It’s common to set goals for the new year, but what about new habits? Creating healthy habits in your life can help you grow toward your goals naturally. The ability to change your habits empowers you to boost your productivity as well as your quality of life in a sustainable way. Likewise, goals can help maintain structure to motivate you as you work on your habits. Here are 12 healthy habits you can adopt to make 2021 your best year yet.
1. Spend more time in the sun.
The skin uses sunlight to help manufacture vitamin D but also stimulates the release of nitric oxide, which supports healthy blood flow and can improve heart function. Sunlight has also been shown to reduce risks of pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, and several other cancers. As beneficial to your health as sunlight can be, always make sure you protect your skin from harmful UV rays by wearing a good Sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 to protect against UVB.
2. Keep your bedroom dark and cool.
Even tiny amounts of light can block the production of melatonin, the sleepy hormone, and excessive warmth can raise risks of snoring and sleep apnea. Consider shutters or a sleep mask to protect your melatonin levels, and use cool air and light sheets to support your breathing while you sleep.
3. Find opportunities to walk more.
We are constantly told to exercise more, but making time for exercise can be a challenge. Walking, a gentle yet effective activity can save you time while increasing your fitness by simultaneously taking you where you need to go. Walk to work, get off the bus early or park further from entrances to increase your daily steps.
4. Relax before and after meals.
Stress can cause indigestion and reduce uptake of nutrients, so it’s wise to relax before and after eating. Ayurvedic recommendations include sitting for meals, focusing on the enjoyment of food and relaxing quietly afterward for at least a few minutes.
5. Write in a journal.
Keeping a journal can enhance your life in several ways. By recording daily events, you can gain new insights that will serve you well in the future. Looking back on past journal entries can also help you identify aspects of your life that benefit or threaten your success.
6. Praise your friends.
Although nobody likes insincere praise, nearly everybody enjoys having their positive contributions recognized. Giving praise when it’s justified can strengthen your relationships and provide valuable feedback that encourages others to keep healthy habits. Friendships are healthy for you if they’re good, so work on them!
7. Enjoy your food.
Different dietary prescriptions abound these days, but any diet you find unpalatable is unlikely to sustain you in the long term. By eating a balance of nutritious foods that you enjoy, you’ll support stronger digestion and assimilation of the vitamins and minerals you need to function effectively and feel your best.
8. Take time to reflect.
Before you go to bed at night, ask yourself how your day went. What went well, what didn’t go so well and what could you have done differently? Over time, this process can help you reduce your stress, improve your relationships and increase your productivity.
9. Stretch your mind every day.
Research has shown that continual learning is essential for retaining the ability to process and absorb new information as we grow older. Whether you complete puzzles, play video games, watch complex television shows or learn foreign languages, keep your brain challenged to keep it in shape.
10. Get enough food, rest, and exercise.
Movement is vital to a healthy body and mind, but exercise can become unhealthy without enough food and rest to fuel it. Engage in regular exercise you enjoy, but ensure that you’re getting enough calories and sleep for your active lifestyle to stay sustainable.
11. Go to bed early.
Going to bed late, especially when you have to wake up early, places a major burden on your health. Research has shown that the body’s repair processes are most active between the hours of 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. If you get to bed early, you’ll maximize your energy levels in the daytime and support your overall health in the long term.
12. Control your breathing.
Hyperventilation can result from stress and high stimulation and cause anxiety, poor concentration and upset digestion. Practice deep breathing, from your lower abdomen, before meals and at bedtime to improve your digestion and sleep and develop your ability to relax at will.
Building new habits takes time, so there’s no need to feel frustrated if the changes you want to make don’t take hold right away. Set goals for yourself to practice new habits daily for at least three weeks, the amount of time often considered necessary to form new habits. A daily reminder phone app, calendar or journal may help you in this process. Once you’re in the habit of making new habits and noting what works best for you, you’ll be well on your way to reaching the goals you set for 2021 and beyond.