If you’re like millions of other Americans, you’ve made New Year’s resolutions, some of them likely health-related. Maybe you want to drink more water each day, go to the gym more often, or start meditating – all great goals.
Forming good habits takes discipline and conscious effort over a period of time – somewhere between three weeks and two months. So, stick to your resolutions and their automaticity will grow stronger and stronger over time.
As you’re forming good habits, we thought we’d suggest a few small changes that can be extremely beneficial over time and help keep you healthier throughout 2020:
1. Go to sleep 15 minutes earlier. Set an alarm to remind yourself to go to bed if you must, because 15 additional minutes of sleep each night adds up. The benefits of 7-9 hours of undisturbed sleep per night are critical to overall health – including improved mental function, lower blood pressure, lower risk of stroke or heart attack, and improved hormonal balance that impacts health and mood.
2. Floss daily. Flossing helps rid your body of the bacteria that cause periodontal disease. If left unchecked, that bacteria can – and will – travel to other areas of your body and wreak havoc.
3. Chew food more slowly; eat mindfully. The benefits are multiple: it will take you longer to eat, giving your body the opportunity to feel full on less food; it helps your body’s digestive tract absorb the maximum nutrients from each bite; and will help minimize digestive issues such as gas or bloating.
4. Wear your seatbelt. With the steady rise in seatbelt usage since 2000, the number of unrestrained passenger deaths has steadily declined. All the more reason to buckle up!
5. Eat more veggies. Eat something green every day.
6. Make smart food swaps. At breakfast abandon granola for oatmeal. A half-cup serving of steel-cut oats has about 150 calories, while the same serving of granola has 200 calories, twice the fat and 13 times the sugar – and that’s before adding milk. At lunch opt for a whole-wheat bun instead of white. The calories are about the same, but the whole wheat option has extra protein and fiber, filling you up for longer. For dinner substitute spaghetti squash for pasta. It’s a low-calorie, high-fiber swap that may save you up to 200 calories and adds folate, magnesium and Vitamin C to your diet.
7. Exercise for 20 minutes per day. By getting at least 20 minutes per day of physical activity, you’ll still improve your cardiovascular health, lower stress and reduce your risk of dying young.
8. Be kind and grateful. Kindness and gratitude are shown to increase happiness and improve overall health. There’s even evidence that practicing these two positive mental attitudes can help you live longer. It’s a great way to start this new journey around the sun.