Feeling pressured to make this your best year yet? Don’t know where or how to start? Take heart. Experts say that you can develop positive momentum by connecting your goals to a current habit or passion. In short, small changes can bring significant and sustainable results.
Think of resolutions as a form of renewal—recognizing your strong points, assessing where a reboot is needed, and getting started on a plan that you can carry through 2017 and beyond.
If self-care is part of your goal list this year, read on. We’ve got a workable plan that will help spark—and sustain—these good-for-you habits.
Psychologists recommend a three-step plan to creating new habits.
1. Start with a small action. “Exercise more” and “eat healthier” not only sound vague, they can be pretty intimidating, too. In contrast, “Take the stairs each morning, not the elevator, to get to my office” or “Replace that slice of cake with fruit for dessert” are smaller, more doable actions that you can build on over time.
2. Connect the new action to an existing habit. Use a well-established habit to propel you to bigger goals. If you already take the stairs in your office, sneak in more exercise by parking your car a bit farther from the building. Already a gym-goer? Try a new class to keep your routine from going stale, or sign up with a friend for extra motivation.
3. Make the new action easy to replicate. Practice your new habit several times before it sticks. Studies suggest that if it’s something easy to do within the first week, you’re more likely to continue with it. Resolving to eat a nutritious breakfast? Over the weekend, freeze portioned out fruits in zip-top bags. On busy mornings, put the fruits in a blender, add milk or yogurt, and blitz everything together for an easy smoothie.
Putting the plan to action
These small tweaks get you moving more, eating right, and stressing less.
1. Practice quiet time. Keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to de-stress and remain positive even in the face of challenges. Taking the time to pause and pray daily is one of the healthiest, most rewarding habits you can do for yourself.
2. Don’t skip breakfast. Having a healthy morning meal ensures that you start your day with energy and mental sharpness. A fiber-filled breakfast, like whole-wheat toast with natural peanut butter, will also keep you feeling fuller longer.
3. Sweat it out at home. A number of apps and YouTube channels offer free workouts that you can easily follow at home—and there are routines that only take 15 minutes to complete.
4. Walk, walk, walk. Walk instead of driving your car (if you’re going somewhere near), take walking and stretching breaks throughout the work day to release lower back strain, pick the stairs over the elevator, or park farther from the mall entrance.
5. Catch some fresh air. Going for a jog around your village and walking your pet are fun ways to sneak exercise into your day.
6. Switch from white to brown. Compared to their white counterparts, the brown versions of carbs (like brown rice, whole-wheat bread, and whole-wheat pasta) are less processed, and have more of their fiber content intact.
7. Plate it right. Nutritionists recommend filling half your plate with vegetables, one fourth with protein, and the remaining one fourth with carbs.
8. Shop the periphery. Did you know? The outer edges of the supermarket are home to fresh produce, protein, dairy, and bread. And the inner aisles are where the packaged, processed items are. The next time you do the groceries, stick to the 80:20 rule—80 percent of the items in your cart should be from the outer aisles, 20 percent from the inner ones.
9. Set a limit to your screen time. Try keeping your social media use and web surfing to two 15-minute sessions a day. This frees up so much of your time for more productive pursuits.
10. Schedule your sleep. Sleep is one of the most important rhythms of the human body. Help your body repair and refresh itself by setting and following a regular sleeping time.
“Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” – 3 John 1:2 (ESV)
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