Small steps can add up to big benefits.
Each year, many people set New Year’s resolutions, vowing to “eat better” or “work out more.” Each year, the majority of those people abandon their goals after a few short weeks or months.
One way to help yourself realize those abstract ambitions is to make them concrete. Setting small, specific goals has been shown to improve long-term success. Here’s a list of habits you can begin to incorporate in your life to boost your health and overall well-being.
- Eat breakfast every day. Eating a well-balanced breakfast that includes protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals may actually lower your risk of heart disease, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. If you find you aren’t hungry first thing in the morning, try warming up your digestive system with a mug of hot water and lemon juice.
- Juice your daily fruit and veggies. If you know you need to fill half of your plate each day with fruits and vegetables, as the USDA recommends, but you’re not quite getting there, juicing could be your solution. Throw a few servings of fresh fruit and veggies in a juicer—or use a manual juicer to burn a few extra calories. You’ll get all of the vitamins and nutrients you need.
- Don’t forget to eat omega-3 fatty acids. Found in a wide variety of foods, including salmon, avocados, olive oil, flax seeds, egg yolks and grass-fed beef, these “healthy fats” help the body reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure. Rather than try to cut out all fats in an effort to eat healthfully, up your consumption of omega-3-rich foods.
- Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. It boils down to sitting quietly and focusing on the here and now; and its benefits can extend beyond a calmer mind and more optimistic outlook. The Mayo Clinic recommends practicing meditation daily, especially if you’re living with illness.
- Lower your meat consumption. Research shows that eating meat—especially red meat—negatively affects cardiac health and can increase the risk of colon cancer. Replace meat with fish two to three times a week.
- Cook with fresh garlic. Along with being a tasty addition to many dishes, garlic has antioxidant benefits that may boost immunity, according to the . It may also help lower blood pressure through the release of hydrogen sulfide gas—the gas helps expand blood vessels, steadying the pressure inside them.
- Take regular walks. Perhaps the easiest exercise habit to start is walking. There’s no need for special shoes, clothes or a gym membership. Simply head out the door and walk around your neighborhood, or pick a local park you like and go there directly after work. The National Institutes of Health recommends making a plan if you’re going from zero exercise to walking.
- Replace salt with spice. Finding your food bland? Reach for spices instead of the salt shaker. Black pepper, cayenne, turmeric or chili powder can all add flavor without adding heart-straining sodium. Don’t forget herbs: basil, for instance, is a great all-purpose flavor enhancer.
- Switch to tea from soda. Soda adds a ton of extra sugar and calories to your diet, and a regular soda habit can be one of the easiest places to make a big dietary change. If you really miss sipping a flavored beverage, try tea (either hot or iced). But brew your tea yourself at home, as pre-brewed, store-bought tea often contains just as much sugar as soda.
- Keep a journal. According to Psych Central, people who regularly write in a journal may grow their ability to solve problems; heal disagreements with others; and reduce stress. In addition, it’s a great way to get to know yourself. Start by writing for 20 minutes a day.
One final note: Instead of aiming to start each of these habits at the same time, add one at a time. There’s evidence that trying to “do it all” leads to a higher rate of habit abandonment, especially when it comes to fitness.
Instead, pick the habit that seems most achievable to you, and build it into your daily routine. Don’t worry if you miss a day, or even two. The point is not to create an unbroken streak—the point is to keep going.