There’s no better time than a New Year to embark on healthy habits. Instead of making New Year’s resolutions – studies have shown that approximately 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail – try this 10-Day New Year’s Challenge instead.
Over the next 10 days, challenge yourself to do the following things.
Day 1: Write your Word of the year
Your word of the year is going to be the theme for 2022 on how you want to FEEL. Picking one-word may seem overwhelming at first, but having a word that you keep close to yourself is much less overwhelming than setting very specific goals. Choose a word that motivates you to make healthier decisions in all types of situations such as food, fitness, mental health, relationships, and anything else that comes along the way.
Here’s how to choose your word of the year:
- On a piece of paper, write down all the words of how you want to feel in 2022. There is no limit to how many words you can jot down. Go for it!
- Take a deep breath and study the words you wrote.
- Pick the one that best embodies how you want to feel and resonates with you.
- Write down your word of the year and think about it whenever you need a guiding light.
Day 2: Eat at least 5 daily servings of vegetables and fruits
Five servings may sound challenging, but maybe you’re already doing it or near to it! One serving of vegetables and fruit is as follows:
- 1 cup of raw vegetables
- ½ cup of cooked vegetables
- ½ cup of vegetable juice, i.e., from fresh fruit in an at-home juicer or at your local juice bar
- 1 medium-sized whole fruit (an apple, orange, etc.,)
- 1 cup berries
Day 3: Practice Gratitude
Take a moment to truly appreciate the wonderful things that you’re blessed with. This is one of the ways that you can practice gratitude. Practicing gratitude ignites a positive feeling that helps spark happiness from within and gives you a positive outlook on life.
Here are some ways to practice gratitude:
- Go for a gratitude walk. Whether it’s a stroll down your favorite busy city street or a hike in the forest, go on an adventure to see how many positive things you can find.
- Place a gratitude trigger in your office or somewhere in your house where you can easily glance at it and it will remind you to be grateful each time you look at it. Ideas: a favorite photo, an inspirational quote, a painting, or a picture of a loved one.
- Write a gratitude letter (or email) to someone who has exerted a positive influence in your life. This could be to a former teacher or mentor, or even a parent or grandparent. It doesn’t have to be long, but be specific about what the person did and how it affected you.
- Give back through volunteering to a cause that is close to your heart, holding a door for a stranger or asking someone how their day is going (and really listening to their answer).
Day 4: Exercise Consistently
Make a commitment to exercise consistently, starting today. Schedule in your exercise to your calendar as if it were a doctor’s appointment and if you have to cancel, reschedule it immediately. Bonus: challenge yourself to mix up your exercise routine by trying one new exercise or class per week.
Day 5: Eat protein at every meal
Consistently eating protein throughout the day will boost your energy and keep you satiated. You can derive protein from meat, and a variety of non-meat choices. Here are some delicious protein-rich foods:
- Almonds / Almond Butter
- Greek Yogurt
- Cottage Cheese
- Tuna / Fish
- Squash and Pumpkin Seeds
- Chicken / Pork / Beef
Day 6: Hydrate Smart
We don’t function at full capacity when we’re dehydrated. Aim to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day. Flavor water with your favorite fruit and herb combinations. Non-caffeinated herbal tea is also a great way to increase hydration, especially on a cold winter day.
Day 7: Be a conscious consumer
Be aware of what you’re buying and consuming. When you go to the grocery store, read food labels. If a product has a lot of ingredients and you must google many of them, it is not something that you want to put in your body. Further, many of us unknowingly purchase products from companies or corporations that we would not necessarily support ethically, socially, or philosophically. Do your research before you buy and, when possible, support your local community by purchasing produce and other items from your farmers’ market or choosing gifts from a locally-owned store (or on an online marketplace like Etsy that promotes small business) instead of a commercial shopping outlet.
Day 8: Practice mindfulness (meditation, breathing exercises, journaling)
Being mindful is being aware of your thoughts, emotions, and how you’re physically feeling, without judgement. Incorporating mindfulness into your life can be as simple as engaging in breathing exercises as needed throughout the day, taking a moment or more to step away from what you’re doing and meditate, or recording your thoughts in a journal. Here are some tips on practicing mindfulness.
- Try 4-7-8 Breathing: Inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, exhale for 8 seconds. Breathing exercises are a way to refocus your mind and reduce stress.
- Meditate when it works for you. Some people like to do it first thing in the morning, while others prefer to do it on a work break or before bed. If you need help getting started or are interested in a guided meditation, use an app such as @calm, @headpace, @chillanywhere, and @insighttimer.
- If you carry a small journal with you, journaling can be done anytime or anywhere. If you prefer, make time to journal in the evening when your day is done. Studies have shown that journaling helps to reduce stress and anxiety, strengthen memory, keep better track of your goals, and find inspiration.
Day 9: Find an accountability partner
Whether you are trying to lose weight, start an exercise program, or reach personal goals, an accountability partner can keep you motivated, on track, and be your cheerleader along the journey. You may find a reliable partner in a friend, family member, online group, colleague, or a wellness coach.
Ways to interact with your accountability partner can include:
- Texting photos of food or exercise accomplishment (such as the steps taken on the treadmill or recorded on your mobile device)
- A daily phone call or email to discuss progress
- Through an accountability app that is accessible to both of you
Day 10: Reduce Your Sugar Intake
Sugar has the same addictive properties as tobacco and alcohol. It is also one of the leading culprits of childhood obesity and is found hidden in a lot of our favorite foods like breakfast cereal, breakfast bars, pasta sauces, ketchup, salad dressings, soups, and other canned goods.
Tips to reduce your sugar intake:
- Craving something sweet after a meal? Grab a piece of fruit instead!
- Replace soda and sports drinks with sparkling water infused with your favorite fruit.
- Ditch the fruit-flavored yogurt (which can have as much as 25 grams of sugar!) for plain or Greek yogurt and add your own fruit.
- Read food labels carefully and look for “hidden” sugars in the ingredients, such as: Cane juice, Dehydrated cane juice, Evaporated cane juice, Cane juice solids, Cane juice crystals, Dextrin, Maltodextrin, Dextran, Barley malt, Beet sugar, Corn syrup, Corn syrup solids, Caramel, Buttered syrup, Carob syrup, Brown sugar, Date sugar, Malt syrup, Diatase, Diatastic malt, Fruit juice, Fruit juice concentrate, Dehydrated fruit juice, Fruit juice crystals, Golden syrup, Turbinado, Sorghum syrup, Refiner’s syrup, Ethyl maltol, Maple syrup, Yellow sugar, Sucrose, Maltose, Dextrose, Fructose, Glucose, Galactose, Lactose, High fructose corn syrup, Glucose solids.
Small changes can lead to big results.
After you’ve tried each of these challenges over 10 days, choose 3 of them to adopt for 2022. Challenge yourself each month to add one additional thing to your daily habits.
Developing these habits can have a positive effect on your wellbeing and lead to a healthier, happier year overall.