We are nearing the time of year when we make lists of all the things we have resolved to change (and which two-thirds of us will fizzle out on within the first month).
The problem with resolutions is that often we make multiple major and life-altering changes and expect them to happen overnight. Then, frustration hits and burnout results.
For the last several years, I’ve stepped away from the grand resolutions and focused instead of small, short-term goals or experiments. It’s a shift in mindset that helps me focus on small, simple changes that are actually doable here and now. The change has really helped and I find that bigger changes naturally follow.
My challenge to you: as you read through this list of healthy habits to adopt in the New Year, don’t even let yourself think, “I should do all of those.” Truly only pick one to start, and reward yourself for completing the first mini-challenge by setting a new goal!
I’m sure you’ll think of many others that could be added to this list, but I’ve started with those that seem the most essential to mom-life.
Sleep is a non-negotiable for health. (Some sleep experts say it is even more important than diet and exercise combined!) Sleep helps the body restore and heal, is vital for hormone production, improves mood, aids weight loss, and more. In short, if you aren’t sleeping, you aren’t healthy.
Sleep is also free and this is a pretty simple change to make if you commit to it. Granted, some people do have trouble falling or staying asleep, but there are often simple remedies to help with this as well.
The Challenge: If this area is a struggle for you, start small. Think through your bedtime routine. What is the one thing you could change that would make the most impact right away? Some ideas (remember, only pick one to start):
See this post for a full list of ideas on natural ways to sleep better (and no, sending the kids away isn’t on the list, but that would be a good one!).
Just like sleep, water is essential to digestion, mental health, removal of toxins, and more. Water is typically free and available to all of us, though purified water can cost a little up front if you invest in a quality water filter.
Though there are as many theories on how much water to drink as there are brands of bottled water, some good rules of thumb are:
The Challenge: A generic “I’ll drink more water” resolution will evaporate all too soon! Keep goals small, specific, and tied to some daily action already in the day:
Stress can do more to hurt your health than any cheat day ever could. Of course, adding “reduce stress” to your to-do list isn’t going to help much.
The list of what stress can do to a body is long. Hair loss, weight gain, infertility, headaches, muscle pain, higher risk of disease… you name it… stress can cause it.
From my post “Tips to Reduce Stress“:
While stress is often thought of as a strictly emotional and mental problem, there is a growing amount of evidence that is has a host of physiological effects as well. One study found that a chemical released when the body is in a stressed state, Neuropeptide Y, causes fat cells to open and store fat rather than burn it. Another study found that, especially in women, higher cortisol (stress hormone) leads to weight gain around the waist, even in otherwise slender women.
Another study found that stress shortens telomeres in cells at a faster rate, leading to premature aging and the increased risk of diseases that accompanies it.
Stress can impact hormones and fertility as well. When cortisol is high in the body, progesterone is often low because the body uses progesterone to manufacture cortisol. This is often why stress and elevated cortisol levels correlate with trouble conceiving or maintaining a pregnancy.
The Challenge: This is always a tough one to tackle because it feels like fighting an invisible enemy. Plus, as a mom it often feels like there’s no time to step away and refocus. There are small changes that take no time or spa days away (although I recommend those too if you can manage it!):
I don’t like the word “exercise” as it has a negative connotation of something people don’t enjoy doing (picture monotonous miles on a treadmill while watching a stress-inducing news channel). I also don’t like the idea of “exercise” as a hobby, as it isn’t something that one should just do for fun.
Instead, focus on just moving! Movement is (or definitely should be) a normal part of human life, yet many of us aren’t getting enough of it. Movement should also be functional. Endless reps on an exercise machine don’t mean anything if they aren’t helping improve your daily life.
Instead, focus on movements that are useful, such as:
Mini-Challenge Ideas: Functional exercises like walking, sprinting, etc. are free! If you need to up your movement quota but find the idea overwhelming, start with a few simple goals and build on your success:
Once you’ve mastered the habit, move on to the next one!
I know, who needs one more thing to do! Still, volunteering makes the list this year as a great habit to cultivate as a family. The hurricane that hit our area opened my eyes in a new way to the importance of contributing to a tight-knit and supportive local community.
While we may not think of this as a habit, volunteering takes a certain willingness to go out of our way and set our to-do lists aside to work on making someone else’s life better. It takes consistent effort, but it’s worth it!
Giving back outside the home teaches children (and adults) to think of others. Not only is it free, but it also benefits the community. Thinking of those less fortunate also increases our sense of gratitude, which has proven health benefits for mind and body.
The Challenge: Calculate the date 30 days from now and mark it on your calendar. Challenge yourself to complete one new volunteer activity by this time. Set reminders for every 5 days leading up to this date. These are your checkpoints to remind you to do your research, pick a cause, and add it to the calendar.
What are your goals for this year? Are any of these ones you’d like to adopt? Share below!