We’ve all struggled to stick to our resolutions in the past.
When we’re thinking about our health during a pandemic, it may seem like setting a goal to be “super fit and a beacon of sobriety from here on in” is achievable. But when life goes back to normal and our old habits come back, it may be harder to reach that goal.
If we feel like we have failed at trying to break a bad habit, we may start engaging in even worse habits as a form of self-sabotage.
How can we successfully set ourselves up for a healthier and happier life?
The key is to make small, manageable changes that improve your life instead of limiting it. Instead of setting a goal to completely cutoff sugar, set a goal to add one more portion of vegetables to your diet each day.
Cross goals off your list as you complete them, then move on to the next goal. You will eventually develop healthy habits that will improve your lifestyle without noticing the effort. You will feel and look better as a result.
Here are the top achievable changes you can make to take charge of your health and wellbeing:
1. Eat Slowly
If you eat too fast, you might consume more calories than you need, which can lead to weight gain.
People who eat more quickly are more likely to be overweight, as opposed to those who eat slowly, according to research. One study suggests that middle-aged women are 115% more likely to experience this.
Your body releases hormones that tell your brain you are full after you have eaten.
However, because this process takes about 20 minutes, people who eat quickly may consume too much food and only receive the signal that they are full later – which explains the “post-buffet bloat” you may feel after a meal.
The next time you’re eating, try to eat more slowly and see how it changes your appetite.
2. Drink More Water
The old saying goes that you should drink eight glasses of water a day, but many people don’t actually follow that advice. They often just keep track of their total liquid intake, which usually includes sodas, coffee, and other beverages.
Although your body is not made up of soft drinks and beer, the human body is mostly water, with the percentage depending on age.
There are many benefits to drinking more water, such as helping us control our calorie intake, energizing our muscles, keeping our kidneys healthy, and hydrating the skin.
When you drink lots of water, you will start to crave sugary drinks less.
3. Read Nutrition Labels
If you want to lose weight, it’s a good idea to get in the habit of reading the nutrition labels on the food you buy at the grocery store.
When looking at a product label, take note of the total amount of calories it contains, rather than just the amount for one serving.
You can avoid being misled by marketing labels like “high in fiber”, “low fat” or “zero sugar” by reading nutrition labels. A product that is “high in calcium” may also be high in sugar. This is a detail that may be missed if the nutrition label is not read.
4. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
A large health study found that people who ate 7 or more portions of fruits or vegetables each day were 42% less likely to die from any cause than those who ate less than one portion a day.
However, you may want to choose more fresh produce, it was found that frozen and canned fruit can also increase the risk of dying by 17%.
If you’re looking for ways to add more fruits and vegetables into your diet, here are a few tips:
- Incorporate them into your meals: Add diced vegetables to your omelet or pasta dish, or snack on carrot and celery sticks with dip.
- Make them the star of your meal: Enjoy a big salad as your main course or have a fruit plate for dessert.
- Get creative: Use fruits and vegetables in different ways, such as in smoothies, juices, soups, or homemade muffins.
- After lunch today, buy some cut fruit and bring it to your workplace. If you’re feeling hungry, the next thing you’ll probably reach for is a piece of fruit.
5. Work Out (at least) 3 Times a Week
The American Heart Association recommends adults should be moderately to vigorously active for at least 150 minutes a week.
Hitting this goal doesn’t have to be difficult. You can try:
- Do more of an activity you’re already doing
- Picking an activity you think you’ll enjoy doing, and start doing it
These can be small changes. Instead of just walking your dog, try lacing up your running shoes and going for a jog with them. If you are running twice a week, you could add a third day to try different routes. Take your time and enjoy the process.
6. Quit Smoking
Since disease-ridden images have been placed on cigarette boxes and tobacco advertising has been eliminated for decades, it is still fairly common to smoke in Singapore. Approximately six Singaporeans die each day as a direct result of smoking-related illnesses, based on information from HealthHub.
One of the most life-changing decisions you make can be quitting smoking, even though it might be challenging. There are a few things you can do to try to stop smoking including working out, going to support groups, and doing relaxation techniques like deep breathing. You could also try using nicotine replacement therapy.
Smoking is expensive in actual money and in costs to your health. Find out how much you are spending with this smoking cost calculator.
7. Get a Fitness Tracker (and use it)
Fitness trackers are increasingly popular and are changing the way people live and work out. These wrist-based devices are intelligent and can track your heart rate and the distance of your run, as well as count the number of calories you burn during workouts.
The accuracy of fitness trackers and smart watches has been said to have improved remarkably in recent years.
8. Sleep for 6 – 8 Hours Daily
The recommended number of hours of sleep for adults is 6-8 hours per night.
Those who sleep less than 7 hours a night are more likely to die prematurely.
However, be careful to not oversleep, as it was also found that people who sleep more than 8 – 9 hours daily have a 30% increased risk of dying prematurely.
The conclusion? You should go to sleep at a time that allows you to have 6 to 8 hours of sleep so that you can wake up when your alarm rings instead of hitting the snooze button multiple times.
