Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth nutrition, fitness and adventure courses, and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+..
By now, whatever New Year’s resolutions you’ve made, you have probably broken them. But you are not alone in your habit creep — according to U.S. News & World Report, 80 percent of resolutions fail by February. We understand how your aspirational wellness warrior can regress into a committed binge watcher. To turn that ship around, Amazing Wellness talked to two integrative wellness experts to discover 30 game-changing lifestyle tweaks you can incorporate into your routine. Be warned: Do not try to do them all at once, a sure set-up for failure. Pick some that seem the most doable and choose a few that feel like a stretch. Willpower, like any muscle, grows by repetition and moderation.
1. Rise and squeeze
Drink warm water with a squeeze of lemon first thing in the morning, says Brigitte Mars, a Boulder, Colo.-based herbalist, author, and professor of Herbal Medicine at Naropa University. This old folk remedy works: lemon and water activate the liver, stimulating detox and elimination. Although lemon is acidic on its own, once in the body it becomes alkaline, helping to balance out the excesses of acid-forming meat, dairy and processed foods.
2. Brush it off
Dry skin brushing loosens dead skin, stimulates the lymphatic system, and boosts circulation, says Mars. It’s best done before your bath or shower. Start brushing with firm strokes at either your feet or arms, moving upwards towards your core.
3. Get your fruit on
A daily or weekly DIY fruit facial, using avocado, bananas, or a few drops of citrus, does wonders to enhance your glow. Mash up the fruit and apply directly on your face for 10 minutes, letting the fruit acids, also called alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), gently exfoliate and soothe dull skin.
4. Drink your veggies
Get your necessary vitamins and minerals all in one go with a green drink made from leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach, or watercress. Extremely alkalizing, a handful of greens thrown into your smoothie provides an immediate energy boost.
5. Keep it clean
A study out of UCLA suggests that too many possessions can elevate levels of stress
hormones for mothers. Cleaning or decluttering an area every day can not only improve focus, but also cut down on the dust
6. Oil pulling
Swishing roughly a tablespoon of oil around your mouth — typically coconut, sesame, or sunflower oil — for five minutes a day can remove bacteria, whiten teeth, and help with gingivitis.
7. Soak it in
Light a candle, play some soft music, and put some soothing essential oils into a hot bath. Soaking in hot water is a natural way to take the edge off. According to a recent study, hot baths cause body temperature to rise, which can help reduce blood pressure.
8. Curb late-night snacking
Eating late, when metabolism slows, may lead to weight gain. Your body relishes a nighttime break from eating to repair key metabolic functions. Mars suggests brushing your teeth at 8:00 p.m. to deter
9. Grant creativelicense
A recent study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology found the key to happiness is literally in your own hands. People who practice a creative activity once a day, no matter their skill level, felt more positive than those who didn’t.
10. Focus on ferment
Foods fermented using natural processes give your body beneficial probiotics — the good bacteria that keep your gut healthy. Excellent sources are yogurt and a yogurt-like drink called kefir, but also Korean pickled vegetables called kimchi, sauerkraut, and some pickles. Look for the words “non-pasteurized” or “naturally fermented” on the label.
11. Seek out seaweed
Seaweed such as nori, kelp, kombu, wakame, dulse, and hijiki grows in a nutrient-rich environment and provides trace minerals and vitamins we don’t tend to get, says Mars. And don’t limit yourself to sushi. Seaweed can be used in soups, stir-fries, stews, salads, and smoothies.
12. Dream big
Pay attention to your dreams — perhaps by keeping a dream journal — and apply the messages that dreams send for health and healing, says Deanna Minich, PhD, author of Whole Detox and The Rainbow Diet, and a certified functional medicine practitioner based in Port Orchard, Wash. Research suggests dreaming may improve memory, boost creativity, and help you better envision future events.
13. Invest in quality cookware
Invest in green, non-toxic cookware — carbon steel, ceramic, lava rock, porcelain enamel, or tempered glass. Also, make sure the cookware is in good condition, as “tiny
microbreaks in the finish, especially if it’s Teflon or aluminum, can leech toxins into food,” says Minich.
14. Block blue light to sleep tight
Exposure to bright lights, and the blue light emitted from electronics, can cause our sleep patterns to run amok says Minich. Blue light suppresses melatonin production, the hormone that helps regulate circadian rhythms. Create a sleep-friendly haven by turning off devices two hours before going to bed.
15. Eyes on the horizon
All the time we spend indoors takes its toll on our health in various ways, including our eyesight. Kids in America spend, on average, over 90 percent of their time indoors. Lack of sun exposure may be one of the primary causes for the quickly ballooning global rates of myopia (nearsightedness). Researchers suspect nearsightedness may be a response to too much time spent in dim light indoors working on computer screens and other devices.
