It’s a New Year, and you’re feeling ambitious about your health goals. With a surge of optimism, you set a lofty resolution to transform your lifestyle for the better…and end up biting off more than you can chew. When you find yourself sliding back into old habits, you get discouraged and lose steam. Sound familiar?
Change is hard, even when it’s a positive change. Our bodies are creatures of habit, and they resist big disruptions to our lifestyles, especially if we’re trying to change multiple things at once. This doesn’t mean that you can’t make major changes. But you may have to break up those big goals into smaller, bite-sized pieces.
Small changes aren’t just easier to achieve, they are much more sustainable in the long term. When you ease into change gradually, your body and your psychology are less likely to put up a fight. But those small steps build on each other and add up to big progress faster than you think. And the best part is, the change is likely to last.
Want to get real about your health resolutions? Bring them down to earth and turn them into micro resolutions. No matter where you are in your health journey, you can take a small step in the right direction, and then another. Here are some examples of easy, healthy lifestyle changes that can help inch you toward transformation.
Goal: Get More Sleep
Healthy sleep isn’t just the foundation for your overall health and well-being, it’s also the foundation for a healthy schedule. When you don’t get enough good sleep, you may have trouble waking up on time or feel too groggy and grumpy to accomplish other goals on your list.
Go to bed 10 minutes earlier.
Whatever your normal bedtime is, make it 10 minutes earlier. Be disciplined about it and stick to this time. Once you’ve stuck to this bedtime for a month, adjust it another 5-10 minutes earlier. Do this each month until you reach your ideal bedtime.
Curfew your electronics.
Turn off the screens and retire the electronics at least 30 minutes before bedtime and do something else to unwind, like reading, journaling, taking a bath, or listening to music. Make it into a ritual you’ll look forward to, so you’ll want to start it even earlier.
Goal: Drink More Water
Drinking more water is one of the simplest things you can do to improve your health. Hydrating helps your brain, joints, and muscles function and supports digestion, detoxing, and weight loss.
Have water with everything.
Any time you have a drink, whether it’s your morning coffee or an evening glass of wine, pour yourself a glass of water, too. When you sit down for a meal, have a glass of water with it. When you reach for a snack, have a glass of water. You get the idea.
Invest in a water bottle.
Buy a water bottle you like and keep it near you at all times. Sip it ‘til it’s empty, then refill and repeat. Some bottles have markings to track your daily intake if that helps you. You can also try adding some cut fruit or herbs to the bottle for a hint of flavor.
Goal: Eat Healthier
Eating more whole, plant-based foods like fruits, veggies, legumes, and whole grains, while cutting back on meat, dairy, and processed foods, is linked with a longer, healthier life.
Have a fruit snack every day.
A sliced apple is surprisingly filling, thanks to all the fiber, and has tons of healthy benefits.
Add veggies to your breakfast.
Try a veggie egg scramble or quiche, or add a handful of spinach or microgreens to your morning protein shake.
Try a new whole grain each week.
Swap out white rice with brown rice, quinoa, farro, or barley. Try a new whole grain bread, pasta, or breakfast cereal. Experiment and expand your palate.
Make your pasta veggie-forward.
Make your pasta dish with half veggies, half pasta. Gradually increase the amount of veggies until they are the base of the dish and the pasta is secondary.
Be vegan for half the day.
Have a vegan breakfast and lunch. Experiment with non-dairy milks and plant-based proteins, such as beans, mushrooms, or tofu. Then eat what you want for dinner.
Goal: Get More Exercise
Maybe you’re stuck at a desk job most of the day. Maybe you have a gym membership but can’t motivate yourself to go. All you need is to fit some more movement into your daily life.
Take a 10 minute walking break every day.
No matter what your job is, you can take a short break and walk around the block or the building. Set an alert on your phone. Listen to a short podcast or some upbeat music. Once this becomes a habit, you can extend your walk by another 5 minutes, or add a second short walk later in the day.
Make a date with a friend for a weekly walk-and-talk.
Good for your physical health and your mental health! You’ll get to catch up and socialize while also motivating each other to stay active. If you don’t have a local friend to do this with, make it a phone date.
Try a new exercise class every week.
Curious about yoga, pilates, kickboxing, strength training, pickleball, or dance? Check out one class and see what it’s like. Then try something else next week.
Goal: Lose Weight
It’s one of the most common New Year’s resolutions, and one of the most challenging to maintain. The good news is that slow, gradual progress is much more likely to last. The idea is to develop habits that you’ll want to keep long-term.
Follow a diet or eating plan twice a week.
Don’t try to overhaul your eating habits all at once. Just try it twice a week. You can make it through the discomfort of a restrictive diet for one day, knowing you can go back to comfort the next day. Once this habit becomes comfortable, add another day.
Start with salad.
Make salad the starter for your major meal of the day. Then see what you’re hungry for after that. Give yourself a few minutes after finishing the salad and then decide.
Make it black.
Sweeteners and creamers in your coffee or tea can add a lot of unnecessary calories. Try using half as much. Gradually reduce them until you no longer miss them.
Try intermittent fasting.
The basic idea of intermittent fasting is to keep your daily eating within an 8 hour window, such as from noon to 8pm. Before and after that, your body gets a mini fast, giving your digestive system and liver a break and prompting your body to burn fat stores for energy. And because the fasting periods are short, your metabolism is less likely to slow down to compensate for the calorie reduction.
Save drinking for the weekends.
Alcoholic drinks don’t just provide empty calories, they interfere with your normal metabolism. Your body prioritizes processing the alcohol ahead of all other nutrients, effectively reducing fat burning and contributing to weight gain. Try to stick to 1-2 drinks at a time, 1-2 nights a week.