The new year is an opportunity for a fresh start. It’s a time to reflect on where we’ve been and where we want to be. It’s a chance to begin the process of transforming into better versions of ourselves.
If you find yourself staring at the blank page of a journal and wondering what in the world you should resolve to do this year, we’ve got you covered. This blog post gives you ten ideas for New Year’s resolutions that will improve your health. Take these ideas as they are, or use them as an inspiration to come up with your own.
Deep breathing is one of the best ways to release stress from the body. When you take a deep breath, it sends messages back and forth to the brain that calm the body. In medical terms, it’s called the parasympathetic response. Everything unwinds.
There are several deep breathing exercises you can choose from. A simple exercise is 4-7-8 breathing. Take a deep inhalation for 4 seconds, hold it for 7, and then exhale for 8. Repeat this for 3 to 7 times.
You can do deep breathing exercises in just minutes a day. Choose a time to be consistent: when you wake up, before you get out of the car at work, or as you’re getting ready for bed. Once you make a habit of it, you can incorporate deep breathing breaks throughout the day.
2. Say Thank You
Saying thank you isn’t just polite—it’s good for your health. People who cultivate a sense of gratitude experience better mood, sleep, and energy. Studies have shown that the body’s physical response to gratitude might reduce markers of inflammation.
You can cultivate gratitude by keeping a journal, intentionally thanking at least one person every day, or merely having an awareness of the good things other people do around you. One way to be sure you remember to notice your blessings is to set reminders for yourself. Post sticky notes around the house or schedule calendar notifications that simply say “thank you.”
Of the various forms of exercise, stretching offers unique health benefits. It reduces muscle tension, improves flexibility, and stimulates blood circulation. When you stretch before and after working out, you improve your athletic performance and reduce your risk of injury.
You can incorporate stretching into any exercise routine. It is an integral part of yoga, Pilates, and most exercise classes. If you have a habit of bolting out of the gym without stretching, commit to spending an extra 5-10 minutes to stretch before you leave.
You can also take breaks at the office to stretch. Do a few neck rolls or spinal twist in your chair. Stand up to do some calf stretches or touch your toes. If you need more ideas of simple stretches to incorporate into your day, check out the article here.
4. Take Movement Breaks
If you sit at your job, your body and mind can become stagnant. Movement can re-energize you and allow you to focus better. Have you heard about kids taking “brain breaks” at school? They get up for a couple of minutes and get their wiggles out. Adults can do the same.
If you aren’t in the habit of taking movement breaks throughout the day, you may need to set an alarm as a reminder. If it’s feasible at your job, set the alarm to go off at 10 minutes before every hour. Get up and go for a quick walk, do jumping jacks, or jog in place. You’ll be more focused and productive when you sit back down.
We know that play is good for children, but adults need to play too. Studies show that adults who play have less stress and better coping skills than those who don’t play. Playing is a way to free the mind and just have some fun.
If you have kids, commit to doing something fun with them every day. If you don’t have kids, find a hobby you enjoy. Not sure what to do? Check out the 40 ideas for playfulness here. You can draw a picture, sing in the shower, or talk to your pet. The possibilities are endless.
6. Carry a Water Bottle
Most of us know that staying hydrated is vital for our health. But did you know that it improves our energy, helps us think straight, decreases the odds of getting headaches, and helps with weight loss?
One of the easiest ways to be sure you stay hydrated is to carry a water bottle wherever you go. Be sure it is big enough to keep you hydrated until you can find a place to refill. And choose a glass or stainless steel bottle to avoid exposure to plastics.
7. Drink Tea
Lots of people think about the bad things they should stop doing as a New Year’s resolution, but why not focus on adding in the good things to start doing? Tea is one of those things. Drinking tea can be calming or energizing, depending on the type you choose. It hydrates, while also providing nutritional value.
You can drink green tea in the morning to boost your energy and get some antioxidants. Or drink lemon chamomile tea in the evening to relax. You can drink hot tea during the winter months and keep iced tea on hand during the summer. Explore the tea aisle of your health food store and experiment with flavors. You might just discover a new favorite drink!
8. Eat Chard
Chard is one of many green, leafy vegetables that are powerhouses of nutrition. Packed with calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin K, chard and other green leafies are some of the most nutrient dense foods we can eat. Green leafy vegetables support your energy level, blood sugar balance, bone health and more.
If eating green leafy vegetables is new to you, never fear! There are countless ways to make these veggies delicious. Sauté them with garlic and olive oil or chop them into a salad. Mix them into an omelet or frittata. Throw a handful into your morning smoothie. You can even blend them up and mix them into a delicious muffin recipe. Grab a bunch of greens and get creative.
9. Pack Lunches
Packing lunches is good for your physical and financial health. You can almost always pack healthier food than you can buy at a restaurant, and your portion sizes will be more reasonable. Plus, packing lunches is a great way to use up the leftovers from the night before.
If you aren’t used to packing lunches, making it a habit takes some commitment. You might need to purchase containers and a lunch box—especially if you don’t have access to a refrigerator at work. You also need to set aside the time, either at night or in the morning, to get the job done. But in the end, you’ll probably find that it takes less time to throw some food into a sack than it takes to leave the office in search of lunch at noon.
10. Learn a New Skill
Learning a new skill is an incredible way to boost your brain function. Studies show that the more cognitive activities that you engage in over your lifespan, the better protected you are against cognitive decline as you age. Learning a new skill gets you excited and creates new connections in the brain.
Think about something you have never done but would love to learn. It might be knitting, playing an instrument, joining a choir, taking a cooking class, or trying your hand at gardening. There are no wrong answers here. Find something that inspires you and have fun.
Here’s to your health and to the best version of you in the coming year. Cheers! =
By Sarah Cook, ND, instructor at NTI