It’s easy to want to make a big, bold New Year’s resolution. You’re going to lose 50 pounds, start going to the gym every day and put aside $250 of every paycheck to retire early. However, it isn’t that easy. In fact, research suggests that many people quit their resolutions just two weeks into the new year. Sometimes, this failure is due to making the wrong resolution in the first place. Check your resolutions to make sure you aren’t making one of the more common mistakes. You don’t have to totally overhaul your life and routine in order to have a big impact. Choosing a smart, small resolution can make you healthier, smarter and happier.
Switch out that podcast or episode of “Young Sheldon” for 20 to 30 minutes of reading per day. Reading is not only a good way to learn something new or dive into a great story — it’s also a good way to gain compassion, connect with others and keep your brain sharp and healthy. Reading just a little bit each day has been scientifically proven to strengthen brain connectivity. Start with just one book and see if the habit sticks.
Though $10 may not seem like much, if you put just a little bit of money a week into a savings account, you’ll have a nice little nest egg of over $500 at the end of the year. Putting just a little bit aside is one of the easiest ways to start saving money.
Speaking of saving money, your Starbucks habit can really cost you. In New York City, a venti iced coffee costs $4. If you buy one every workday of the year (about 250 days), that’s $1,000 alone. That’s some serious money. Instead, opt for making your own coffee at home and bringing it into work, and put that grand toward paying off debt or a great weekend getaway.
Remember that diary you kept hidden in your desk drawer as a teenager? Turns out that writing down your thoughts, fears and experiences is a great mental health exercise. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, using a journal in whatever way suits you best can help to manage anxiety and stress. And there are a lot of scary ways that stress affects your health.
Taking care of your body can sometimes be surprisingly simple. According to Harvard Health Publishing, stretching does your body a world of good and keeps your muscles flexible, strong and healthy. Adding a few minutes of stretching to your morning routine can make everyday physical activities, such as walking, easier.
Social connection is incredibly important, and dedicating time to the relationships you value can help them grow. Keep in touch with your loved ones, especially if they live far away; set calendar reminders to call your brother every Saturday morning and your best friend from college every other Thursday. Giving that friend or family member a call may actually help extend their life.
There are a lot of weird side effects of dehydration, making it important to drink more water. Water helps regulate your body temperature, keeps your joints lubricated and gets rid of bodily waste. If you need help drinking more water, carry a water bottle with you wherever you go or swap out that harmful diet soda for some H2O.
It can be intimidating to do so, but going to check-ups, teeth cleanings and other routine doctor’s appointments is extremely important. Make a point to schedule at least the bare minimum. Come to your appointment armed with the right questions and these tips straight from doctors themselves on how to make the most out of your visit.
Did you know that excessive screen time can make you depressed? It’s true — a study by researcher Jean Twenge found that teens who spend five or more hours per day on their phones are 71% more likely to become depressed than those who spent more time playing sports, doing homework and socializing with friends face-to-face. Keep track of your screen time and wean yourself off your cell phone by 10 minutes or so per week.
It’s never too late to learn a new skill, especially one that can benefit your career. Take an hour or so out of your week to try Duolingo to learn a new language, teach yourself Excel spreadsheets or graphic design. These handy skills could help to build up your resume and land you that dream job.
Know how to show gratitude toward others by saying kind things and giving compliments, leaving a better tip than you typically would to your morning barista or just saying “thank you” to your partner for doing the little things around the house. According to a study from the University of Georgia, couples who took time to express gratitude for their partner not only felt better about their relationship in general but also felt more comfortable bringing up any issue that may arise.
Take an hour or two out of your Sunday afternoon to prepare healthy lunches like vegetarian chili, chicken lettuce cups or chicken curry for the week ahead. Bringing your own lunch to work (as opposed to getting takeout) is healthier and is also an easy way to save big bucks. If you’re spending $10 on lunch every day, that’s over $200 a month spent on sandwiches, burritos and salads you could have made at home.
Perhaps the easiest resolution on this list is to just get the right amount of sleep. There are a lot of scary side effects of sleep deprivation you can avoid (such as decreased ability to make decisions, weight gain and a weaker immune system) by getting the National Sleep Foundation’s recommended seven to nine hours.
Hopefully, you’re already washing your hands plenty, but according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, regular hand washing reduces the risk of respiratory illnesses, like colds, by 16-21%. So how often should you be washing your hands? Just do it every time you do a germy activity like picking up after your pet, using the bathroom or taking out the garbage. This simple habit, done frequently, is a small habit that can stop you from getting sick.
Gardening has a host of benefits. It gets you out in the sunshine for some much-needed vitamin D, gives you fresh produce and herbs for a healthier diet and saves you money on groceries. Growing a garden can seem like a big task, but start with a few items you know you use often. Are you always cooking with bell peppers and tomatoes? If so, plant bell peppers and tomatoes. Follow these simple tips for beginner gardeners and you’ll develop a green thumb before you know it.
There are a lot of good reasons why you shouldn’t gossip. This all-too-common behavior affects your interpersonal relationships and your reputation. If someone tries to engage you in negative talk about mutual friends, co-workers or family, try to steer the conversation away.
In addition to talking less about other people, learn how to feel more secure in your own body and mind. When you talk to yourself, your friends, your family or your co-workers, use positive language. Stop apologizing for things out of your control and say “thank you for understanding” instead. Knowing how to express yourself in a kind manner is just one of the good habits all positive people have.
It can be hard to bring yourself to make your bed every morning when you’re trying to get dressed, put on your makeup and get out the door for work. But taking just a few minutes out of your day to do this has a lot of surprising benefits. According to the National Sleep Foundation, people who make their bed every day are more likely to say they got a good night’s sleep. Oh, and know how often you need to change your sheets. It’s probably more frequent than you think.
According to a study from the University of Buffalo, taking time for some quality solitude can help increase creativity. In fact, taking time out of your day to practice self-care and indulge in a hobby leads to less overall stress and a higher quality of life. And if you struggle to know how to take a break, you may be surprised to learn how easy it is to take some time out for yourself.
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