9. Smile and Laugh More
Making one small change in your routine can have a big impact on your mental health.
Why does this work? When we laugh, we take in more air, which stimulates our heart, lungs and muscles. It also increases the endorphins released by our brains, which have a positive effect on our physiology and mood, making us automatically happier.
Don’t be afraid to show your teeth and let your laughter be heard. Sometimes, laughter really can be the best medicine.
10. Keep a Journal of Daily Wins
Mehrnaz Bassiri, an educator, references a Harvard Business School professor in her TEDx talk on achieving success through small wins. She states that keeping a daily diary of progress helps us to reflect on our days and record all the small achievements that would otherwise go unnoticed.
This habit helps us to remember and celebrate our small accomplishments, even on days when we feel we haven’t done much.
These “wins” can be anything that makes you happy or inspired, for the first time. It could be something as simple as making a healthy eating choice during lunch, or reacting positively to a negative situation at work.
11. Build your Strength
The benefits of having strong muscles go beyond just looking good. Strong muscles provide support and stability for your body and can speed up your metabolism, making it easier to burn energy, even when you’re sitting still. You can start building muscle at any age by doing bodyweight exercises at home.
You need to do regular exercise to build strength, which should include resistance, flexibility, balance and aerobic movement. Resistance exercise is a type of exercise that involves lifting weights or working with your own body weight.
Doing things like push-ups, climbing stairs, moving the wood pile, or heavy gardening can help you stay fit. The key is to slowly increase the amount you’re doing over time. You can improve your flexibility by doing exercises that stretch your muscles, like tai chi or yoga.
You can improve your balance by doing yoga, tai chi, or even brushing your teeth while standing on one leg.
Aerobic exercise is anything that makes you breathe hard, like bicycling, brisk walking, dancing, or swimming. If you want to be successful in anything, you need to find something you enjoy so you will be motivated to do it every day.
12. Ditch the Diets
Anyone who has lost weight knows that quick-fix diets may help you lose weight quickly, but they are difficult to maintain over time and often result in you gaining the weight back.
Studies have found that there is a correlation between diet culture and eating disorders. As a result, more people are now choosing to accept their bodies and the idea that “health comes in all shapes and sizes”.
A healthy weight is still a good goal to have because losing even a small amount of weight can improve your blood pressure and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, sleep apnea and joint pain.
Fad diets may give you initial results, but they’re generally not sustainable in the long term. Instead of following the latest diet trend, focus on making improvements to your overall diet.
If you include a variety of healthy foods in your diet, you will be more likely to stick with it long-term and maintain a healthy weight. Include plenty of vegetables, legumes, fruit, whole grains, nuts and healthy plant fats, fish and white meat in moderation, and occasional red meat, processed meats, dairy and sweet treats.
13. Head Into Nature
More than 50 percent of people around the world live in cities, which often have man-made structures.
There have been multiple studies that suggest there are potential health benefits from spending time in nature. These benefits include better outcomes for cancer patients, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, improved symptoms in children with ADHD and better mental health.
An environment that is indoors and uses artificial lighting can cause problems with our body clocks. These clocks control things like sleep, metabolism, and hormone secretion.
Studies with animals and humans have shown that disrupting body clocks or circadian rhythms is linked to a range of health problems, including reduced life expectancy, increased risk and progression of certain cancers, increased risk of heart attack and stroke, obesity, and metabolic syndrome, as well as mood disorders and cognitive impairment.
Spending time outdoors every day can be beneficial. Discover the parks near where you live, visit the shore on weekends, or take a midday stroll during your work week.
It’s important to take in morning sunlight to help regulate melatonin, which affects sleep patterns. Too much blue light exposure from screens can disrupt this process.
If you enjoy camping, you may be pleased to know that spending a few days sleeping outdoors can improve your sleep quality and reset your body clock, according to research.
14. Have a Digital Detox
Forget the juice cleanses and try a digital detox. Detaching from our screens for a set period of time each day could lead to better mental and physical well-being, as well as improved sleep.
There has been an increase in neck and upper back problems, as well as hand and wrist inflammation, among people who use electronic devices such as smartphones too much, according to physiotherapists.
Other physical problems include eye strain and headaches. The blue light coming from our screens suppresses melatonin, a hormone that helps us fall asleep.
If we constantly see notifications on our screens and people presenting idealized versions of themselves on social media, it may be beneficial to take a break from our devices. Our brains release the reward hormone dopamine in response to notifications, which can create a feedback loop.
If you are not ready to give up your smartphone entirely, there are still things you can do to reduce the amount of time you spend looking at screens. Go to your social media and email accounts and turn off the notifications.
Next, take a look at the people you follow on social media and think about how they affect your mood. Only follow pages that make you feel good. If someone makes you feel bad about yourself or your lifestyle, get rid of them. Be ruthless.
Finally, set yourself some rules around screen time. Have a rule where devices are not allowed to be used during mealtimes. Set a time limit for how long you want to scroll or stream, and stick to it.
It’s important to give yourself some time before bed to disconnect from electronics and prepare your body for sleep. Read a book or take a bath instead.