The new year often comes with a boost of motivation and an opportunity to have a fresh start, but I want to offer an alternative. Plus, we’re well beyond that “new year, new me” BS.
Rather than jump into a complete overhaul or feel bad for a failed new years’ resolution, why not focus on building habits strategically that will help you lead a more balanced and conscious life?
There are endless chances to embrace new and realistic habits. Learn how easy it is to improve your health by incorporating simple, real, and doable habits like eating more plants, taking a break, and giving back into your daily routine.
Keep reading to learn the top 10 healthy lifestyle habits you should focus on, with practical advice on how to make them work for you every day.
What does “healthy” mean for you?
Before diving in, we must acknowledge that healthy habits are highly individual. What is healthy and works for one person might not work for someone else.
Everyone has different needs, preferences, and lifestyles, so your healthy lifestyle habits need to support your unique body, mind, and soul. You have to find what works for you (and is recommended/approved by your healthcare provider).
Unfortunately, diet and wellness culture has created harmful views on what is healthy, often equating health with a certain body size or appearance. This can lead to disordered habits and a focus on outside influences rather than internal, intrinsic needs.
Know that health is so much more than just how we look on the outside. Let’s redefine “healthy choices” as actions that give you more capacity to do the things you truly want and need to do on a daily basis.
If this concept is new to you, explore The Association for Size Diversity and Health‘s Health at Every Size Principles to gain a deeper understanding of defining health. Note that at this time of writing, the principles are currently being updated.
Healthy doesn’t equal trendy
Remember that incorporating healthy habits into your life should be practical and authentic.
It’s not about trying to achieve some unrealistic, “perfect” version of health (which doesn’t even exist) or falling into the trap of the latest wellness trend on social media.
Practicing the habits listed below can be slow, messy, and simple – and that’s okay! Don’t feel pressured to implement these habits perfectly or force changes that aren’t accessible or don’t feel good.
Find what works for you and be kind to yourself. Now, let’s dive into the 10 healthy habits that will support all aspects of your personal well-being.
1. Eat more plants.
As a Registered Dietitian, I had to start with something food related. It’s hard to choose one specific dietary habit to recommend, as nutrition is very individualized and my clients’ nutrition plans are always 100% customized.
However, most healthy people will benefit immensely from adding more (both in terms of amount and variety) plant-based foods to increase fiber. The average person only consumes about HALF of the recommended 35-38 grams of fiber per day.
Fiber is essential for improving and maintaining a healthy digestive system, blood sugar balance, and energy levels. It can also reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer.
An easy way to add more fiber to your diet is to add both a fruit AND a vegetable to most meals and make small swaps like choosing whole wheat bread rather than white bread.
2. Move your body in ways that feel good.
Instead of jumping right into that running app or the latest intense-online-workout-video-series-that-should-not-be-named, this is the year you reframe exercise.
Exercise and physical activity should not be seen as a punishment or something done solely to change your body. Our bodies are designed to move!
Movement has benefits that positively impact different elements of wellness, from stress relief, increasing mood and energy levels, and improving sleep to improving social connections.
If you struggle to exercise consistently, try finding activities that you enjoy and that are accessible to you. Don’t worry about having to break a sweat for it to “count.” Choose one activity, decide where and when it will happen, and do it.
If it doesn’t go to plan, try again. If you don’t like it, no worries. Try something else until it clicks. It might take time, and there will be setbacks, but figuring out what works for you is well worth it.
3. Get better sleep.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. However, many people do not reach this target.
I get it, with the endless to-do list and daily responsibilities, it can be easy to stay up late to get things done, connect with your partner, or fall into a habit of “revenge bedtime procrastination.”
Getting enough sleep helps you feel less tired and have more energy. It can also have impactful benefits like improving memory, reducing brain fog, supporting the immune system, reducing inflammation, and reducing the risk of chronic health conditions.
