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Six Healthy Habits for the New Year

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As the holidays come blazing through, it’s tempting to place the things you’ve been intending to do to improve your health into an ever-growing “New Year’s Resolutions” heap. You may start the new year full of optimism but, if you’re like the majority of people, that heap begins melting into a puddle of best intentions and neglect by February. 

It can be daunting to attend the first spin class of a new session or to start a marathon training schedule. And, the more daunting the resolution, the less realistic it is that you will actually achieve your goal. However, New Year’s resolutions do not have to be drastic switch-ups. Instead, research shows that small, specific lifestyle changes are easier to follow through with than changes that are more abstract, and they can make a big impact on your health. 

Check out these six healthy habits that can kick start your wellness in 2022. 

Find a New Way to Move 

Physical activity is paramount when it comes to sustaining good health and longevity—in fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of physical activity a week. However, it can often feel unattainable to reach that weekly target when you have a fixed schedule and not a lot of extra time. 

One simple way to add physical exercise and movement into your pre-existing routine is to visualize the layout of your current workspace (whether it’s a home office or corporate floor) and then devise creative ways to move your body in a new manner. For example, if you work in a large office, can you take the stairs instead of the elevator? Can you park on the far side of the parking lot to guarantee a few more steps? 

If you’re working remotely, does the ledge of your fireplace make a good spot for five dips every time you pass through the living room, or could your three-step entryway accommodate a quick set of twenty up-and-down stair climbs each day when you go to the mailbox? Even something as simple as committing to two pushups every time you get up to go to the bathroom during the workday can add some beneficial spice and playfulness to your old routine. 

Get Some Sun 

Even on some of the coldest days of winter, you can still benefit your body and mind by exposing yourself to sunlight. This January, when you see a few rays of sun pop through the clouds, make a habit of going outside for a quick walk. Experts note that a mere nine minutes of sun exposure can help your skin cells manufacture Vitamin D, which can help you stave off symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). As a bonus, exposing yourself to regular daylight can help you better regulate your circadian rhythm, which can improve your winter slumber. Aim to go for a daily walk during your lunch hour when the winter sun will be at its peak. 

Move Once an Hour 

If you’re working from home, you may be familiar with the feeling of a “dead leg,” or the loss of sensation in a lower extremity that comes from sitting in the same position for too long. In a regular office setting, you’re more likely to arise from a seated position more frequently to grab things off the printer or knock on someone’s cubicle. However, when you’re working remotely in your home office, everything you need may be tantalizingly within your seated reach. You can break your cycle of continuous sitting—which has inherent health risks—by setting an alarm on your phone to go off at least every hour. Getting up from a sitting position and moving periodically can return blood flow to your legs, reboot your metabolism, and keep your mind feeling agile and sharp. 

Don’t Drink Your Sugar 

Starting off the new year with a resolution of cutting out all sugar from your diet can yield disastrous results. You are more likely to be elbows-deep in a bag of chocolate baking chips by January 3 than you are to be still happily snacking on carrot sticks by February 1. However, giving yourself a simple guideline—such as not drinking your sugar—can help you reduce your intake of sugar in a simple, doable way. When you get thirsty, stick to water (if tap or still water is boring, invest in a water bubbler), coffee, or tea. Avoid pops, juices, hot cocoas, punchy cocktails, and seasonal frappes that contain a whopping amount of added sugar and can wreak havoc on your health goals. 

Eat Something Earthy 

If you’ve fallen into the habit of always reaching for crackers, chips, or snack bars for a quick hunger remedy, the new year is your opportunity to reboot your nutrition. Instead of resolving to stop eating junk food entirely, or adopting the latest diet fad, stick to a simple principle of adding something earthy into your routine. Challenge yourself to eat something that grew in the ground or came off a tree with every meal. This could be as simple as drizzling some olive oil on your cottage cheese (olives grow on trees) or adding a piece of fruit to your yogurt. Researchers have shown that taking a novel approach to your routine, rather than removing or avoiding something, can make your New Year’s resolution more likely to succeed. 

Fix Your Flossing 

Brushing your teeth twice daily and flossing once daily can help you fight off dental plaques and gum disease. However, it’s easy to let these hygiene habits slide when you’re feeling tired or when you simply forget. If you have found yourself in this situation, you’re not alone. In fact, only four out of 10 Americans report flossing daily. However, one simple way to boost your oral and cardiovascular health is to reenergize your flossing routine. If you need to mix it up, invest in a new tool such as a water flosser. 

Research and materials for this article were compiled, written, and distributed on behalf of the National Public Health Information Coalition. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the various authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the National Public Health Information Coalition or its members. 

References: 

[1] Making New Year’s resolutions that stick. https://iaap-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/aphw.12172 

[2] How Much Physical Activity do Adults Need? https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm 

[3] Getting enough vitamin D? You need far less sun than you might think. https://news.cancerresearchuk.org/2018/08/06/getting-enough-vitamin-d-you-need-far-less-sun-than-you-might-think/ 

[4] Sedentary Behavior: Emerging Evidence for a New Health Risk. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2996155/ 

[5] A large-scale experiment on New Year’s resolutions: Approach-oriented goals are more successful than avoidance-oriented goals. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0234097 

[6] Prevalence of daily flossing among adults by selected risk factors for periodontal disease— United States, 2009-2014. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6434526/ 

[7] Gum disease and the connection to heart disease https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/gum-disease-and-the-connection-to-heart-disease 

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