12 healthy habits to adopt for a new year
Habits get a bad rap.
We often think of the bad ones out there. But the truth is, habits form the backbone of about 95% of what we do every day—the good and the bad.
And that’s why it’s so important to fill your life with as many good habits as you possibly can.
Today, we want to share 12 simple, life-changing habits to help you create a healthy, sustainable lifestyle.
12 healthy habits to adopt for a new year
Starting a new habit isn’t always easy. The conventional wisdom says it takes at least three weeks to establish a new habit.
That's why we're breaking down these healthy habits for optimal health into 12 steps—one for each month of the new year.
1) Be active
You know that exercise is great for you. It helps the body grow stronger, work better, and burn up toxins. But too many people think of exercise as a specific block of time—going to the gym once or twice a week and sweating like there’s no tomorrow.
There’s no doubt that’s great for you. But it also isn’t for everyone—and it’s not something most people can do every day.
So, instead, focus on a daily way to get your body moving, and get more active.
A simple way is to go for walks. It’s something that doesn’t require any special equipment, doesn’t require much time, and you can do it every day—or multiple times a day.
Walks are great for your mental health as well…so there’s a nice bonus.
Of course, if you don’t like walks, you can come up with your own favorite activity—like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking at the far end of the parking lot, or doing deep knee bends every time a commercial comes on TV.
Whatever appeals to you, do it. And do it daily.
2) Manage Your Stress
Stress is unavoidable. No one is going to have a completely smooth life without challenges—but what you do with that stress is up to you.
You can let it linger and fester, elevating your blood pressure, heart rate, and weakening your immune system, or you can learn to overcome it—without moving a muscle.
A powerful way to counteract stress is with breathing exercises.
Spending ten minutes a day sitting still, letting go of what's going on around you, and observing the sounds and sensations of your breath.
This concentrated time-out like performed daily can work wonders for your health.
3) Practice Relaxation
This might be the hardest habit to master on this list, but it might also be the most important. While managing stress helps alleviate the negative aspects of tension, practicing relaxation, enhances the positive aspects of a relaxed mind.
Relaxation is key to finding good health—especially when you get cut off in traffic by a jerk the next time you're on the road.
After all, you can either get upset and angry (which raises your blood pressure and does subtle damage to your cardiovascular system each time), or you can breathe, decide not to get upset, and refuse to hurt yourself more over someone else’s bad behavior.
Yes, you can control your emotions instead of letting your emotions control you.
Again, breathing exercises are a great starting point for this habit. But, to actively find your relaxation—which is almost a paradox—you want to go a bit deeper.
Find an activity that relaxes you, that’s almost (or is completely) meditative, and make it part of your week. Doing so will help you learn to observe your emotions as they come over you and detach yourself from them, allowing you to see them from a distance.
Of course, that's easier said than done. But, with enough practice, you’ll realize that many of your emotions—especially the negative ones—aren’t necessary.
You’re surrounded every day by toxins. In your air, your water, and your food, harmful chemicals are constantly bombarding you.
The best way to eliminate them is to avoid them as much as possible.
That starts with eating unprocessed, organic foods whenever you can. Skip anything that comes in a box, and stick with foods that are recognizable. Load up on the veggies, as they should be free of toxins, and contain lots of vitamins and minerals that help your body cleanse itself.
And make sure you do something that makes you sweat a few times a week. Sweat is one of your body’s best ways to eliminate toxins, and the more often you do it, the cleaner you’ll be.
5) Get Your Sleep On
Your body performs most of its repair and recharge work during sleep. Likewise, cleanup happens during sleep—including the collection and removal of waste and toxins.
So making sure you get a good night’s sleep, every night, is essential.
It helps if you can keep to a fairly regular schedule. Your body loves a schedule, so if you force yourself to go to bed the same time every night, soon your body will automatically fall asleep at that time. (The same is true for waking up.)
Also, maintain good sleep hygiene. That means keeping your bedroom reserved for sleep, instead of work or watching TV. And make sure your bedroom is dark throughout the night, with minimal noise.
If your locale makes that last part impossible, get yourself a sleep mask and ear plugs.
6) Eat Nutritious, Whole Foods
Prepared foods are a trap. They’re full of sugar, salt, and chemicals designed to light up your brain, and keep you coming back for more.
But those things aren’t nutritious. In anything above small, natural doses, sugar and salt are very damaging.
So eat as many whole foods as you possibly can. Your body is designed to work with this natural nutrition—the sugar of an apple combined with the fiber, for instance.
Likewise, eat whole grains. Processed grains, like white rice and white bread, have had most of the fiber stripped off them. Your body needs that fiber—to aid digestion and to feed your gut microbiome.
Processed grains, by contrast, lead to sugar spikes, as the carbohydrates are digested too quickly.
The closer your food is to the food your ancestors ate, the better.
7) Drink Pure, Filtered Water
Your body needs water to survive. More specifically, you need water to let all your organs function properly. Water is, literally, the lubricant for your body. And a dehydrated body is like an engine low on oil—grinding away and in danger of breaking down.
So you should drink as much water as possible. A good rule of thumb—take your weight in pounds, divide it in two, and convert that to ounces. That’s how much water you need to drink every day.
So a 200 pound man should drink 100 ounces of water daily.
Getting your hydration from other sources isn’t the same. Juices and sodas are full of sugar, while teas and coffees are full of caffeine.
