Ah, the old-school New Year’s resolution, that well-intentioned idea that you’re going to change everything overnight come January 1. And, we all know what happens to those resolutions often within hours of the ball-drop.
This year, instead of setting yourself up for failure, I propose changing your approach. Instead of going cold turkey, take it slow. Start incorporating and internalizing healthy habits one at a time and grow your healthy habit arsenal over the next few months.
In time, you’ll evolve into a creature of far more good habits than bad, culminating in a major win for your long-term health and wellness, with every good thing you do for one part of you having a positive ripple effect on the other parts as well. Think of it as your cumulative health pile-on that will eventually put a stop to debilitating everyday ills.
There are countless ways to create long-lasting health and well-being, many of which I’ve shared in my book, “How To Be Well: The Six Keys to a Happy and Healthy Life.” Though it’s hard to play favorites, here are a few healthy habits I hope you will incorporate in the days ahead to get you on a path to health and happiness – which is my greatest wish for you. Start off by introducing a new habit or two, and build from there. Here are 20 good ones to start working on – in whatever order you choose and at your own pace – beginning this January 1.
1. Eat real, whole foods – The less altered, manipulated, and processed the better. Think ‘as close to the vine’ as possible to take advantage of your food’s great taste and medicinal benefits. Fresh good food today costs less than medical bills later, so skip the stuff that comes in boxes and bags.
2. Break up with sugar, for real – It is a health-destroyer. Know where it lurks and don’t be fooled by a seemingly healthy exterior that can mask a sugar bombs in disguise. This includes “healthy” juices made with organic fruits.
3. Don’t count calories – Calories from nutrient-rich foods vs. nutritionally bankrupt ones from sugar, starches, or processed foods will have different effects on the body. Focus on quality, stress less about quantity, discover which foods irritate and inflame your body – and cut the bad boys loose.
4. Cook up a storm, but lower the culinary bar – Not every meal you make has to be ready for Top Chef’s Judges Table. Getting clean, fresh, simply-prepared food on your table is what matters most.
5. Avoid all genetically modified foods – Consuming GMO foods has been linked to conditions such as neurological problems, reproductive issues, digestive troubles, gluten-related disorders, and a litany of other ills. As a precaution, keeping GMOs out of your body is the safest choice.
6. Eat dinner earlier and breakfast later – Introducing deliberate periods of extended fasting can get your body back to metabolic regulation when it is out of balance. It’s a tool you can try if you’re struggling to lose weight or keep your blood sugars and insulin levels in healthy range.
7. Minimize daily toxins – Switch to the cleanest and greenest cleaning products, personal care products, and cosmetics possible. The fewer toxins you expose yourself to on a daily basis the better.
8. Filter your water – Adding a filtration system to your water is the easiest way to cut exposure to hundreds of contaminants that can damage livers, kidneys, reproductive organs, hormones, and more.
9. At the office, get off your duff – Keep moving! Even if you do exercise regularly, do not sit at the desk all day completely immobile. Get up and move every 30 minutes or so. Don’t let your desk job shave years off your life.
10. Embrace the micro session – Do any kind of movement for ten minutes at least once or twice a day. Ten minutes can change your state of being completely — it’s just three songs on a pop playlist.
11. Change the way you socialize – Take a walk or exercise class with friends instead of catching up over drinks or dinner.
12. Step into the (natural) light – Instead of fearing the sun, bathe in it — sensibly of course. Daily exposure of large amounts of bare and unprotected skin to sunlight, for just the amount of time it takes before you become pink in any way, will optimize your D levels.
13. Practice good cell phone hygiene – Always use a headset or speaker. Don’t wear it on your body while it’s switched on. When possible, use a hard-wired corded phone or make calls on your hard-wired computer. Reduce cell use in cars. All those metal parts tend to magnify radiation. Don’t use a cell phone near pregnant women or little kids.
14. Take a forest bath – Practice immersing yourself in the serenity of trees to restore wellbeing. Part physical activity, part natural therapy, it’s a simple, screen-free, drug-free intervention that helps cortisol levels drop, soothes harried minds, and rejuvenates mental energy.
15. Start a meditation practice – Just a few minutes a day spent meditating can have a powerful impact on the brain, helping to improve attention, memory, processing speed, and creativity. It’s also linked to decreased blood pressure and reduced stress and anxiety. Regular sitting for as few as ten minutes a day can have positive effects, so ‘just do it!’
16. Add relaxation to your daily schedule – Commit to relaxation and daily de-stressing. Meditate every morning. Do restorative yoga every night. Just a few minutes of either or both will confer benefits. Got a few minutes more? Then buy a few infrared sauna sessions and relax while you sweat out tension and toxins.
17. Relax in a hot bath – A pre-bedtime hot bath (or hot shower) makes your core temperature drop as your blood circulates to your periphery. This helps trigger sleep because a cooling body temperature is a natural part of your sleep rhythm. Add Epsom salts to bathwater to infuse rest-inducing and muscle-relaxing magnesium into your tissues, which can help mitigate stress and inflammation. Got relaxation-inducing lavender oil? If so, then toss that into the water as well for an added relaxation boost.
18. Set the stage for sleep with an ‘electronic sundown’ – To minimize nighttime exposure to brain-stimulating, sleep-disrupting blue light, a few hours before bed, start powering down your devices, and dim the lights throughout your home. Banish all electronics from the bedroom and put a timer on your router to keep the wifi off while you sleep.
19. Practice good sleep hygiene – Starting by going to bed earlier. Before tucking yourself in, practice a few minutes of restorative yoga or do a meditation to help you drift off more easily. Use low, amber light bulbs on your nightstand and in the bathroom and use a very low-watt nightlight. Keep your bedroom cool and pitch-dark – no glowing clocks, blinking power strips, electronics, etc. And get the TV out of the bedroom!
20. Commune with others – Real-life, in-person relationships keep us connected, healthier, happier. They also boost longevity, so log off of social media and get involved in activities that involve commitment and creating something together. When you need to, take a break, but don’t quit. Come back and do it all again.
Have a wonderful New Year filled with new, healthy habits!