You know the story. Every year, you make grand, sweeping resolutions. You vow to quit eating sugar, go to the gym four days a week, and to be a nicer person. Your heart is in the right place, and you start your year full of optimism. Then comes February, and try as you might, you’re back to your daily 4pm sugar fix, you haven’t been to the gym in a week, and you’re snapping at your co-workers. The cycle is demoralizing, and it leaves you feeling like a failure.
Well, guess what? You’re not alone, and it’s not your fault. We put a lot of pressure on the new year to right all our wrongs and finally become the person we want to be, and while that’s definitely a worthwhile undertaking, the way in which we go about it sets us up for an inevitable downfall — maybe after a month, or two, or perhaps just a week.
The secret is to take the pressure off and to set goals that you can actually stick to. Instead of one or two big, grand resolutions, outline a handful of smaller goals that add up to big change. The five steps below are a great place to start, and I promise you that if you stick to these for 90 days, you’ll uncover a whole new you — a happier and healthier you — in 2014!
1. Eat dark leafy greens at least once a day.
I know, I know, you’ve heard this one a thousand times before. Guess what? It works. The more greens you eat, the less bad stuff you eat. Greens are detoxifying, slimming, energizing, and just plain amazing. They boost your immunity and lower your risk of disease. To make this step super easy, shoot for having one green salad a day made with at least a full cup of kale, arugula, or spinach. Other great places to throw in greens are with your eggs in the morning, or in your soup!
2. Commit to moving your body in a way that feels amazing.
The number one reason most people have trouble sticking to their exercise routine is that they simply don’t enjoy it. If you absolutely loved your workout, looked forward to it all day long, how likely would you be to skip it? Think outside the gym box. If you hate cardio, no amount of guilting yourself is going to get you on that elliptical machine. Instead, sign up for a salsa or hip-hop class. If traditional exercise isn’t your thing, take figure skating lessons, go rock climbing, or take a pole dancing class. If leaving your house in the winter is what’s standing in your way, get a bunch of awesome videos for types of movement you actually enjoy, or just check out free videos on YouTube.
3. Drink more green tea.
I’m not saying you need to swear off coffee completely, but if you replace 1-2 cups with green tea, you’ll be doing your body (and your mind!) a world of good. If you’re not a coffee drinker, just shoot for sipping at least 2 cups of organic Japanese green tea (which is higher in L-theanine and lots of other beneficial nutrients) every day.
4. Read for pleasure.
A recent study showed that reading a book for just 6 minutes a day reduced stress by as much as 68%. How crazy is that?! Unlike watching TV, reading gives your brain a break from the external stimulation that you’re bombarded with all day long, and allows you to unplug, slow down, and lose yourself in your imagination. This act is good for your health, your brain, and your happiness! So make a commitment to read a good, physical book, not on your e-reader, for at least 10-15 minutes a day. Feel like you don’t have enough time? Read in bed before falling asleep!
5. Give more hugs.
Physical affection is amazing for your health, your happiness, and even your waistline! It lowers blood pressure, stress, and cortisol levels. It prevents illness by supporting your immune system and prevents depression and anxiety. It boosts your oxytocin and serotonin levels, making you feel happier, calmer, and more secure. Basically, hugs are like free therapy. So get your hugging on! Shoot for at least 4 hugs a day, and make them count.