‘Tis the season of starting fresh. Whether or not you’re a resolution person, January can feel like a great time to get back to routine and work on building new healthy habits after a busy holiday season. It can also be a time that people set lofty wellness goals that fizzle out well before Valentine’s Day. Instead of overhauling your entire routine, try making one (or more) of these healthy habits recommended by a dietitian a priority this year.
- Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Sleep is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. The quality and quantity of your sleep can impact everything from energy, mood, focus, snacking habits, food cravings, and exercise habits to longer-term health consequences like risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. To support sleep, aim to go to bed around the same time every night, limit screen time within the hour before bed, and do something calming to wind down before bedtime like reading a book or doing a short meditation.
- Create a plan for stress. Along with sleep, stress can have profound impacts on our health. Stress is unavoidable, so having sound strategies for managing it is essential. Develop a list of coping tools so you have a menu of options to refer to when things feel tough. This may include simple strategies like a short deep breathing exercise, taking a quick fresh air break, journaling, or snuggling with a pet. Movement can be an effective way to bust stress, as can activities you do with your hands like gardening, cooking, knitting, drawing, or painting.
- Drink up! Water that is. Staying hydrated can support energy, mood, and your immune system. If you’re not a fan of plain water, try sparkling water or herbal tea to support hydration. Or, make a pitcher of fruit and herb-infused water to keep on hand. Try cucumber-mint, raspberry lemon, or strawberry basil for a refreshing drink.
- Add produce to your meals. Most people (upwards of 90 percent) don’t eat the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables per day. To get there, start by focusing on one meal and add some colorful produce to that meal. It doesn’t matter if it’s fresh, frozen, cooked, or raw — you can get the same benefits however you choose to eat them!
- Move your body in ways that you enjoy. The best way to create an exercise plan you will stick with is to choose an activity you like and one that celebrates your body (not punishes it). Any type of movement offers health benefits whether it’s walking, dancing, skiing, hiking, gardening, biking, jumping and running around with your kids, or engaging in a more formal workout plan like going to an exercise class.
Everybody’s health and wellness needs are unique, yet there are great foundational habits that can benefit almost anyone. Simple actions to better take care of yourself can not only add up to big results, but they are also much more likely to last for a meaningful amount of time.
Sarah Gold Anzlovar, MS, RDN, LDN is a registered dietitian, certified intuitive eating counselor, and the owner of Sarah Gold Nutrition, a virtual private practice and nutrition communications consulting business in the suburbs of Boston. She empowers busy women to ditch diets and learn to eat to feel their best without the stress.