12 Habits For a Healthier & Happier You
Whether you’re looking for ways to make it through the holidays or planning for a better you in the new year, these 12 habits can get things going for you.
Self-care is, in part, about being healthy and happy. Most of us are always looking for ways we can improve both our health and happiness. Sometimes we focus on the wrong things, though — transient things that won’t last or make a difference.
I’ve got 12 simple habits you can start that will not only make you happier and healthier, but are also easy to implement. You won’t need to buy anything or go anywhere to do most of them!
Drink more water
Drinking water is a no-brainer habit that tops most lists of “things you should be doing with your life.” But despite its simplicity, drinking more water makes such a huge difference in your life. It can prevent headaches, help you lose weight, increases energy levels and brain function, prevents constipation and balances blood sugar.
There are lots of instructions on how to determine how much water to drink: half your weight in ounces; eight cups a day; calculate your physical activity and then drink X cups for every Y minutes you’re active.
Personally, my favorite way to know if you’re drinking enough is as simple as looking for these two signs:
· Not feeling thirsty very often
· Having colorless or light yellow urine
Those are two easy ways to tell that require no counting or calculations, and they also don’t require you to carry your own water bottle everywhere.
Ask questions — and listen to their answers
Life is full of knowledge and wonder. We can learn so much by asking questions. But in our busy lives, we often ask questions without actually listening for the answer. Think about it — how often do you ask someone how they are and then have no idea what they said?
Ask everyone questions. You can learn so much about people when you ask them questions. But there’s so much more you can learn from asking questions. The key is in listening for the answers.
Remember the old adage that says there is no stupid question. If it comes to your mind, go ahead and ask it! You may be very surprised by the answer.
Create a morning & evening routine
You may already have something of a morning routine just by instinct. You shower before coffee, or have coffee before brushing your teeth. But if we go the extra mile of creating a true morning routine, we can have much smoother days ahead.
What’s in a morning routine? That depends on you. But typically, it’s organizing the things you do every morning in a way that makes sense and ensures nothing is skipped. You wouldn’t put on makeup or do your hair before showering, for example. But you might forget to eat breakfast if you don’t include it.
While you’re at it, an evening routine is helpful, too. Your evening routine can help with your morning routine. You might lay out clothes the night before, make your lunch, or make sure you know where your keys are. But an evening routine should also include things that help you wind down for sleep, such as a warm shower, a hot cup of tea, or reading a book.
Smile (even if it’s a fake)
Did you know that smiling can ease pain, lower blood pressure and boost your immune system? And those are just a few of its benefits!
As a single mom, I know there have been days (maybe even weeks!) where I never smiled. I was too busy, stressed, and worried to think about a smile. And yet a smile could have changed everything. So now I make it a point to find a reason to smile every day. It might be at something one of my kids says, a joke a friend posts on social media, or a sitcom I watch.
It might even be a forced smile in the bathroom mirror. But the benefits can come whether the smile is real or fake, so it doesn’t matter if you have to fake it now and then.
Create a go-to meal plan
We all have times when life gets the better of us. We’re stressed, drowning in tasks and responsibilities, and fast food seems like the best way to get a meal on the table in a hurry. Fast food might be fast, but it’s far from healthy — for your body or your budget.
Instead, try creating a go-to meal plan. Create a week’s worth of meals that are simple, easy, and nourishing. Keep this list stuck on your freezer door or in your phone where you can easily access it when you need it. Now when you’re stressed and overwhelmed, you’ve got a week’s worth of meals ready to be made without even thinking about it.
If you really want to go all out, create a go-to grocery shopping list to go with that go-to meal plan. Make it a comprehensive list that includes every ingredient for the meals on the list, plus household staples like milk or eggs. Then when life is getting away from you, you’ve got a list already made so you can shop and cook without expending any extra effort.
Bonus: that meal plan and grocery list also makes it possible for someone else to take over if you’re sick or injured!
Read every day
If you read before bed, you’ll improve your sleep quality. But reading has far more benefits than that. You can visit places you’ve never been — places that never existed or don’t exist anymore. You can meet people and do things that you wouldn’t otherwise. Reading stimulates the mind, slowing or possibly preventing Alzheimer’s and dementia. It also reduces stress, expands vocabulary, and improves memory.
Whether you read fiction or nonfiction, or switch back and forth between them, the benefits of reading are too good to miss out. Spend at least 30 minutes a day reading. Do it in the morning, before bed, or even on your lunch break.
Figure out your personal style
Since I work from home as a writer and meditation teacher/self-care coach, I usually choose to dress for comfort. In the summer months, that typically looks like shorts and tank tops, and during the winter, it’s yoga pants and loose tops with the occasional kimono or cardigan. But I have a handful of dresses and long, flowy skirts that also make their way into the rotation.
