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+..
If you’ve made and then failed to deliver on wellness-focused New Year’s resolutions in the past, it’s possible you accidentally bit off more than you could chew. Perhaps you resolved to “lose 50 pounds” or “stress less” — which are vague on how to execute at best and totally intimidating at worst.
So how can you brush those defeats off and try again this year? By focusing instead on some small changes that are actually attainable.
“We often make lists of things we want to change, and by January 31, most people are ready to use their list as a place mat,” says Clara Rey, a health coach and hypnotist. “Want to avoid that? Start with one goal because being overwhelmed makes us resistant to change. If you focus on one teeny-tiny goal, the ability to have quick victories with less overwhelming moments becomes an instant win.”
She goes on to explain that more little wins equals higher confidence — and confidence is what enables us to believe we are able to change. After choosing your little change, Rey suggests writing down three reasons why this change will have a positive impact in your life, which will help to reinforce your why for moments when you aren’t feeling so motivated.
Pick a Change, Any Change
We asked experts in the health and wellness industry to weigh in on the one “small” change they believe is both achievable and will make an immediate impact on anyone’s life. So begin your 2019 journey to improved wellness by choosing one of the options below that most resonates with you. After you’ve mastered that one (which could take several months), choose something else from this list or create your own.
One small habit you can add to your life to immediately improve your well-being is taking a moment before bed to think of five things you are grateful for today. “Research has shown that this practice leads to improved mood, happiness and even better physical health,” says Raffi Bilek, LCSW-C, therapist and director of the Baltimore Therapy Center. “The five things can be anything that comes to mind, as significant as your family, your friends or your health, and as trivial as the tuna sandwich you had for lunch. Just getting in the habit of appreciating what you have will do a lot for your well-being.”
Drink More Water
You know you should drink eight glasses of water a day, but it’s easy to fall short and not even notice. “Being well-hydrated means your body functions more efficiently, from basic cell processes to temperature regulation to maintaining energy levels,” says Karen Shopoff Rooff, a certified health coach. “Hydration is an easy habit to adopt because it is free and readily accessible.”
The best indicator that you are well-hydrated is to monitor the color of your urine. If it is clear to light yellow, your body is getting the water it needs. Any darker and you’re not helping your body work the way it should. Try replacing one drink per day with water, and try having a glass of water before each meal (which also offers the added bonus of helping with appetite control).
It may seem unlikely, but even just working out for five minutes in the morning can provide noticeable benefits. If for no other reason, then do it for those around you. “You’ll start your day with an endorphin rush of the brain’s ‘happy’ chemicals and enjoy a post-exercise bump in positive emotions that can last for the next 12 hours,” says Dave Bowden, a wellness coach and founder of IrreverentGent.com. “The best way to start working out in the morning is to start small and choose an exercise that’s easy to do. Your goal is not to push yourself to the max. Instead, your mantra should simply be ‘something’s better than nothing.’”
For instance, if you’re completely starting from scratch and not used to working out at all, just do five push-ups every morning for a week. The next week, you can try adding in five squats after the push-ups. The week after that, five sit-ups, and so on. The key is to rack up some quick wins that will inspire you to keep going and keep pushing yourself.
Constantly feel like you’re a chicken running around with its head cut off? Suzanne Monroe, founder of the International Association of Wellness Professionals, says one of the best habits you can begin to practice is the art of slowing down. “It’s the habit that will make all other habits you want to change finally fall into place,” she explains. “The art of slowing down can help you become more present. You also get to experience more joy and peace because you’re living in the moment.”
Implementing slowing down as part of your daily life isn’t an overnight habit change — you have to switch from operating on autopilot. To begin the practice of slowing down, set an alarm on your phone to go off at certain times for your personal check-in. Take a five-minute break to be present. That might be as simple as staring out the window, journaling about your day or taking a walk around the block to clear your mind.
Less Stress for More Sleep
If your immediate thought was, “Sleep? What’s that?” then you might be a little too proud of your ability to meet your daily to-do list head-on, despite catching very few zzz’s. “Not sleeping enough can lead to a plethora of ailments, from increased appetite and irritability to a weakened immune system,” says Katie Ulrich, a certified holistic health coach at Be Well. “Your body repairs itself while you sleep, so prioritize a consistent bedtime and aim for seven to nine hours per night.”
If you deal with stress and anxiety, Ulrich says combating your stress throughout the day should lead to better quality sleep at night, as well. “Stress wreaks havoc on the system causing many imbalances, so finding ways to calm your nervous system daily are important for your overall well-being,” she explains. “Try 10 minutes of daily seated meditation or 20 minutes of a gentle moving mediation daily, such as a nice walk outside.”