Setting monster goals at the beginning of the New Year is a classic setup for failure. Everyone starts with the best intentions, but when faced with a laundry list of resolutions, overwhelming feelings set in around the second week of January. Before winter is up, your resolutions are a distant memory. Why bother, right?
Well, before you scrap the whole plan, consider this idea instead: set a year's worth of resolutions up front, but don't attempt them all at the same time.
Instead of front-loading your resolutions into the beginning of January, why not spread them out throughout the year? Assign yourself one resolution per month. The reason why this works: it takes about 21 days for a new habit to solidify. And one new habit at a time is a totally manageable thing. By the time each month is up, your new habit should be well and truly entrenched, and you're ready to work on the next one on your list. By the end of the year, you've tackled (and conquered) 12 positive changes in your life.
Your health is a lifelong project, right? So...pace yourself.
Set it all up at the beginning of the year, and create some kind of system to remind yourself of your resolution at the start of each month (messages in your smartphone, a note on each page of your 2014 calendar, or a series of scheduled emails you send yourself...). Think of it like a monthly subscription of healthy resolutions. Every month you get a fresh start.
Below, I've listed twelve habits that would make excellent monthly resolutions. Each of these are manageable, on their own. Feel free to rearrange their order, or substitute something else entirely. But DO NOT tackle these all at the same time!
This month, focus on cultivating regular sleep patterns and getting sufficient shut-eye. There's growing research to show that sleep deficiency can increase your risks of depression, obesity, and heart disease. So how to get more sleep? Here, here...and possibly here. also, here's a secret that may help your kids get better sleep, too.
Besides making your dental checkups much less agonizing, regular flossing is a good idea for other health reasons—and it just might save your life. It turns out there are several studies that show an association between gum disease and heart disease.
I have a friend who lost 20 lbs last year strictly through portion control alone. It's certainly how the Europeans do it. Here's how you can do it, too.
Many studies have shown the health benefits of strong social relationships. This month, make a plan to meet up with friends on a regular basis, and cultivate those connections.
A recent New Zealand study showed that making this one little change—just the simple act of wearing a pedometer—almost doubled walking rates in the 300+ subjects they observed. Walking is excellent exercise: it's easy on your joints and it's a terrific stress buster. Plus it's the perfect activity to fit into small wedges in a busy schedule. By the end of this month, you just might approach the magic number of 10,000 steps a day.
Stress: we all have it, right? Of all the ways you can deal with stress, breathing is one of the best, easiest, and quickest. But not just any old breathing. Make this your month to work on retraining yourself to use diaphragmatic breathing, and you'll be amazed at the calming effect.
Make this your month to harness the power of nutrition. Naturally colorful foods—purple, orange, dark green—tend to be the richest sources of phytonutrients and antioxidants (compounds that help fight serious chronic diseases, like heart disease and cancer). This month, fill your plate with a rainbow.
Posture is something many of us don't think about—until we've got chronic headaches, back pain, and shoulder stiffness. Standing tall is also the quickest way to look slimmer and feel more confident. There are many ways to work on your posture this month: doing stretches, modifying your work station, practicing yoga—whatever works for you.
This was Michelle Obama's pet project and campaign last year, and it's a good, achievable healthy habit. Regular fluid intake is important for long term kidney health and digestive health. Plus, it's a secret energy boost.
It's the right thing to do, of course, but it turns out there are mental and physical health benefits to being kind. Helping others has been shown to reduce depression, decrease anxiety, and improve your longevity. This month, find little ways to practice random acts of kindness.
Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin—which means the sun is our primary natural source—but there's a growing body of research to sow just how important vitamin D is for overall health, and why taking supplements is probably a good health practice for most of us.
The end of the year is the perfect time to institute a gratitude routine. A daily habit of gratitude doesn't take much time at all—just a minute or so—which also makes it a good project for a busy time of year. Better still, research has demonstrated that gratitude significantly benefits our health and happiness. Here are some ways to put it into practice.
Happy New Year, everyone!