Habits to Cultivate for a Healthier, Happier New Year

There’s something special about the start of a new year. We’re rejuvenated with a fresh rush of motivation and a squeaky clean blank slate, providing ideal circumstances for a lifestyle change. In fact, research has shown that the most successful behavior change occurs during times of novelty, but are those resolutions sustainable? If you find that you’re making the same resolutions (does “eat healthier, lose weight” sound familiar?) year after year, maybe it’s time for a primer on how to turn resolutions into habits that stick.

Here are some suggestions on how to cultivate healthy habits that last a lifetime:

Rethink Resolutions and Get Back to Basics
The trouble with resolutions is that they’re tied to a deadline. If our real pursuit is lifelong well-being, it doesn’t make sense to think that a one-year commitment will provide a lifetime of good health. It’s better to use the momentum of the New Year to cultivate habits that you can repeat on a daily basis and maintain for the rest of your life. After all, what we do every day matters more than what we do once in awhile.

Too often we overlook the fundamentals of healthy living, and place our faith in “sophisticated” and complex fads, jumping from one program to the next. This year, skip the trends and pay attention to these five basics:

1. Eat 
Real food is energizing, disease-protecting, anti-aging, and mood-boosting—everything we need to live a long, happy life. Colorful fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, high-quality proteins, and healthy fats are perfectly packaged with all the vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and energy needed to thrive. Yet, studies show an estimated 50 percent of our diet is ultra-processed foods that are devoid of beneficial nutrients, and contain toxic, artificial additives.

2. Drink 
The human body is 65 to 70 percent water, an unmistakable indicator of how important it is to our health. Water plays a critical role in supporting the function of every bodily organ, yet research estimates a striking 75 percent of the U.S population functions in a chronic state of dehydration.

3. Rest
Sleep is our body’s primary opportunity to repair, rebuild, and recharge yet most of us pay more attention to charging our phones. Studies show over one-third of the U.S population is sleep deprived.

4. Move
Our bodies are built to move but each year we become more sedentary. Studies estimate that American adults spend an average of 13 hours sitting each day. Regular exercise promotes sleep, strengthens cognitive function, improves metabolism, relieves stress, enhances physical performance, and supports healthier food choices.

5. Relax
Unplugging on a regular basis has been shown to improve productivity, creativity, energy, performance, health, and happiness. Whether it’s yoga, meditation, reading a book, taking a warm bath, sipping tea, or doing a puzzle, taking time to relax and reset is critical to our health and happiness.

Artwork by Ekström Design