There are endless tips to get more, better, and restful sleep, but a good place to start is with your sleep schedule. Set a bedtime with enough time to get ready for bed, wind down, and get into bed.
Personally, I found my phone’s bedtime reminder super helpful. It buzzes to let me know that it’s time to get ready for bed, and then most of my apps are deactivated. If you can find simple nudges like this that help you, embrace them!
4. De-stress and chill.
Stress is a normal part of life, and is often needed to motivate us to take action and help in certain situations. But, when it becomes chronic, it can have negative effects on both physical and mental health.
Managing stress is something that is much easier said than done since most sources of stress are outside of our control. A toxic boss, financial struggles, or a family illness can’t be dealt with by taking a few deep breaths.
Incorporating daily self care is one way to help increase your personal capacity to handle stress with resilience.
For the sake of this short, actionable list though, find a grounding practice that can help you calm down and almost instantly relieve stress and reduce anxiety.
Some examples of grounding activities are mindful breathing, slow walking, progressive muscle relaxation (my personal favorite), journaling, and engaging in a hobby that you enjoy.
Experiment with these and choose one to pull out during the tough, overwhelming moments.
5. Learn something new.
It might not be fun or exciting to focus on keeping your mind active and sharp, but it’s an often overlooked aspect of health. Thalia, a wellness blogger writes that brain care will likely be a top wellness trend in 2023, and for a good reason.
This is an idea to get behind and work on integrating into your days.
Learning something new is one of the best ways to improve your cognitive function and support personal growth and development. It can also increase self-confidence, problem-solving skills, adaptability, creativity, and emotional well-being.
Additionally, it can be really fun and rewarding.
Choose to learn something new that isn’t related to your work. (Two birds with one stone here to also support a healthy work-life balance!) Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to play an instrument, take an online language course, or a new craft.
Similarly to movement, choose one thing, make the time for it consistently, and adapt as needed. Give yourself the flexibility to experiment to find what is most fun and doable for you.
6. Text, call, or meet up with a friend.
Social connections are essential for overall well-being because they provide emotional support and a sense of belonging. There’s nothing like the feeling you get from an oxytocin rush after a good chat or a brief laugh with a friend.
Plus, people who have healthy relationships are more satisfied with their lives, more resilient, and have a reduced risk of chronic diseases, among other positive benefits.
This is one of those simple, but tough tips. It can be hard to maintain relationships and stay connected with friends and family, especially those that live far away. That’s where social media comes in, right?
While it can be an easy way to stay connected, relying on social media can give us a false sense of connection, from seeing highlight reels or only sending memes, so think back to the last time you felt a real connection with someone you might miss.
Genuinely connect with them. Send them a text to let them know you’re thinking of them and maybe set up a time to catch up or meet up. Small efforts and connections like this can make a big difference.
7. Meditate or pray.
It can be difficult to make time for yourself and your own spiritual wellness in our busy lives. Even if you don’t consider yourself religious or spiritual, it’s important to keep your soul healthy and connected to the world within and around you.
Prayer and meditation provide a sense of peace and connectedness that is often lacking in our fast-paced days. When we’re deep in the daily grind, it’s easy to lose sight of our purpose and meaning in life.
The benefits of prayer and meditation include improved mental and emotional well-being, increased self-awareness, better focus, and more self-confidence. It’s also a great way to take a few moments to be mindful and focus on what truly matters to you.
Try to set aside a few minutes that work with your daily schedule and find a quiet place. Try a free mindfulness app, simply take a few minutes to focus on your breathing, give thanks for the blessings in your life, or spend time in prayer.
If this isn’t something you’re used to, it might feel hard, boring, or distracting at first. That’s normal! Keep trying, and with practice, you’ll find your inner peace and be able to return to that space whenever you need it.
8. Switch up work.
We often think about wellness as something personal that is outside of our day jobs. It can be pretty overwhelming to think that in the maybe 1-2 free hours (depending on your roles/responsibilities) after work you’re supposed to exercise, cook healthy, meditate, do something fun, volunteer, see friends, relax, AND have a hobby. How is that even possible?
