Written by Mikaila Kukurudza
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that body positivity is trending harder than a set of washboard abs. So in the name of self-love, we’re presenting five totally doable New Year’s resolutions that’ll have an enormous impact on your health goals and overall well-being, but won’t have you obsessively calorie counting or stressing over the scale.
1. Spend More Time Outdoors.
If you want to really boost your health, try to get more vitamin D—naturally. Start a garden, take your workouts outside, or just schedule time to go for a walk every day. “Walking, especially in the a.m. to get some sunlight, helps reset your circadian rhythm,” says Mike T. Nelson, PhD Exercise Physiology. “I like clients to get about 20 minutes of sunlight exposure earlier in the day when they are more awake.”
Our internal circadian clock is responsible for when the hormone melatonin is released throughout the day. Sticking to a strict sleep schedule and getting adequate sunlight in the morning can change your circadian rhythm, which in turn will improve your eating habits and boost your immune system.
2. Eat At Least One Plant-Based Meal Every Day.
Swapping one regular meal with a vegan meal each day is one of the easiest changes you can make for your health. Eating more plant-based foods increases your intake of micronutrients, antioxidants, minerals, and fiber, and can reduce your risk of disease. One study in the journal PLOS found that following a diet high in plant-based foods and low in animal-based protein reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes in participants, and recent research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions showed individuals who consume a mostly plant-based diet lowered their risk of developing heart failure.
TIP: Choose a meal that you have a bit more time to plan. If mornings are too busy to make anything other than eggs and bacon, swap your usual lunchtime turkey sandwich for a hearty vegan salad. Focus on getting protein from a variety of sources such as legumes, whole grains, seeds, and nuts.
3. Reduce Your Screen Time.
Disconnecting from technology is tougher than it sounds, but getting into the habit of unplugging each night can have lasting positive effects on your health. Excess screen time leads to a decrease in gray matter, particularly in the front lobe where the brain’s processing (planning, organizing, impulse control, and prioritizing) happens. Not only are you wasting time in front of the screen, but you’re also losing your ability to use the rest of your time efficiently. It can also negatively impact the amount of quality sleep you clock each night, leaving you feeling unrested, irritable, and unfocused throughout the day.
If the idea sounds daunting, you don’t need to go cold turkey right away. Start by shutting down at least 30 minutes before bed and finding other quiet activities to keep you occupied. Try taking a warm bath, reading a book, writing in a journal, or some light yoga and meditation.
4. Read One Book a Month.
Reading is an extremely effective escape from daily life, especially if you’re someone with high stress levels. But we’re not just talking about clicking on headlines from Facebook or scrolling the latest Reddit posts—when it comes to reading, old school is best. According to a UK study, reading a paperback or hardcover book for just six minutes can reduce stress by up to 68 percent. Reading has also been shown to boost brain function and memory, increase vocabulary, and improve focus.
5. Re-Organize Your Space.
Not only does it feel completely satisfying walking into a clean, organized home, but people in organized spaces are healthier and more well rested, according to a study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Female participants of the study who described their homes as “cluttered” or as having “unfinished projects” had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which has been shown to lead to fatigue and unhealthy choices. Another study found people who worked in a clean office for 10 minutes were more likely to choose an apple over chocolate than those who worked in a messy office for the same amount of time. Disorganization stresses the brain, which can often lead people to turn to coping mechanisms such as comfort food.
TIP: Not sure where to start? To avoid getting overwhelmed, begin in one room with one drawer or cupboard, and gradually work your way through your home.