Those can be ok in very small doses—but they can’t replace water.
At the same time, not all of us have access to clean water. So if your water source is questionable, make sure you get yours out of a filter.
8) Balance Your pH
Acidosis is a little-discussed topic in medicine. Your body operates best when it’s slightly alkaline. But acidosis can be caused by poor diet, toxins, stress, or illness.
As you can imagine, acidosis is a major issue right now, but almost no one is talking about it. Yet it can affect everything from child growth rates, to bone density, kidney stones, and heart disease.
Unfortunately, the only good way to identify acidosis is through blood tests. However, because it’s so common right now and the solution is so healthy and good for you, you should be doing it anyway.
To rebalance yourself, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, which are almost all alkalizing. Even citrus fruits help to balance out your pH levels.
If you feel like you’re all vegged out, try squeezing a little lemon juice into your water. Even that little change can make a big difference (not to mention, it’s delicious).
9) Take Your Supplements
Nearly 50% of Americans have marginal nutrient deficiencies. As just one example, nearly every resident of North America suffers from a lack of vitamin D in the winter (we get most of our vitamin D from sunlight).
The absolute best way to get vitamins and minerals is through good nutrition. But even that will sometimes fall short. And some beneficial compounds, like curcumin—found in turmeric—are hard to get in large enough doses, even when you eat well.
So ask your doctor for a nutritional screening the next time you visit, so you can find out where you’re deficient.
And in the meantime, the bare minimum you should have is a curcumin supplement, to combat inflammation. If you don’t remember, inflammation is the bane of good health—and nothing combats it like curcumin.
Another supplement that nearly everyone needs is omega-3 fatty acid—the sort found in fish oil. Omega-3 is an essential oil for the proper functioning of your heart, brain, and just about anywhere your blood flows.
But almost the entire western world has a deficiency. We just don’t eat nearly enough fish (the prime source for omega-3s).
So start with a curcumin supplement and a quality omega-3 oil. And get that nutritional screener from your doctor. From there, fill in the gaps.
Newport Natural Health, for example, offers an omega-3 product formulated to help support a healthy heart, sharp mind, and overall vitality and a curcumin formula to help you once again enjoy pain-free joints, a healthy cardiovascular system, a sharp memory and more. You can learn more about these top-notch, best-selling products here.
10) Get Your Health Team Together
Speaking of doctors, who is yours?
An important part of being healthy is monitoring your health, along with improving your health and focusing in on problem areas. That means having a primary care physician that you see regularly and trust.
That’s a huge key.
You don’t just want a doctor that can draw blood and put you on a scale. You want one who is knowledgeable, willing to explain things to you, and will work with you to help prevent illness, not just treat what’s already there.
To be sure you have the right doctor in your corner, ask yours—what am I doing wrong right now? And how should I change?
If you get brushed off with medical jargon, your doctor isn’t taking you seriously.
And if the answers you get over the five extra pounds you put on this year are so blunt you feel like crying, that doctor won't be helpful either.
You want a doctor who will take you seriously, explain issues in a manner that doesn’t require a degree, and will give you all the information you need.
Most importantly, you want a primary care physician who will work with you, as a partner, to improve your health—and head off potential problems before they start.
But that doesn’t just apply to your doctor.
Your teeth are an important part of your health, as more and more studies show tooth problems lead to things like heart problems, thanks to invading bacteria.
You need a good dentist as well.
And you should go through the same process for everyone else working with you towards your health goals—from doctor and dentist, to, maybe, a personal trainer and nutritionist.
11) Have Some Fun
It’s been shown in study after study—your social life is inextricably linked to your health. The more interconnected and involved you are, the better your body does.
That makes sense; we’re social creatures. as we witnessed to a large degree this year, take that away, and health suffers—first mentally, and then physically.
So make it a point to keep your social life active, even at a distance. Find an interest that can lead to social gatherings once or twice a week, online or in person (outdoors if possible to lower your risk for transmission of airborne viruses).
Making the effort to reconnect with old friends, and developing new ones is totally worth it. Lonely people are at greater risk from all sorts of health threats.
But there’s no reason that has to be you. Make your social life a priority.
12) Find Your Gratitude
One habit of thought might help you relax—and give you a better outlook on life in general, along with a healthier mindset and body. And that’s gratitude.
Many studies have shown that practicing gratitude is great for you.
It’s wonderful for your mental health, and that translates into a wide world of benefits for your physical health as well.
Whether you’re sleeping better, remaining calmer, or your increased empathy is forging new relationships, gratitude is an attitude without a downside.
A great way to develop your “gratitude muscle” is to keep a journal of things you are thankful for. Try to come up with three to five every day.
You can also write letters or thank you notes to those who made a positive impact in your life in the outgoing year, or in the past.
Or you can just tell them directly. Everyone likes to feel appreciated. Showing that appreciation to those you love will make everyone feel better.
Commit to a Happy and Healthier You in the New Year
This is the time of year when commitments run high. The 12 habits above are healthy changes that definitely deserve your commitment.
Practice them one at a time. Start with the easiest and work your way up.
However you choose to use this list, don’t waste it. These 12 habits can lead to a longer, happier, healthier life.
And that's the sort of commitment worth making.
Take good care.
Disclaimer: Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
Last Updated: December 30, 2020
Originally Published: January 2, 2017