Better health and greater happiness can be yours in the New Year without spending a lot of time and money on expensive gym memberships or fad diets. Set goals based on adding a few positive habits to your daily routine. Make just one or two small changes, and you won’t need pricey diet supplements or fancy workouts. Make a habit of these eight back-to-basics behaviors, and you won’t have to worry about willpower. Don’t underestimate the power of small, positive steps. They can take the intimidation out of starting on that lofty New Year’s resolution list. Start with physical activity and sleep. Experts agree these are the two most important elements of good health.
If you can add only one habit to improve your life, improve fitness first. Physical activity has an almost magical ability to improve the quality of your life. The risk of almost every physical and mental malady is reduced by physical activity.
Get enough sleep.
Here’s how essential sleep is to good health. Impaired sleep or insomnia symptoms puts people at significantly higher risk of developing clinical depression. Lack of sleep affects your immune systems, hormones, appetite, weight, thinking, energy, concentration, temper, mood—even life expectancy. The amount of sleep each person requires does vary, but most people need from seven to nine hours.
Success is low for smokers who are trying to abandon the habit. About half have tried to quit in the last year. If you are among the 80 percent of smokers who want to quit, use all the available treatment options. Try nicotine patches and medications with a behavioral plan. These aids can increase your chance of quitting five or six times.
Nurture your relationships.
Loving attachments and close relationships are the single most important contributors to our happiness. Relationships are important to good health and well-being. Don’t underestimate the importance of nurturing them with spouse, children and friends.
Eat more fruits and vegetables.
Fruits don’t provide as many vitamins and minerals as vegetables, but they are a place to start if you aren’t eating much of either. Cook at home with unprocessed foods to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Cooking meals at home also lowers your sodium, sugar and calorie intake.
The reason cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions lead as today’s causes of death is that people live long enough for these ailments to develop. Only 100 years ago before vaccines curbed infectious diseases, thousands of children never lived to reach adulthood. Even today, thousands of adults die from the flu.
Get some sun, but don’t overdo.
Light helps your sleep and mood, while being out in the sun increases your likelihood of physical activity. Sunlight is the only natural way to get vitamin D. Not getting enough bright light during the day can hinder sleep. Too much sun isn’t good either. Protect yourself from UV rays with sunblock, hats and clothing.
Eat and drink less sugar.
Switch that soda or sugary drink to water to lose calories. Decreasing your alcohol intake not only reduces calories but also reduces the risks associated with excess alcohol use. Staying hydrated prevents dehydration effects such as headaches and maintains your energy.