New Year, New You
On this first of January (yesterday), the coming year is a blank slate. It’s a time when we can set our goals – to exercise more, to eat less, to perform our best – in the hopes of making 2020 a year that we can look back on with pride. There’s one problem, though: the success rate for New Year’s resolutions is pretty bleak. Less than 10% of resolutions are kept by year’s end and 25% fail before 15 January.
That sounds a bit doom and gloom, so let’s get to some positives.
Fill your resolution list with easy, good-for-you goals. With one tiny lifestyle tweak a day, you’ll feel fantastic by month’s end and psyched to make 2020 your best year yet.
Add more citrus to your grocery cart
When you see all those gorgeous in-season grapefruits, oranges, clementines, and pomelos in the produce aisle, grab an armful! Winter citrus can help keep skin looking healthy thanks to vitamin C, which aids in collagen production. In fact, an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that people who ate foods high in C had fewer wrinkles and less age-related dry skin than those who didn’t. Try clementine sections sprinkled with pistachios or sweet grapefruit dipped in Greek yogurt for a snack.
Eat veggies regularly
Whether you’re slimming down or just staying well, vegetables are your friends, says Good Housekeeping’s M.D., Dr. Mehmet Oz. He had women try 10 diets for the Great Diet Showdown episode of his show. Tiffany, who lost 15 kilos says, “I sauté onions, peppers, mushrooms, corn — whatever I have in the freezer — and toss that on a bed of baby arugula and spinach,” she says. (Sounds delicious!)
Share your resolutions one-on-one
This year you’re gonna drop 5 kilos! But before you post your intent on Facebook, hold up: “Some research shows that telling others your goal makes you feel like you’ve already achieved it,” says Dr. Oz. But other studies indicate that sharing progress can help you keep going, he adds. Dr. Oz’s advice: Confide in one friend, “then share achievements with others when you’re on the road to success.”
Become a plant owner
Swing by the garden center after brunch this weekend. Just the presence of indoor plants can lower human stress levels, research shows, and one study found that actively caring for plants calmed the autonomic nervous system and lowered blood pressure. And when people work near plants, they report greater concentration, satisfaction, and perceived air quality.
Do one thing at a time
Multitasking doesn’t make you more efficient, but it does stress you out, says mindfulness expert Pedram Shojai, author of The Art of Stopping Time. “If your focus is fragmented, you’ll likely find yourself getting anxious as new items come up when old ones are still incomplete,” he says. Instead, he suggests, organize your activities into chunks of time, such as kid time and cooking time, and then “commit to being focused in that allotted time and see what happens.”
Make your home more fragrant
Because smell is associated with the parts of the brain that process emotion and store memories, certain aromas can affect mood, says olfactory expert Rachel Herz, Ph.D., author of The Scent of Desire. Research shows that vanilla makes people more relaxed and joyful (mmm, baking), while peppermint can boost energy and lavender can zap stress.
Master the stairs
Take 10 minutes to run up the stairs in your office or home. A 2017 study in the journal Physiology & Behavior found that tired women who climbed stairs for 10 minutes got a bigger energy boost than those who had the caffeine equivalent of a can of soda or half a cup of coffee (and burned calories too!).
Decorate with family history
In happy and long-lived cultures, people often display items from their families’ pasts, says The Blue Zones of Happiness author Dan Buettner. “They remember and honor where they come from,” he says. “We find that in happier cultures around the world, folks feel like part of a continuum.” So hang your grandparents’ wedding portrait, or put meaningful memorabilia on shelves.
Sanitize your phone weekly
Like, now! We check our phones 47 times a day on average, according to a recent survey from the professional services firm Deloitte, and if you’ve taken yours into the ladies’ room, you’re not the only one. But that means phones carry about 10 times as much bacteria as most toilet seats, says Charles Gerba, Ph.D., a microbiologist and professor at the University of Arizona, Tucson. (British researchers even found that one in six devices was contaminated with E. coli — blech!).
Plan a holiday
Those who vacation at least twice a year have a lower heart attack risk than those do so rarely. And researchers have found that even thinking about an upcoming trip can boost happiness for weeks.
Start doing yoga with your partner
A Sunday morning couples’ class could make Sunday afternoon much more fun. Couples get more comfortable with each other’s bodies, a boon for better sex. Solo yoga can increase enjoyment as well, affecting arousal, desire, and satisfaction — the practice helps relax your mind and strengthen pelvic muscles.
