2016 is your year to change your life! Whether you’ve got a few stubborn pounds to lose or you’re looking to adopt a whole new lifestyle, making small changes is the way to long-term success.
Here are 26 easy healthy living tips for 2016. Try them one at a time, and take it one day at a time. Remember: little changes in your everyday routine lead to big changes after months of repetition!
- Aim for 10,000 steps per day.
Not only can walking regularly help you maintain a healthy weight, it can also strengthen your bones, lift your spirits and ward off diseases like heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
- Focus on the quality, not quantity of your foods.
Aim to eat food in its natural state, that is, not processed or filled with additives like sugar, flavoring and preservatives.
- Start to develop a positive outlook by practicing gratitude
Science has shown people who take time to identify their feelings of thankfulness have a more positive outlook, sleep better, are more compassionate and have stronger immune systems than those who do not practice gratitude habitually.
- Get seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
Even if you think you can function on just a few hours, you’re really not performing at your best. Getting enough sleep is important for maintaining good health and warding off stress.
- Deal with stress by taking a nap.
Instead of chugging another cup of coffee or worse, resorting to cigarettes or alcohol to cope with stress, try lying down for a 20 minute snooze. It’s a healthy way to recharge both your nerves and your brain.
- Start your day with an energizing five-minute workout routine.
Exercise has tremendous benefits no matter what time of day you do it, but studies have shown morning exercise in particular leads to improved feelings of work-life balance. Plus, you’ll feel accomplished for the rest of the day!
- Drink a big glass of water first thing in the morning.
When you wake up, your body is dehydrated from not drinking anything for eight hours straight. Hydrate with a tall glass of cool water, which will also rev up your metabolism and flush out toxins.
- Try a crossword or Sudoku puzzle weekly.
Even if you don’t solve it, it’s the effort that counts. Research has shown that just like our bodies, our brains benefit from regular exercise, staying sharper longer.
- Plan your weekly menu ahead of time.
While it may seem daunting at first, planning your menu for the whole week ahead can actually be quite liberating. You’ll save money by not making impulse takeout runs and reduce stress over what to make for dinner each night.
- Stick to a schedule for shopping and cooking.
Pencil in food shopping and meal prep and stick to it like you would any other appointment. It’s something you can bang out in just a couple hours’ time, and it’ll save you both time and stress all week long.
- Cook once, eat twice.
Make twice the serving size of each meal and immediately separate it into portions. Store the second portion for tomorrow’s lunch or another meal later in the week.
- Cut out soda.
There are few things you can cut from your diet that will make as big of an impact as ditching soda. It’s filled with sugar, which wreaks havoc on our teeth, blood sugar and waistline. Instead, swap it for unsweet tea, black coffee, seltzer water or water with lemon.
- Don’t bring junk food home.
That leftover birthday cake in the break room? Leave it in the office fridge. When it’s not in your house, you’ll be much less tempted to partake in junk food.
- Pre-portion your week’s meals to avoid overeating.
If willpower is something you struggle with, remove the temptation to overeat by only heating up pre-measured portions.
- Don’t eat in front of the computer or television.
It’s second nature to have a screen in front of us at all times, but distracted eating, like eating in front of the TV or computer, can lead to unintentional weight gain.
- Never eat from a bag or package.
It makes it impossible to know how much you’re actually eating. Instead, practice portion control while snacking by pouring a serving onto a small plate or in a bowl.
- When dining out, split a meal or take half home.
A typical restaurant “meal” is often two or more portions! Avoid that “stuffed” feeling by splitting something with a friend or automatically putting half your meal in a doggie bag.
- Order dressing and sauces on the side.
Instead of pouring dressing over your salad, try dipping your fork into the dressing first, then spearing your greens.
- Swap chips and bread for an appetizer salad.
Avoid temptation by asking the server before he or she even brings out the bread basket.
- Wear sunscreen daily.
Daily sunscreen use cuts your risk for melanoma in half. That alone should be enough to convince to you slather it on!
Regular meditation can lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety and decrease tension related pain in muscles and joints. Just a few minutes of quiet mental time per day are enough to feel the benefits.
- Say “no.”
There’s a lot to be gained from this two-letter word; even the Mayo Clinic endorses saying “no” more often! You’ll feel less stress when you don’t have an overflowing plate, and you’ll be able to focus your full attention on your existing commitments.
- Have a checkup.
When was the last time you saw a doctor, just because? Especially as we age, annual physicals are key for catching problems early on.
- Stretch regularly to relieve muscle tension and prevent injuries.
You may think of stretching as optional, but experts say it’s mandatory! Stretching helps improve flexibility and increases blood flow to your muscles while also lowering your chances for injury.
If you work in an office, try getting up from your desk once an hour for a stretch break. Not only does it do your body good, the quick break will boost your productivity!
- Make time for social activity.
On a regular basis, call an old friend to catch up or meet a new one for a power walk in the park. Strong social relationships have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease. Moreover, people who do have heart attacks fare better in recovery if they have strong social ties.
- Ask for help, be it physical, mental or otherwise.
If your goals or challenges seem insurmountable, ask for help from a trusted professional, whether it be a nutritionist to get your diet on track, a trainer to help you get back in shape or a counselor to talk you through an emotional issue.