But manifesting magic in the form of a New Year’s resolution can be daunting, especially when it comes to creating health and wellness goals. Here’s the good news—there are plenty of small, actionable moves you can make right now to set yourself up for success in January and beyond, making 2021 your healthiest year yet. These seven tips can get you started:
One of the biggest mistakes so many of us make when setting resolutions is aiming for some standard of perfection that’s not only unrealistic, but unsustainable. Rather than resolving to revamp every single part of your life, take a breath and examine the areas where you can affect the most positive change and start there.
“To make 2021 your healthiest year yet, my absolute best tip is let go of any expectation of perfection,” says Kala MacDonald, founder and president of the nonprofit organization, Yoga to Cope. “This mindset is sometimes easier said than achieved, but like with many things, practice makes progress. If 2020 taught me anything, it’s that even within sometimes overwhelming uncertainty, sadness, confusion, and anger, there are indeed still pockets where growth, creation, and progress are possible if we choose to seek and take advantage of them. So let go of any ideas for how things could or should be in a perfect world, and embrace your reality in the present moment.”
There’s no single one-size-fits-all picture of health. While some people thrive eating plant-based diets and meditating daily, others feel their best going for long runs or spending extra quality time with friends and family. Before you commit to a new routine or regimen, ask yourself if it’s consistent with your core values and aligns with your ideas of wellness.
“Start by thinking about what well-being really means to you,” says naturopathic doctor, nurse practitioner, and founder of Seven Senses Integrative Medicine and Holistic Coaching, Erica Matluck. “What would that feel like physically? Mentally? Emotionally? Spiritually? Once you have clarity on this, identify as many realistic actions to take to get there. Write them down! Throughout the year, keep coming back to this list. Make sure it still resonates and keep taking action!”
So many New Year’s resolutions focus on physical performance and aesthetic achievement, but mental health matters—potentially more than you think. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), people with depression have a 40% higher risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases than the general population. And according to Mental Health First AID, almost half of U.S. adults (46%) will experience a mental illness during their lifetime. Pay close attention to your thoughts and moods, and if you feel you could use some support, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Psychotherapy can be a game changer for many people, and implementing stress management techniques like regular exercise, mindfulness, and more regimented sleep schedules can make a massive difference in your daily life.
You probably know exercise is a critical piece of the wellness puzzle—not only can it lower your risk of developing certain chronic diseases, but it can boost self-esteem and energy—but everyone’s workout needs are unique. While many people commit to new gym memberships each January, this new year may find most of us in need of practical home fitness routines instead. Luckily, there is a seemingly never ending array of workout apps, videos, and home equipment to keep you on track. Whether investing in a shiny new Peloton bike will help you feel your best, or exploring (free!)YouTube workouts from fitness influencers will make you excited to put on your workout shoes, you can take advantage of this mostly gym-free time to find a regimen that truly helps you feel strong, empowered, and motivated.
One unexpected benefit for many of us who spent most of 2020 at home: a renewed interest in cooking from scratch. Home cooked meals are a great way to practice healthier habits. In fact, one study found that people who frequently cooked dinner at home consumed fewer calories than those who cooked less, and another study found that cooking helps expand your intake of healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and fish. While many of us are intimidated by the mere thought of turning on our stove, there are plenty of approachable, accessible tutorials and guides on the internet that can help you navigate your kitchen. EatingWell is one treasure trove of nutritious recipes, and you can even filter by specific needs and styles (like high fiber, low carb, etc.). There are also plenty of registered dieticians like Jessica Cording serving up easy-to-follow recipes for dinners, desserts, and more on their blogs.
One underrated part of overall health that’s often overlooked: social interaction. Yes, 2020 made spending time with friends and family extra challenging, but maintaining personal relationships matters more than many people realize. According to one comprehensive scientific paper, low quality or quantity social ties are linked to everything from the development and progression of cardiovascular disease to high blood pressure and slower wound healing. And according to Harvard Health, “dozens of studies have shown that people who have social support from family, friends, and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer.” While you may not be able to pop into your best friend’s house for a quick visit any time soon, make the time to schedule regular phone chats, Zoom calls, and FaceTime check-ins. Text your friends when you’re thinking about them and avoid the temptation to ruminate in your own thoughts rather than reaching out for support. In-person interaction may be difficult, but we luckily live in an age full of tech tools that enable instant connection—use them often.
“My number one health tip for 2021 is to learn to manage your mind,” says life coach, holistic nurse practitioner, and host of the Feminist Wellness Podcast, Victoria Albina, NP. “So often we make these grandiose plans for ourselves without realizing we’re acting from perfectionism. ‘I’ll go to the gym every day forever!’; ‘I’ll never have wine again!’; ‘I’ll only eat paleo/keto/whatever diet 100%!’ What we don’t realize is that those perfectionist thought fantasies put so much pressure on us to be ‘perfect,’ to meet some unattainable measure of goodness that we can never meet, and they sabotage our efforts to make change. Instead, start small, with doable goals like drinking a glass of water when you wake up, or going for a 10-minute walk two to three times a week, and build up slowly from there. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are healthy habits. Set yourself up to win, and your mind, body, and spirit will believe you!”
As you gear up for a brand new year, remember that your wellbeing is your most valuable currency. You might be among many who are considering their need for life insurance as we enter the new year, or evaluating your current coverage to see if it meets your needs. It’s important to keep in mind that your health is a huge factor in calculating rates, and doing things to improve your overall wellness can positively impact your premiums and improve your quality of life. Get started today by visiting www.ethoslife.com.