Well, it’s not, and this list isn’t meant to be a daily checklist by any means. Keep reading to find out how to turn this list into a doable weekly plan that actually works and lasts. I’ll cover it, I promise!
Healthy habits are something that can and should be integrated into your work day, by focusing on how and why you work through achieving goals at work.
Setting and achieving a new goal at work can give you a strong feeling of accomplishment. It can also improve your productivity, focus, and motivation.
Start to consider what is possible within your work and what you truly want to achieve. Then, note why that’s important to you. Maybe it’s to teach a new lesson to your students, spearhead an impactful new project, or increase your sales.
Break that down into small, actionable steps (really, don’t skip this part), and set deadlines. Celebrate your success along the way, and don’t be afraid to make changes, adapt, or slow down as needed.
9. Give back.
We don’t live in a bubble, and the things we do can have a pretty significant impact on others and the world around us. Volunteering and/or contributing to a cause important to you is another consistent habit you can adopt to improve your health and well-being.
If you have free time, look for opportunities in your local area. If you can find something that aligns with your schedule and interests, volunteering is a simple and easy way to make a big difference.
Consider looking into walking dogs at an animal shelter, helping out at a food bank, or tutoring. Not only can it help people and others in need, but giving back also improves both physical and mental health.
If you don’t have time to volunteer or can’t find anything that speaks to you or works with your schedule, there are other ways to give back and make a positive impact! Actions like donating money or goods, spreading awareness, and offering skills/services for free are also wonderful ways to contribute.
Remember that even small actions have an impact, and keep an open mind.
10. Slow down and take a break.
I’ll be honest, this is the one I struggle with most and have been working on lately. As someone who has been pushing herself for years to always be busy, productive, and successful, it’s HARD.
Only when I truly took a break and felt a wave of peace, focus, and clarity did I truly understand the importance of rest.
Counter to what you’ve probably been told, taking a break and relaxing is just as important for our well-being as exercise and healthy eating. It’s essential to all aspects of health. We’re not meant to be on the go all of the time. Carving in some “me-time” is key.
Taking a few minutes to relax not only supports heart health but gives you energy and focus to tackle the things that matter most each day and allows you to be the best, present version of yourself.
One easy way to relax and slow down is to find activities that bring you a sense of calm and that you enjoy, and make them a part of your daily routine.
Actions like reading a book, listening to music, or taking a walk can do wonders for your mood, reduce stress, and clear your mind.
Especially if you’re on all day and likely overstimulated, taking the time to chill out is essential for creating a healthy, balanced life.
How am I supposed to do it all?
You’re not. While unfortunately, it’s the picture that social media paints, waking up at 4 am to drink a green smoothie, meditate, go for a run, do yoga, and journal, is not reality, or even the goal.
As you read through this list (here’s a summary), find small ways you can incorporate some of these into your daily routines. Most of them are doable in just a few minutes or require making small changes.
10 Healthy Habits to Focus on in 2023
- Eat more plants.
- Move your body in ways that feel good.
- Get better sleep.
- De-stress and chill.
- Learn something new.
- Text, call, or meet up with a friend.
- Meditate or pray.
- Switch up work.
- Give back.
- Slow down and take a break.
Some will take more time and are meant to be a work in progress. Take it easy, check in often, and remember that you deserve to do things that make you feel your best and that putting in the work is hard, but it’s worth it.
Wrapping it Up
Incorporating healthy habits into our lives can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Remember that health is a personal journey, and just because something works for someone else, doesn’t mean it’s right for you.
Skip the weird, unrealistic wellness trends and focus on finding what works for you. You’ll know it’s right when it feels practical and authentic. Be kind to yourself, focus on one habit at a time, and gradually incorporate others as you feel comfortable.
Remember to also always consult with your healthcare professional as you make changes to your lifestyle. Here’s to a happy, healthy, and balanced 2023!