Listen to novels or motivational books while you workout
Exercisers who saved an audiobook for the gym worked out 51% more often than those who didn’t, per a study in Management Science. Sweat while listening to your favourite author or speaker and the treadmill time will fly by.
Delegate more chores
Money can’t buy happiness — but it can buy time, which is the next best thing. A large 2017 study found that people who spent money on time-saving services obtained greater life satisfaction and happiness than those who shelled out for material goods. If money is tight, take on the least favorite chore of a friend and have her do the same for you.
Keep clutter out of the kitchen
If you can hardly see your counters through all the papers, Post-its, and not-yet-put-away groceries, you may pay for that chaos on the scale. In one study, researchers found that when people were surrounded by clutter, they tended to eat more — especially when stressed. Take 20 minutes to whisk it all where it belongs, and you may eat more mindfully in days to come.
Wear workout gear that makes you feel good
Spend the afternoon shopping for workout clothes that flatter your body: Studies show that what we wear affects the way we feel, which impacts our ability to get stuff done, says Hajo Adam, Ph.D., a professor at Rice University. It’s a phenomenon known as “enclothed cognition,” and it’s as true in Zumba as at work.
Explore new hobbies
Another sleepy Sunday? Today’s the day you try Ethiopian food, attend a ballet, or take a painting class — whatever feels fun. When researchers followed 7,500 people for 25 years, they found that those who complained of major boredom were roughly twice as likely to die from heart disease.
Play upbeat music
Blasting any happy-making tune can work multiple mind-body wonders including reducing pain during exercise, elevating mood, and lowering stress, research shows. So make a playlist — any songs that oat your spirit will do the job.
Take back your lunch break
If you scoff your sandwiches at your desk while skimming the web, you’re in good company: Only one in five Americans actually takes a lunch break, according to a survey, even though doing so has been linked to increased productivity. Grab a copy of Gone for Lunch by Laura Archer, a pocket-size guide featuring 52 fun ways to spend your midday hiatus, from scoping out cool architecture to making a film on your smartphone to getting your steps in for 30 minutes.
Donate old clothes
Bye-bye, too-tight jeans. “Keeping smaller clothes as motivation to slim down is baloney,” says Kit Yarrow, Ph.D., a psychologist at Golden Gate University, “and it tends to backfire.” Studies show that muffin-top shaming doesn’t help, but focusing on being healthy does. After doing your goodwill drop-off, take a lighter-cooking class or meet a pal for a hike. And besides, the local Hospice or church shops will be incredibly thankful for your drop-offs.
Write to yourself
When your inner critic picks up her bullhorn, jot down the kind words you’d say to a friend in the same situation. “We have such a hard time channeling compassion for ourselves,” says Emma Seppala, Ph.D., of Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research. “Writing it down makes it easier to shift perspective.”
Switch up your routine
Any exercise is good for you, but one study found that people who worked out in multiple ways were less likely to have shortened telomeres, the DNA segments on the ends of chromosomes that tend to break down as we age (longer telomeres are thought to be an indication that a body is aging slowly). Sign up for tai chi, rock climbing, crew, and Pilates… so many choices!
Make chaotic zones (like the entryway) calm
Make the chaotic zone by the door a calm, happy space, advises Carly Moeller, founder of interior design firm Unpatterned. Set up simple systems (a mail basket, a shoe bench, hooks) for tidying. Then move art or flowers from the living room and invest in a mirror or a colorful rug. “You can be a little cheeky because it’s a small area,” she says.
Shop for new sneakers
Check out these GH Wellness Lab tips to start 2018 on the right foot.
- Shop in the p.m. When feet are slightly swollen, it’s easier to find the right size and avoid pinchy shoes.
- Bring your old pair. Staff at specialty stores can assess which areas are most worn so as to suggest a pair with appropriate support for your gait.
- Do squats. Lace-up and do a couple of knee bends. If the shoes are properly supportive, your knee should move over your foot, not inward.
Go to bed on time, with your partner
Getting sufficient zzz’s can make you feel ready for action. A study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that those who got more sleep had more desire the next day and an overall easier time becoming aroused. Every additional hour they slept increased their likelihood of having sex by 14%. So skip late-night web searches and hit the hay.