Ready to take your first steps toward a healthier, more fulfilling life? You can do it—without those grandiose New Year's resolutions that tend to fail by January 31st.
Adopt these 5 fun, easy, feel-great habits and watch your health and happiness grow exponentially in 2015. No dieting or punishing workout regimens required!
1. Track your movement
Want to find more time to work out? Don't set out to exercise more—just get a pedometer or other tracking device and live your life.
Research shows that seeing how many steps you've taken can give you a sense of accomplishment, result in an increase in physical activity, and make you enjoy working out more.
2. Take time off
Is this music to your ears, or what?
Unhealthy routines develop as the result of "habit loops"—your brain's subconscious seeking of activities (think watching TV while eating potato chips) that offer immediate and reliable rewards. The first stage of these loops, which, as their name implies, result in a vicious cycle of behavior, is a reaction to stress cues in your life, like a tough day at work or an argument at home.
Remove yourself from these cues by taking vacations (even if that just means a long weekend) on a regular basis. While you're away in this anti-stress vacuum, focus on establishing the healthy habits you're after for 2015.
Besides, vacations tend to result in a happier, lower-key vibe. One study from the Arizona Department of Health Services found that people who take at least two vacations a year may have lower risk of stress and depression than those who toil without the time off.
3. Sleep 7+ hours per night
But! But! I'm so busy, and I have to do laundry, and there are so many shows I want to watch and photos I want to like on Facebook! You and all of us. 2015 is all about saying goodbye to these excuses.
Getting enough sleep is one of the biggest (and, frankly, easiest) ways to boost your health and happiness. Despite campaign after campaign reminding us of the benefits—which include lower risk of depression, weight gain and disease—most Americans still only average 6 hours a night.
Most people need at least 7 or 8 hours of shuteye daily, and prioritizing your zzz's can help correct metabolic issues, boost your mood and more.
Feel daunted be the idea? Promise yourself you'll try to get to bed an hour earlier for two weeks. See how you feel after the trial. We have a hunch you'll end up wanting the habit to stick.
4. Choose uber-healthy snacks
The new habits that end up sticking (and not biting the dust with all those other failed resolutions) develop little by little. Don't bite off more than you can chew. To get your daily menu looking as healthy as you want it to, start by focusing on one small meal a day.
The ideal choice? Your afternoon snack.
It's classic: Your blood pressure dips after lunch, tanking your energy level and making you reach for a sugary latte with a cookie the size of your head on the side. For your 2015 change-up, promise yourself it's healthy-only between the hours of 2 and 6pm. Stuff your face with whole foods like fresh fruit or make sure you've got a premium fresh juice packed. Once your body gets a taste of this nourishing of-the-earth fuel, you'll start craving it for other meals, too.
5. Welcome failure
Attempting any sort of shift in your life can be daunting. But fearing failure will only hold you back, potentially meaning you're less likely to achieve your goals.
Step up to whatever plate you're facing with the most confidence by accepting failure as part of the plan. Who cares! Life is all about steps forward and backward. If you don't allow letdowns along the way to drag you down, you'll be free to keep up your attempts at change, and you may see progress faster than you think.