6 Healthy Habits to Adopt This Year

Maryl

July 9, 2024

For many people, January is when we make New Year’s resolutions, setting high goals to better ourselves. The resolutions run a wide array of topics but include everything from losing weight to increasing our regular exercise to changing our eating habits. But sadly, about 80% of people ditch their resolutions by February. Instead, adopting simple, healthy habits is a great way to prevent burnout!

Because we set ourselves up for failure when we focus on a bunch of major changes all at once, there’s no shame in quitting. The problem is we want quick fixes with immediate outcomes. When we don’t see results quickly, frustration hits, and burnout results. Then we give up.

Instead, a healthier life often happens by introducing healthy habits you incorporate into your daily routine slowly over time so your habits stick better.

Free or Low-Cost Healthy Habits for the New Year

If you’re ready to try something different, you might want to adopt a new healthy habit. Building small habits to incorporate into your daily or weekly routine will make it easier to create long-term lifestyle habits. I’ve listed some habits I like to focus on, with mini-challenges for each. These suggestions are also topics that consistently come up with guests on my podcast as non-negotiables for health.

Please resist the temptation to think, “I should do all of these.” Pick one to focus on. Try one of the challenges for ten weeks (about the time it takes to form a new habit). After completing it, reward yourself by setting a new goal (and maybe a small reward!). If you need some tips or inspiration for incorporating new habits, I put together this short podcast episode to help!

1. Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is a non-negotiable for health. (Some sleep experts say it’s even more important than diet and exercise combined!) Sleep helps the body restore and heal, is vital for hormone production, improves mood, aids in weight loss, and more. In short, if you aren’t sleeping, you aren’t healthy.

Sleep is also free and is a pretty simple change to make if you commit to it. Granted, some people do have trouble falling or staying asleep, but there are often simple remedies to help with this as well.

The Challenge: Start small. Think through your bedtime routine. What’s the one thing you could change that would make the most impact right away?

  • Buy some magnesium oil and apply it to your feet every night before bed. Reward yourself for keeping this habit for ten weeks by investing in something to improve your sleeping environment: new pajamas, a sleep mask, or a good book to read.
  • Blue light from screens can interfere with sleep. After dinner, dim the lights in the house and wear blue-light-blocking glasses until bedtime. Reduce screen time and turn off social media. Instead, read a book! This small change doesn’t cost much but helps protect your body’s natural sleep cycle.
  • For about 10-15 minutes before bed, put your legs up the wall. You can do this while meditating, reading, or thinking about things you’re grateful for from the day. Not only does it help with circulation, but you’ll reduce your stress, which helps you sleep better!

2. Drink Water

Just like sleep, water is essential to digestion, mental health, toxin removal, and more. Water is typically free and available to all of us, though purified water can cost a little upfront if you invest in a quality water filter.

But we don’t just need water… we need water with minerals! Did you know that our bodies are made up of 60% water? It’s not just water; it’s salt water! Minerals are vital to our bodies, and I find when I add them to my water, my sleep and stress are much better.

Though there are as many theories on how much water to drink as there are brands of bottled water, some good rules of thumb are:

  • Don’t let yourself get really thirsty, as thirst is a good sign you need to drink water (obviously).
  • Drink at least one cup of water for each cup of caffeinated beverage or alcohol you drink (in addition to your regular water consumption). Aim to get at least half of your body weight in ounces of water.
  • To help get more vital minerals in your body, consider adding some salt to your water in the morning. Sound strange? Here are some reasons you might want to drink salt water daily.

The Challenge: A generic “I’ll drink more water” resolution will evaporate all too soon! Keep goals small and specific. An easy way to form a new habit is to tie it to some daily action already in the day, also called habit stacking.

  • Every night, when cleaning the kitchen after dinner, make a pitcher of fruit and herb-flavored water to infuse overnight and drink the next day. The whole family will be more likely to drink it!
  • Commit to having a mug of hot lemon water before coffee in the morning. It’s the perfect wake-up call for your body and your digestion, with plenty of health benefits in addition to the extra H2O.
  • Try adding a teaspoon of unrefined sea salt to a quart of water in the morning. Or try a homemade electrolyte drink for a boost in minerals.
  • I aim to have water with minerals every morning before I have a cup of coffee. 

3. Reduce Stress

Although we often think of stress as a threat to our emotional and mental well-being, it can significantly impact our bodies in a variety of ways. It can cause high blood pressure, lead to weight gain, or wreak havoc on your digestive system and immune system.

When you’re stressed, you increase your risk of all types of chronic diseases, including heart disease. It even causes premature aging! Reducing your stress is the ultimate in self-care.

Of course, adding “reduce stress” to your to-do list isn’t going to help much without actionable steps you can take. There are many things you can do to help lower your stress but remember, we’re starting with one small habit!

One stress-reducing habit I love to use is meditation and breathwork. They not only lower blood pressure, but they also help reduce stress, put us in a better mood, and give us energy. Both help our bodies enter parasympathetic mode, which is different than the fight-or-flight mode we often live in (sympathetic mode).

Don’t feel like you have the time or space to meditate or breathe? There are simple breathwork exercises you can do anywhere, even when you’re sitting at a stop light or in traffic. Meditation can be as short as five minutes to reap amazing benefits. You can even do it with your kids!

The Challenge: This is always a tough one to tackle because, as moms, it often feels like there’s no time to step away and refocus. But there are small changes you can make that don’t require any time away for spa days (although I recommend those too if you can manage it!).

  • Use a Mantra – Adopt an encouraging or calming mantra to repeat throughout the day. One that really helps me is “Everything will work out perfectly.” Write it everywhere… on your fridge, on the mirror, and in a recurring reminder on your phone. Repeat, repeat, repeat! Repeat it when you get up, when you’re feeling stressed, and before you go to bed.
  • Involve the Kids – If you’re driving around town, every time you stop at a light, practice taking deep breaths together. Or, add 5-10 minutes to their bedtime routine to meditate or do breathwork together. You’ll teach them how to manage their own stress too.
  • Pray or Meditate – Even just five minutes a day is helpful. Attach this to a daily ritual you never miss, like your morning cup of coffee. If the idea of sitting still makes you scoff, check out this podcast on meditation for fidgety skeptics. You can find apps that have guided meditations and breathwork practices (some are free!).

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Maryl De Milo

Spiritual Blogger

Feeling lost, stuck, or disconnected? Learn how to create a deeper relationship with God through the process of spiritual direction.

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