Let's face it: Most New Year's resolutions don't last till until the end of January. Often, it's because they're too ambitious. Lose 50 pounds? Run a marathon? Completely revamp your diet? It's tough to make huge, wholesale changes to your lifestyle. A better plan: Take baby steps to improve your fitness, diet, and mental well-being.
With that in mind, try these small, doable changes and see how they can make a big difference in your life.
Start the day with five minutes of yoga.
You don't have to set aside an hour each day, join a studio, or learn complicated headstand poses to benefit from yoga. Try simple sun salutations: Stand with your feet hips-width apart, weight spread evenly. Bring your arms up over your head as you breathe in, then bring them slowly down to your sides as you breathe out. Repeat.
Add a minute of downward dog to get your circulation going – hands spread on the floor in front of you, knees slightly bent and heels on the floor so your body makes an inverted “V."
These simple stretches will leave you energized and ready to face the day.
Eat one more fresh fruit per day.
High in fiber and nutrients, fruit is a nutritional gold mine – and upping your intake is a painless way to eat healthier. (There's truth in the old “apple a day keeps the doctor away" adage.)
Try eating a juicy pear or bunch of grapes at the end of a meal; you're much less likely to crave a sugary dessert. On the go? Take a couple clementine oranges; they're easy to peel and eat when you feel your energy level flagging. (And they're delicious this time of year.)
Take a walk each day.
Whether you park a few blocks away and hoof it to your dentist appointment, or pick a spot at the far end of the grocery store parking lot, make it a point to move five to 10 minutes more each day. Chances are you'll soon notice how much better you feel.
There are several free or inexpensive fitness apps to track steps on your phone. Have the whole family download and set up a friendly competition to see who can consistently hit their step goal.
Make one slow cooker meal per week.
Meal planning for a week or a month can feel intimidating, but one day? Anyone can toss a few ingredients in a slow cooker.
One simple idea: Take two to three pounds of chicken breast, one brick (8 ounces) of cream cheese, and two cans of creamy soup (i.e. cream of chicken, cream of celery, cream of mushroom). Combine and cook on low for 8 hours – voila! Add a green salad and crusty whole grain bread for a delicious meal.
Bonus: The joy of coming home to an already-cooked meal once a week may motivate you to do more meal planning.
Put weekly family time on the calendar.
It doesn't have to be an expensive outing; family time can mean an evening playing cards or eating a meal together. Give it the same weight as baseball practice or a scout meeting. Even an hour of time together with no distractions (put away the cell phones and video games) is healthy for strengthening family bonds.
Read at bedtime.
You know good sleep habits are important—but those electronic devices are calling. Start slowly and swap out one habit for another; instead of checking Facebook one last time (and another, and another), leave your phone on your nightstand and cozy up with a good book for 15 minutes of reading to calm your brain.
Getting a good night's sleep will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to add even more good habits to your routine. And that makes for a truly happy new year.