The New Year feels like a wonderful chance to start fresh, and many choose to make sweeping declarations (resolutions) as to what they want to achieve in the next 12 months. These resolutions are almost always rooted in the same desire – to improve health and happiness – but the person making these resolutions is seeking this result with self-improvements, like losing a lot of weight quickly or exercising every day, that don’t truly address their root desire.
The reason these popular resolutions often fail is, they don’t match that true goal of greater happiness. This year, shift your mindset to focus on goals that bring happiness directly ‒ where the benefits not only are reaped more quickly but will actually provide satisfaction.
Here are eight ways to create health and happiness this year.
1. Get to know yourself.
Tuning in to your needs, desires, and values can be a powerful pathway toward meaningful self-improvement. Become the expert on what drives your good behaviors and triggers your unhealthy behaviors. Ask yourself what matters to you, what you stand for, what you can let go of, and what would help you to reach your goals.
2. Practice forgiveness.
According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, studies suggest that forgiveness is linked to lower levels of depression, anxiety, and hostility, along with reduced substance abuse, increased self-confidence, and greater satisfaction in life. It isn’t easy, but learning to let go and move forward can release your body and mind from real physical and emotional turmoil and, in turn, improve not only your own health but also the health of your relationships.
3. Embrace gratitude.
Nearly everyone has something to be grateful for! Integrative Nutrition Health Coach Wendi Cherry shares that gratitude should be looked at as something we do and consume every day—think about gratitude like “vitamin G,” a nutrient that nourishes your soul. Practicing gratitude also affects the brain, strengthening the mind-body connection, relieving stress, aiding with depression, and improving overall health over time.
4. Incorporate mindfulness into your day.
Mindfulness is a type of meditation that helps bring awareness to what you’re sensing in the moment. Through this awareness, you create a nonjudgmental and kind attitude toward yourself, which will go a long way in setting goals.
This means focusing on how you’re feeling versus what you’re doing. Mindfulness can help you stay grounded in the process of reaching your goals and allow you to celebrate the small wins and progress you make each day.
5. Create a morning routine you’ll want to wake up for.
How you start the day sets the tone for what’s to come ‒ and for many, it can be the best time for quiet reflection on how you are doing and feeling. Some healthy ways to start the morning include waking up early, making your bed, drinking water, giving yourself a pep talk, eating a good breakfast, and exercising your body. If mornings are tough for you, start slow; try setting your alarm just five minutes earlier than usual and use that time to meditate in bed.
6. Create a bedtime ritual.
Sleep is critical for good health, regulating mood, metabolism, and blood sugar ‒ and the list goes on. Armaghan Azad, MD, Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and physician, shares nine ways to optimize your sleep, including cutting off caffeine early, creating a nighttime hygiene ritual that marks a distinction between day and night, and detaching from devices before bed.
7. Spend time in nature.
Spending time outside is an opportunity to focus on you and not your screen! Taking time away from devices and the stressors that overwhelm you is a great way to improve your well-being. Integrative Nutrition Health Coach Jackie Moncada describes getting grounded in nature as a spiritual practice, allowing you to connect to something bigger than yourself. You can walk around outdoors, sit in a park, or go for a bike ride. It’s totally up to you.
8. Indulge in home cooking.
Making your own meals is one of the best ways to take control of your health. By choosing the ingredients you put in your body, you can eat more nutritionally, boost your energy, improve your sleep, and reduce your overall risk for developing chronic conditions. Eating foods that are in season and spending time and energy creating your own meals can also spark a more mindful eating experience that sparks greater satisfaction. It can also become a new passion and fun family activity!
Progress, not perfection
Improving your health will be a daily endeavor that takes practice, consistency, patience, and acceptance that not every day will be your best. By taking each day as it comes, you’ll build a positive attitude and a framework to increase resiliency, heal your body, and make your goals a reality. As IIN founder Joshua Rosenthal says: “Health is a vehicle, not a destination.”