It’s January, and for many people, the year ahead feels shiny and new, like an intriguing toy waiting to be discovered. It’s a time when some people make lists and set goals, as they think through what’s important to themselves and their loved ones.
For those who haven’t quite gotten around to making that list, we’re here to help! We’ve put together suggestions of 14 things that can help boost your mental and physical health, and help you feel better — and maybe even be better — all year long.
- Keep that reusable water bottle near you — and filled — at all times.
Our bodies are half water, at least. Water helps us maintain the right temperature and keeps all of our parts functioning smoothly. It’s so important that we drink enough of it! If you haven’t already invested in a good, reusable water bottle, gift yourself one. Then, fill it and carry it everywhere you can, to make it easy to stay hydrated. If you want to make this calorie-free beverage more interesting, consider adding slices of fresh fruit or a squirt of lemon juice for flavor.
- Host a healthy potluck. Start the year off right with a healthy, inexpensive gathering. Plan a small party, and ask your friends to bring over their favorite healthy dish, along with the recipe to share. That way, everyone will walk away with new, healthy ideas to make throughout the year.
- Find health care providers you like and trust. Nothing is more important than your health. And having health care providers you can openly talk to is so important. Because you never know what the future holds, it can be helpful to find those trusted doctors and nurses when you’re feeling good, so you have less legwork to do when you’re not feeling your best.
- Make the most of your health insurance. Take some time to look through your health insurance policy and find out what it offers. If you haven’t had a check-up in more than a year, make an appointment with a primary care provider. They can recommend vaccinations and screenings and also evaluate your overall health. In addition, see what kind of wellness benefits your health insurance plan includes, such as discounts on gym memberships and other services.
- Set a goal for yourself and start saving. Maybe you’ve been wishing for a vacation. Or dinner at a new restaurant. Or a piece of exercise equipment. Think about what you want, and devise a plan to put money aside and save up for it. Even if it takes months, or years, the reward will feel great after all the work.
- Move more. Generally speaking, we could all use a little more movement in our lives. That could mean any number of things: taking the stairs instead of the escalator, parking further away from your destination, biking to work, training for a 5K. Look for opportunities throughout the day to move more and sit less. Physical activity is good for the body, and for the brain.
- Find a workout partner. A solo workout routine is easy for some people. But if you’re someone who struggles to find the motivation to work out on your own, a partner could be just the ticket. You can keep one another accountable, and have fun while walking, running, playing pickleball, hitting the gym or doing whatever activity you can rally around.
- Find ways to routinely relieve stress. A little stress can be good for you. It motivates you to do what needs to be done. But too much stress over an extended period of time could contribute to mental and physical health problems. There are many easy and enjoyable actions you can take to help manage stress, such as meditation, deep breathing, yoga, exercise and more. (See more ideas here.)
- Make healthy eating easy. Wanting to eat healthy and actually eating healthy are two very different things! Even if you have the best intentions, if healthy food isn’t easily and readily available, it’s tempting to eat junk. Outsmart yourself and take away the excuses by surrounding yourself with healthy grab-and-go options. Fill your fridge with snacks like cut up fruit and veggies, stock up on string cheese, throw bags of nuts or popcorn in your work bag. Spend an hour or so prepping things you know you’ll eat, and your future self will thank you. (Find more healthy snack ideas here).
- Try a new exercise. Routines can get boring, by their very definition. Spice up your workouts by trying something new. No idea where to start? What about joining a community league, or trying a new endeavor like a spin class or rock climbing, or attending a dance class? If those don’t sound enticing, consider downloading a fitness app that has a variety of workouts, and see what clicks.
- Learn something new. When you learn new skills and ideas, it’s exercise for your brain. It’s also fun, and you never know where it might lead or whom you might meet. Think about skills or subjects that interest you, and find a way to learn more about them. Some good places to start are looking at the classes and events offered by your local library, community colleges, park district and community centers.
- Be kind to yourself and your health. We’re all juggling different challenges in life. That’s why it’s important to be your own best advocate, and not your own enemy. Be at least as kind to yourself as you are to your friends. Offer yourself grace and space to not always be perfect. And try your best to make choices that will help you be and feel better, whether that means getting a good night’s sleep, eating a healthy meal, staying on top of your vaccinations, making time to see your friends or making other decisions that put you—and your health—at the top of the priority list.
- Do a check-in with your mental health. If you’ve been feeling a little off, you’re not alone. More than one out of every five adults live with a mental health condition. What’s important is to recognize it and find help. If you’re worried about yourself, or find that you’re not enjoying the activities you once loved, talk to your primary care provider. And check out this list of ideas to help your mental health.
- Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Studies show that gratitude can be good for your health. When you make thankfulness a habit, it can lower your stress and anxiety and it may even improve your sleep and be good for your heart. Want to grow your gratitude? Reserve about 15 minutes a day to either write down or reflect on what you’re grateful for. It might feel awkward at first, but in time, you’ll train your mind to count your blessings without effort.