5 Steps to a Happier, Healthier Year

5 Steps to a Happier, Healthier Year  | happyliving.com - image via Death to the Stock Photo

Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.
(Buddha)

New year, new you! This time of year is filled with exclamations, resolutions, and complete routine overhauls. The holiday season wrecks havoc on our nutrition and exercise habits, so the clean slate of January is a welcome change.

However, if you have your sights set on a perfect body this year, consider the cost of getting lean. Rather than giving yourself a mega-goal that you might give up on, consider taking a gentle approach. Stop pushing for perfection. Strive for progress. Show your mind and body some compassion with these 5 steps to a happier, healthier year:

Step 1 – Eat real food

Take a realistic assessment of your typical diet and then start to adopt healthier habits. Start paying attention to how different foods make you feel. Begin to eat more of the things that leave you feeling satisfied, energized, and alive. Eat less of those items that make you feel sluggish and bloated.

Two books that have influenced my approach to food are Grain Brain and It Starts with Food. Slowly begin to adopt the recommendations in these books, take a personalized approach, and then create your own nutritional philosophy.

Find recipes that make you want to cook more at home. Eating at home gives you control of ingredients and portions. Pinterest is my favorite place to find new inspiration.

Step 2 – Drink more water (and less of everything else)

Drinking more water is my fix for everything. Dry skin? Drink more water. Tummy grumbling? Drink more water. Headache? Drink more water. Feeling grumpy? Drink more water.

Cut down on soda, fruit juice, sugary coffee drinks, and alcohol. Instead, start drinking naturally flavored waters (here are some “recipes” to try) and herbal teas.

The novelty of a new water bottle can be a hydration motivator. This one is my favorite for travel (packs light and filters the water for you) and this glass one is great for everyday.

Step 3 – Prioritize sleep

If your exercise and eating routines were impacted by the holidays, your sleep probably suffered too. According to the CDC, people who don’t get enough sleep are, “more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as from cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity.”

There’s little downside to getting enough sleep – you might have to wait on answering those last few work emails or watching that late night TV show, but the positives outweigh the negatives on this one. Think about how good it will feel to wake up refreshed, rested, and ready to take on the day!

The National Sleep Foundation recommends these tips for healthy sleep habits and here are more tricks for falling asleep. My Happy Living co-author, Matt Gersper, uses melatonin as a sleep aid. My two favorite ways to get ready for bed are a warm Epsom salt bath and a good book on my Kindle.

Step 4 – Walk, don’t run

Exercise is a key to health and happiness, so why is it so hard to get started… and keep it up? I am good at making excuses and reasons not to exercise. Even though fitness is a priority, I rarely feel like getting in my exercise clothes. I don’t want it to hurt, I don’t want to feel my muscles shake, and I hate getting sweaty. Except, after exercising none of that matters because I always feel happier and healthier!

One trick I have found helpful is telling myself that I’ll take it easy. Not every workout has to be a bone-crusher! I tell myself that I will go slow, listen to my body, and back off when things get too intense. More often than not, I don’t take it too easy… but knowing that is always an option gets me over the “all or nothing” hurdle. Giving yourself permission to walk (metaphorically or literally) can do wonders for your fitness!

Step 5 – Carry the momentum

Keeping track of my progress in a notebook or through the MyFitnessPal app helps me carry the momentum. One goal I have for this year is to establish a daily meditation practice. I’m excited to use this daily goal tracker and the Headspace app to keep me going.

A body in motion tends to stay in motion, so do everything in your power to make an effort – no matter what the goal. Take these baby steps to a happier, healthier year and then keep taking them. Each day, remember that what you do that day is what matters most, and something is better than nothing.

Image via Death to the Stock Photo

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