16. Spice it up
Use generous amounts of fresh spices on your food — most of them are packed with potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. But don’t let them gather dust in your cupboard for years, cautions Minich. “Spices go bad after six months or so, especially if they are ground.”
17. Unplug to uplift
Setting aside certain hours to turn off your phone and other devices can have a huge impact on your quality of life. Researchers out of Kansas State University found that when people “unplugged” at home from work-related tasks (e.g., checking work email after hours), they reported feeling more recharged when beginning work the following day.
18. Forage for edible weeds
Not only are many weeds, such as stinging nettle and dandelions, edible, they are packed with antioxidants and other surprising health benefits. Mars says the signature of wild foods is their adaptability, a quality our microbiomes could use more of. Of course, collect weeds from areas that you know have not been sprayed with chemicals of any kind.
19. Take a stand
Sitting for long stretches is terrible for your health: It puts you at risk for metabolic syndrome, even if you exercise, creates inflammation and tightness, and increases your risk of diabetes and heart disease. “I prefer intermittent movement all day long,” says Minich. Even just periodically standing up for a few minutes can change your metabolism.
20. Create community
“It’s important to find your tribe,” says Minich. “Your tribe may be outside of your birth family and may even be found online. It’s anywhere we feel we belong.” Loneliness has a serious negative impact on both mental and physical health. A growing number of studies suggest that people who have fulfilling relationships with family, friends, and their community have fewer health problems and live longer.
21. Eat mindfully
Mindfulness helps you pay attention, become present, and even leads to increases in brain gray matter density, says Minich. A great time to practice mindfulness is during meals, as distracted eating may be one of the leading causes of weight gain. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American spends two-and-a-half hours a day eating, but more than half the time, the eating is combined with doing something else, such as watching television, reading, driving, or working. Put away screens, newspapers, and reading material and be fully attentive to chewing, tasting, and savoring your food.
22. Find the right fats
Fat should neither be feared nor demonized — nor taken to an extreme. But a healthy amount of good-quality fats is an essential part of a well-rounded diet. Fat from plant sources, such as olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, can have major benefits for cardiovascular function.
23. Go nuts
Nuts always end up on the superfood list and for good reason. They are the perfect snack food — crunchy, filling, and loaded with protein, fiber and other essential nutrients. While you can’t quite go to town on nuts, eating them in moderation (18 to 28 nut kernels make up a 1-oz. serving) can even help you lose weight by increasing feelings of satiety.
24. Take your omega-3 fatty acids
If you are going to take only one supplement, omegas may be your best bet. From fighting depression to lowering heart disease risk, an omega supplement can effectively uplevel your diet — especially if you don’t eat fatty fish two times a week. The World Health Organization recommends a minimum of 250 to 500 mg combined EPA and DHA each day for healthy adults.
25. Shrink stress
Stress shrinks certain parts of the brain, says Minich. Combat stress with yoga, meditation, or mindfulness. Studies show that yoga and meditation can improve one’s mood and even lower inflammation in the body.
26. Steer clear of added sugars
Processed sugar is the bugaboo of many nutritionists and health experts, with good reason — a high-sugar diet increases heart disease risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, and inflammation. Even drinking just one soda a day can put you over the American Heart Association’s recommended daily limit for added sugar.
27. Hack your inner dialogue
Whether it’s out loud or imperceptible, we talk to ourselves all day long in an inner dialogue, to the tune of roughly 70,000 thoughts a day, according to the Laboratory of Neuroimaging at the University of Southern California. One study, published in the Journal
of Personality and Social Psychology, found that addressing yourself by your own name instead of “I” increased self-regulation. In other words, speaking to yourself in the third person creates helpful distance and a boost in self-acceptance. People who referred to
themselves by their own names were more likely to give themselves support and advice rather than harsh criticism.
28. Sweat the small stuff
Whether you’re sitting in a sauna, walking on a warm day, or working out, sweating is an underappreciated bodily function with powerful healing effects, says Minich. Breaking a sweat clears several toxins from your body, including persistent organic pollutants, phthalates, heavy metals and BPA.
29. Eat the blues
Blue- and purple-hued foods, such as grapes, blueberries, purple carrots, and broccoli, contain an antioxidant called anthocyanin. Research has linked anthocyanins to a wide variety of health claims, including performance, memory, mood, and longevity.
30. Ditch the diet
Don’t get hooked into the diet trap. The deprivation mindset sets up a strong counter-reaction, which is why dieting is one of the strongest predictors of future weight gain. Instead, incorporate some of these wholesome lifestyle tips that focus on nourishment rather than restriction. Eat plants. Pay attention. And shake it all about every so often. You’ll feel a huge surge in your vitality and will be well on your way to a lifetime of better health.