm which helped me fall asleep anywhere from five to fifteen minutes longer. This schedule not only helped my body adapt a consistent routine, but also increased the amount of sleep I got each night by 15 minutes- which is about 2 hours a week- certainly not a negligible amount.
10. Have Sex As Often As You Need To Reap The Benefits. The exact amount will vary on your preferences, desires, and body chemistry. However, having sex helps lower blood pressure, boost endorphins, reduce stress, and improve sleep.
11. Masturbate More. Self-love gets a bad reputation, especially for women, but getting sexy with yourself is actually good for your health. Research, sex therapists, and women who masturbate can attest that self-love should become a regular part of our health and wellness routine. Mastubating functions as a natural pain reliever, especially during menstruation, by releasing endorphins. Additionally, research shows that women who participate in solo sex have higher self-esteem than those who don’t. It can also help stimulate our mind (and fantasies), strengthen our pelvic floor, and help us learn our anatomy. Do you really need more convincing!?
12. Keep A Calendar. Checking things off our to-do list and crossing things off our calendars feel good. I keep a calendar where I put things as big as “Finish Writing Article For Warming Tree” on my to do list but I also include smaller tasks such as “Workout: Leg Day” and “Do Laundry”. Instead of trying to hold myself to a mental promise to work out or do laundry , putting it in my calendar is a way to stay accountable to myself.
13. Make Health Care Appointments. And actually go to them. This means more than just going to your annual OB GYN appointments, as women are reported going to more consistently than their primary care doctors. But seeing a doctor to monitor things like your blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, and more, should be a non-negotiable because it gives us a big-picture view of how our health is doing and any potential areas of improvement. For those of us who get hung up on aesthetically-focused resolutions, going to our yearly health-care appointments helps us re-center our focus on our general health and well-being.
14. Take The Sick Day. On what was supposed to be the first day back to work after a long holiday break… I called in sick. I woke up with a fever, stuffy nose, and generally felt like shit and after some urging from my mom to let my boss know I was under the weather, I took the day off work. Turns out I’m not the only one who hesitates to take a day off. One NSF survey found that over a quarter of us never let sickness stop us from coming into the office, and another third only stay home if the symptoms get serious.These germs can travel six feet, according to a PLOS One study — enough to reach the coworker in the next desk or cubicle. So, on average, one or two coworkers will catch an illness every time a sick person comes to work. The message: take the damn sick day. It will help you get over your sickness faster, and will keep those around you healthy.
15. Practice Breathing. Long, deep breaths throughout the day. How to do it: Four counts in…hold for four counts…and eight counts to release. My rugby coach was the first person to teach me (convincingly) about the power of intentional breathing. While I began using the technique he taught me before stepping on the rugby pitch, since moving to New York I have taken to breathing this way on the subway when the crowds make me uneasy, or at work when I feel overwhelmed by the length of my to-do list. And let me tell you, as any yogi will agree, it does wonders.
16. Let Yourself Break Up With Friends You Need To Break Up With.
Friendships are incredibly important relationships because they are the people we choose to be in our lives. But what happens when friendships stop being fruitful? When seeing a friend’s name pop up on our phone-screen makes us immediately irritated or sad? Some situations are murkier than others, but mostly, we should follow our instincts and let go of the relationships that aren’t making us feel good about ourselves. [This Refinery29 article does a great job of suggesting ways to deal with and initiate a best friend break up].
17. Do What Truly Makes You Happy
Above all, do what makes you happy. If your fitness routine is making your miserable, change it. If you don’t want to go to that party or on that date, stay home. If you hate kale, fill your fridge with something else. If you hate the flavor of water add cucumber or lemon. There a million ways to create a healthy lifestyle, and mental happiness is a huge part of it. So listen to your mind, your body, your soul to find and follow what makes you happy. Go forth!