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8 Daily Habits That Made Me Happier & Healthier

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January 12, 2016

As a functional medicine doctor, Jill Carnahan, M.D., knows the importance of whole-body wellness. That's why we're excited to share the mind-body habits she uses every day to feel her healthiest and happiest.

This time of year, most of us are feeling the pressure to make New Year's resolutions. After all, it's the start of a new calendar, and there's a blank canvas on which to write out all your dreams and goals.

The problem is, most of us have trouble keeping up with resolutions, which are often insurmountable goals we know we're unlikely to achieve.

It's really the small daily habits that have the ability to transform your life.

So this year, instead of loading on more pressure and setting yourself up for failure, I recommend focusing on a few daily habits you'd like to incorporate into your life instead. Believe it or not, it's really the small daily habits that have the ability to transform your life into what you've always dreamed it could be!

As inspiration, I'm sharing a simple list of the eight daily habits that form the foundation of success and wellness for me:

1. I start my morning with the most important things.

First things first: Start your day with the activities that are most vital to your day. I recommend beginning with an intention and prayer and then moving on to the tasks that matter most. Don't get caught up in the urgent things by default, like most people do. Be deliberate about what matters — instead of just responding to the crises that come your way.

2. I make an effort to show kindness.

Be kind to everyone you come in contact with, whether it's your boss or your barista. Simply appreciate others for who they are, not who you'd like them to be or what they can do for you. Find surprising ways to bless others with an unexpected tip or words of encouragement. Put aside your personal agenda and look for opportunities in your day to serve others.

3. I get eight hours of sleep.

Go to bed every night with enough time to get a full eight hours of sleep and wake up refreshed. Sleep is important to me: I'm usually in bed by 9 p.m. and it's a standing joke that I may decline an invitation because "it's past my bedtime." But I always wake up refreshed without an alarm at 5 a.m. and my most productive, undisturbed hours are before the rest of the world awakens.

4. I say "no."

Stop saying "yes" to every request that comes your way. Instead, practice saying "let me think about it" before an automatic "yes" comes from your lips. I like to process important decisions for at least 24 hours and sleep on it before committing.

Most of all, agree to only what's in line with your main "mission" — whatever it is you enjoy, and do, best in life.

5. I move my body every day.

Make time for daily physical activity. Try something new, whether it's free weights in the morning, yoga at lunch, or a leisurely stroll in the evening. Better yet, grab a friend or your spouse and enjoy great company and conversation while you work out.

For example, my husband and I often jog in the mornings. On the way home, we walk and talk, discussing our plans and praying for our day.

6. I find joy in the simple things.

Many of the things that make our lives most satisfying are free! So find joy in the simple things that don't cost you anything at all — like a gorgeous sunrise, playing fetch with your puppy, the gentle touch of a loved one, or the smile of a stranger.

7. I regularly declutter.

Without our intervention, junk quickly accumulates and wastes our precious brain power and energy. So don't be afraid to give things away, even things of value.

Make a routine habit of cleaning out closets and other spaces in your home. This practice will help free you from reliance on material things in your life. (For motivation, I recommend Marie Kondo's book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.)

8. I practice gratitude every day.

Perhaps the most powerful habit of all is gratitude. In fact, research suggests that the two qualities most predictive of lifelong happiness are gratitude and lifelong learning.

So make being grateful as much of a habit as brushing your teeth is. Before you fall asleep, list at least three things you're grateful for every single day.

Overall, none of these habits are too difficult — and best of all, you can start practicing them today. Here's to your best year ever!

Jill Carnahan, MD ABIHM, ABoIM, IFMCP author page.
Jill Carnahan, MD ABIHM, ABoIM, IFMCP

Dr. Jill Carnahan is Your Functional Medicine Expert® dually board certified in Family Medicine for 10 years and in Integrative Holistic Medicine. She is the Medical Director of Flatiron Functional Medicine, a widely sought-after practice with a broad range of clinical services including functional medical consultations, nutritional consultations, chiropractic therapy, physical therapy, naturopathic medicine, acupuncture, and therapeutic massage. As a survivor of breast cancer, Crohn’s disease, and toxic mold illness she brings a unique perspective to treating patients with complex illness. She specializes in searching for the underlying triggers that contribute to illness through cutting-edge lab testing and practicing personalized medicine.

Featured in People magazine, Shape, Parade, Forbes, MindBodyGreen, First for Women, ownsend Newsletter, and The Huffington Post as well as seen on NBC News and Health segments with Joan Lunden, Dr. Jill is media savvy and full of wisdom. Her YouTube channel and podcast features live interviews with many of healthcare’s most respected clinicians. She co-authored the Personalized and Precision Integrative Cardiovascular Medicine Textbook with Dr. Mark Houston. Her new book, Unexpected: Finding Resilience though Functional Medicine, Science, and Faith is now available for purchase anywhere books are sold. She is an executive producer, film writer and is featured in a new documentary about her journey overcoming illness called Doctor/Patient set to be distributed this year.

A popular inspirational speaker and prolific writer, she shares her knowledge of hope, health and healing live on stage and through newsletters, blog articles, books, and social media posts! Her patients and fans alike are encouraged by her science-back medical knowledge delivered with authenticity, love, and humor. She is known for inspiring her audience to thrive even in the midst of difficulties. Be sure to follow her @drjillcarnahan on Instagram.