Even though we've got myriad opportunities to turn over a new leaf the other 364 days of the year, there’s just something about January 1 that’s particularly motivating when it comes to taking control of our wellness.
But before falling prey to the old cliché of healthy habits going out the window come February 1 (or – let’s be honest – sooner), consider setting a new kind of goal for 2013: Instead of an overly-lofty “work-out-every-single-day-without-exception” or “starve-myself-on-a-juice-fast-only-to-gain-it-all-back-and-then-some” resolution of years past, go for something that's specific, measurable and attainable – meaning, sustainable until 2014 rolls around.
Here are five simple, do-able steps for making a small impact each and every day of 2013, which can add up to some big results come next December.
There’s an app for that – take advantage of technology to set goals and stay motivated. After watching his vitality plummet in his twenties, husband, father and three-time entrepreneur Kevon Saber decided to do something about it, which, in turn, inspired his latest business venture.
“I had trouble get out of bed in the morning due to low energy, and my face was covered in acne,” said Saber. “After years of trial and error, I finally restored my physical well-being by making bite-size nutritional changes; I realized how wellness enables us to pursue our life missions and how community makes our wellness journeys so much richer.”
Having experienced a transformation via incremental changes, the 32 year-old poured his knowledge and passion into Fig, a new mobile start-up focused on personal well-being. Fig’s app allows you to create a personalized plan focused around whatever you believe defines better health: whether that’s drinking more water, breathing deeply, having a regular date night...or even taking a thankfulness minute. Create a plan, and stick with it thanks, in part, to instant gratification (a cheer (i.e. “Atta girl!”), assist (i.e. an offer to help), or rally (i.e. a gentle nudge) from a teammate) upon completion of each activity.
“Look at wellness as a journey where you break your resolutions into small, achievable steps. As you take each step, you'll build momentum that will spur you toward your resolution, and then go further,” Saber added.
Practice portion control – don’t deprive yourself; thrive on moderation. In theory, it’s great to want to overhaul your diet in the New Year, but it’s not always possible (or practical) to maintain. So rather than completely abandoning ship at the first bite of junk food or sip of happy hour drinks, think in terms of finding a healthy balance with occasional indulgences – and give yourself a break.
Whether you’re trying to lose weight or simply maintain a healthy one, remember that it’s not necessarily all about the type of foods you eat (although nutrient-packed ones will make you feel better both physically and emotionally), but how many calories you consume. Some simple strategies for putting this in action include downsizing dishes, dividing up a meal before eating when out to dinner, pre-portioning tempting treats and being aware of mindless munching.
Make sleep a priority – don’t dismiss slumber as a luxury. According to the CDC, one survey found that nearly 30 percent of adults sleep six or fewer hours each night despite the need for at least seven to nine hours per night. What that means is that a lot of us are sleep-deprived, which is an important (but often overlooked) piece of the health puzzle.
Restful sleep is essential for a fully-functioning mind and body; skimping on sleep has been linked to serious health problems, including memory impairment, decreased alertness, high blood pressure, stroke and obesity. So set yourself up for a successful snooze by avoiding caffeine, alcohol and sugary snacks before bed, sticking to a fairly regular schedule, creating a relaxing bedtime ritual and making the environment conducive to rest by lowering temperatures and shutting out light.
Commit to moving more – aim for an active lifestyle rather than a short-term spurt. Skip the “all-or-nothing” mentality and don’t limit yourself to the gym or get discouraged if you can’t achieve desired weight loss or muscle tone in a certain time frame.
The trick is to step outside of the mindset that exercise has to be done a certain way, at a certain place, at a certain time and for a certain period. Yes, the ideal combination of activity includes aerobic exercise, weight-training and stretching, but there are plenty of opportunities to achieve all three by participating in everyday and recreational activities.
Start by trying to inject each day with more activity (adults should aim for 30-60 minutes daily). Squeeze in exercise by walking at lunch, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, choosing a spot at the far end of the parking lot and simply moving more at home, whether it’s doing your own yard work, washing the car by hand or shoveling snow. The most rewarding part of a regular fitness routine is the difference it makes in the rest of your life: Small changes really do add up, and soon you’ll notice an improvement in how you feel as you go about your day.
Use those vacation days – recharge your battery regularly to increase productivity. Did you know that the U.S. is one of the most vacation-deprived countries in the world? According to Expedia.com's 2011 Vacation Deprivation Study, the average American leaves three vacation days unused at the end of the year.
"The impact that taking a vacation has on one's mental health is profound," Francine Lederer, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles who specializes in stress and relationship management, told U.S.News. "Most people have better life perspective and are more motivated to achieve their goals after a vacation, even if it is a 24-hour time-out."
The most common excuse for skipping those extra days was scheduling, the survey revealed, so now’s the time to plan how you're going to spend your 2013 allotment. Take the time off in advance, which will allow you to not only schedule it for a slow period, but also leave enough time for you to get work done before you leave so you can completely unplug while off the clock.