I read a report in the last week regarding New Year resolutions, the thrust of which was that setting the bar too high is more likely to lead to us not keeping to whatever resolutions we have made. In other words, opting for smaller, more manageable changes might be a better long-term strategy. I agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly. And I also believe that even seemingly relatively minor adjustments to lifestyle can reap enormous dividends in terms of it’s impact on things like energy and vitality (too things that many of us can find our in short supply from time to time).
So here, in no particular order, are 10 suggestions for ‘bite-sized’ New Year resolutions that some of you may feel inclined to act on. My suggestions is to pick just one or two (maybe three) of these in the first instance, and allow a month or two for you to feel the benefit of your new behaviour and settle in to your new habit(s). You can always add further healthy behaviour later on.
1. Drink water
Maintaining hydration, in my experience, has a profound influence on vitality and energy levels, including mental energy. I suggest drinking enough water to keep your urine pale yellow throughout the course of the day. The usually-critical step that needs to be taken to make this possible is to keep water by you e.g. put a bottle and glass on your desk or carry a water bottle with you as you go out and about during the day.
2. Take exercise
This is certainly one where setting the bar too high can be counter-productive. I’d advise against, therefore, promising yourself you’re going to spend an hour in the gym, four times a week. If you really are quite sedentary right now, how about committing to a 10 minute walk each day. Earlier this year I developed with the help of some colleagues a 12-minute exercise routine as part of a forthcoming book. I’ve managed with relatively little effort to perform this every day for the last six months (except for when I ‘put my back out’ recently). Previous attempts at more ambitious exercise have generally been less successful.
3. Eat mindfully
In our fast-paced world, there can be a tendency to eat while distracted and ‘shovel in’ more food than we need. See here for some information about why eating mindfully can be beneficial to health, and how to do it.
4. Chew thoroughly
Part of mindful eating can be thorough chewing of food, which at the very least will enhance the body’s ability to digest food efficiently, and will usually help with any symptoms of indigestion/reflux. I most recently wrote about the value of chewing here, where you will also find links to blogs which explore the relationship between slower eating and reduced food consumption.
5. Make time
Some new habits (e.g. exercise) can take time, which some of us believe we already don’t have enough of. See here for a blog post which is about creating time for whatever new habits demand this.
Sleep has the ability to optimise mental and physical energy, and optimal levels of sleep (about 8 hours a night on average) is linked with reduced risk of chronic disease and improved longevity. One simple strategy that can help ensure you get optimal amounts of sleep is to go to bed earlier. Getting into bed a 10.00 or 10.30 pm (rather than 11.30, say) is not a waste of time, but a potentially useful investment in terms of your short and long-term health.
7. Eat a primal diet
Common sense and a stack of science dictate that the best diet for us is one based on foods we’ve been eating the longest. If you know nothing else about diet, this nutritional ‘nugget’ will help you cut through the marketing hype and dietary misinformation, and allow you to make healthy food choices (if you so wish) quickly and confidently.
8. Snack healthily
Snacking tends to have a ‘bad’ reputation, and at least some of this is based on the fact that many snack foods (e.g. biscuits, confectionery, crisps/chips) are far from healthy. However, going for too long between meals (especially between lunch and dinner) can cause the appetite to run out of control, which can lead to the overconsumption of unhealthy food and drink later on. Quelling appetite with something healthy (e.g. a handful or two of nuts) can do wonders to help us maintain our healthy eating habits will minimal effort.
9. Get more sunlight
Sunlight and the vitamin D this can make in the skin has a myriad of benefits for body and brain (see category ‘sunlight’ in left hand sidebar for more information regarding this). While burning is to be avoided, I advise getting as much sunlight exposure as possible if optimal health is your goal.
10. Appreciate more
In a recent post I wrote about how my New Year’s resolution this year was inspired by witnessing a random act of kindness recently. In the comments section of this post, the subject of appreciation came up. It occurs to me that many of us live in societies that are hugely aspirational, and as a result we can easily find ourselves chasing an ever-growing list of goals, many of which can be material in nature. To be frank, many of us could do with spending more time focusing not on what we don’t have, but on what we do ” in its broadest sense. So, in addition to whatever material things we may want to give thanks for, we might also feel appreciation for our things including people, pets, our health, a beautiful landscape or sunset or whatever.