That’s my style, and it may not look anything like yours. But you should define what yours looks like. Why?
It will save you time when you’re getting dressed, first. Once you define your personal style, you’ll know what items to mix and match in your closet to make it happen. Second, it will save you time when you’re shopping. You won’t waste time debating where to shop or what to get. You’ll choose stores and items that match your style so you can get in and out and easily integrate new items into your existing wardrobe.
Make your daily to-do list three things or less
Before you freak out and send me scathing emails about how impossible that is, keep reading.
When we have too much to do, deciding where to start can leave us paralyzed and procrastinating instead of productive. Or we take action, but on the wrong things. That’s why I suggest you choose a top three list each day.
Your top three things should do at least one of the following:
· Allow you to feel accomplished at the end of the day
· Allow you to get the most done (the biggest tasks that can be completed)
· Allow you to make the most progress (the tasks that could complete a project, for example)
· Give you the most motivation to complete other tasks
Those three tasks are the things you focus on for the day. Get those done, and if nothing else gets done, you can still feel good about what you did. Once those three tasks are done, anything else you complete on the to-do list is just a bonus.
This little trick can allow you to feel like a total rock star at the end of any day.
Do weekly/monthly/quarterly life reviews
We get caught up in routines and habits very easily sometimes. They’re easy to do, they feel natural, and we just don’t want to work any harder. But sometimes these routines and habits are not doing us any good and we don’t really enjoy them.
Take time once a week, once a month, or once every three months (or all three!) to evaluate what’s going on in your life. What are you doing that you enjoy? What are you doing that you don’t enjoy? What are you doing because you think you have to but you could pass on to someone else? What’s working? What’s not working at all?
Do these evaluations and then act on what you conclude. Stop doing things that aren’t working or you don’t enjoy. Delegate tasks that can be delegated to free up time for more important things. Make time for things that are more enjoyable and important to you.
Don’t get on your phone first thing in the morning
I’m guilty of using my phone as my alarm clock. And for a long time, I was also guilty of getting on it almost as soon as I woke up. Checking email, scrolling social media, checking the weather… pretending that it was about productivity. But all it really did was stress me out and get my day off to a rough start.
Do what I did and stop getting on your phone first thing in the morning. Instead, read a book. Watch the sunrise while you sip your coffee or tea. Meditate or practice yoga. Cuddle with your kids or your spouse. Whatever it is you do, do something that doesn’t include your phone, laptop, or tablet. Ideally, no TV either.
When you start your day with an influx of external influence like social media, emails, and news reports, you start your day with stress and tension. Instead, skip all that and start your day with peace and tranquility, even if you know the rest of your day will be the opposite. By starting it off peacefully, you start off centered and grounded, putting yourself in a better position when things get rough later in the day.
Evaluate your commitments
Take a look at your calendar right now. How many birthday parties, Christmas parties, New Year’s parties, weekend brunches, business dinners, and game nights are you supposed to go to? And how many of those are you dreading and wishing you could get the flu so you could skip out on them?
It’s time to evaluate all those commitments. There may be some that you can’t do anything about. Work-related obligations, for example, might have to be done. But personal commitments are always optional. Your family and friends should understand when you don’t feel up to doing something. If they don’t, you should go beyond rethinking the commitment and rethink the relationship, too.
Ask yourself why you’re doing anything. Does the answer sound anything like:
· I have to because…
· I’ve already committed/RSVP’d
· My friend/sister/mom will be mad if I don’t…
· Everyone expects me to go
If your answer is one of those or something similar, bail on the commitment. You should be doing things because you want to, not because you’re obligated. If you’re doing it out of obligation, it’s bound to be a starting point for resentment between you and whomever it is that makes you feel obligated. Politely let people know when you won’t be attending their event.
And going forward, start saying no to things you don’t want to do.
Find areas of negativity & change them
Are you in a toxic or unhappy relationship? Working at a company that doesn’t respect your contributions or treat you like a human being? Maybe it’s just your inner critic constantly harping on you that’s the source of negativity in you life?
Whatever it is, find the areas of negativity in your life and change them. Find the sources and eliminate them or change the perspective around them. Change the way you talk to yourself. Find a new job or end unhealthy relationships — romantic, family, or otherwise.
Negativity is a part of life, to a certain degree. But when we are aware of an area of negativity that we can change — such as our relationship or the way we talk to ourselves — we have a responsibility to ourselves to change it.
Incorporate one idea and see a difference; incorporate them all and see your life completely change. Your health and happiness is your responsibility, so take control and find the things that bring you both.