Changing your habits, no matter how well-meaning, is hard. If you’re looking for New Year’s resolution ideas you can actually stick to, you’re probably going to have to look past the giant, obvious ones and seek those that seem smaller, which can have a bigger impact in the long run.

Yes, sustainable resolutions do exist and, even better, they can help you build the foundation for a long, healthy, happy life. It all comes down to knowing how to go about it. Here are some habits you can actually stick to.

1.  Don’t start the new year planning to diet   

Historically speaking, weight loss diets fail. Dieting implies restriction, a misplaced reliance on willpower and, often, a negative relationship with food. The act of dieting also usually leads to gaining back the weight.  Rather than seeing January 1 as a time to remove things from your life, consider adding habits that can contribute to your happiness and your health — and possibly help you shed some pounds, too. These ideas will get you started.

2.  Practice mindful eating

Instead of focusing on eating less in 2019, focus on eating more
of the good stuff.  Filling up on fruits and veggies has innumerable benefits, from reducing the risk for a host of diseases and protecting against certain cancers to maintaining bright, healthy skin and hampering hungry feelings. These days, it’s common to chow down with your eyes glued to a screen, but eating when you’re distracted leads to overeating. Take time to slow down and pay attention to your food, pausing to put down utensils between bites. “When you eat mindfully, it’s easier to notice when you feel full, plus you’re more likely to enjoy the foods you eat,” says Johns Hopkins dietitian and research nutritionist Diane Vizthum.

3. Chill out and rest up

Sleep plays an important role in your physical and mental health. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increase in depression, obesity, risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. 

Adults need seven or more hours per night.  Knocking the thermostat down to 68 degrees or lower before you tuck into bed can help you sleep better. Darken your room by drawing the curtains or dimming the display on your alarm clock to really get those quality “Z”s. 

Bonus: Giving yourself adequate sleep can up your chances of maintaining a healthy weight.

4.  Move your alarm clock

Resolve to put a stop to your days (years?) of hitting snooze. Falling back to sleep after your alarm sounds can make you feel more tired and makes the process of getting out of bed more difficult. If you’re the type to set multiple alarms minutes apart — and you sleep between every ring — you might be setting yourself up for lingering grogginess. To get out of this habit, try placing your alarm somewhere that will force you to emerge from beneath the covers. It will feel like torture the first few times, but if you commit to it, your body will eventually adjust, making your snoozing days a thing of the past and letting you relish in the beauty that is quality sleep.

5.  Adopt an attitude of gratitude

Gratitude is the key to living a happy and fulfilled life. It is one of the greatest gifts that we can give to ourselves and to others. Applying that same level of energy towards strengthening one’s relationships, and cultivating compassion and gratitude, creates positive transformative change. Said differently, material success is not a very important factor in the happiness of highly grateful people.  Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.  Take some time at the beginning or end of the day to reflect on what you’re grateful for. A daily grateful check-in or keeping a gratitude journal is a way to shift your focus and minimize the distorting influence of stress. Reminding ourselves of the small, everyday positive aspects of our lives helps to develop a sense of balance and perspective that can enhance well-being,

6.  Find 30 minutes a day to walk

Getting the recommended 30 minutes of exercise each day can be as simple as taking a walk. If you’ve got a busy schedule, take three 10-minute walks throughout your day. That’s 10 minutes before work, 10 minutes at lunch and then 10 minutes after work. Make it fun! Grab a partner at work to get you through your lunch routine; then have a friend or family member meet you for a nightly walk.

7.  Drink enough water

Although that eight cups a day thing isn’t true for everyone, staying hydrated is essential. Not only does it keep all your physical functions, like digestion, running optimally, it makes you less likely to mistake thirst for hunger, a common mix-up that can lead to overeating.  The new rule of thumb is to drink ½ your body weight in ounces.

8.  Take the stairs

Making small, daily changes such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator may seem minor, but they can make a big difference for your heart in the long run. “Individuals who are physically active are much less likely to develop cardiovascular disease,” explains Johns Hopkins cardiologist Chiade Ndumele, M.D.,MHS.

9.  Schedule your workouts in your calendar

Even if they’re motivated, people often don’t feel comfortable taking time out of their hectic lives to nurture their sense of well-being.  Once that initial bubble of motivation bursts, this is the derailer of behavior change.  Instead of trying to hold yourself to a mental promise to workout, write it in your calendar as a way to stay accountable.  It’s an appointment with yourself.

10.  Commit to a 60-day fitness challenge

Pick a fitness activity that’s easy and doesn’t require equipment and commit to it for 60 days. There are many options to challenge yourself: practicing yoga, taking regular walks or joining a fitness class. Find what motivates you. Whatever you do, make yourself accountable or find an accountability partner. Whether your goal is to lose weight, lower cholesterol or have more energy to play with young ones, you have the power to make a change.

As always, talk with your doctor before beginning your journey to a healthier you.

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