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7 easy health habits that will set you up for success in the new year

Master these simple habits this month and it will be a whole lot easier to tackle those New Year’s resolutions come January.
Close up of sparkling water in transparent glass and sun glare on pink background.
Starting every day with a glass of water is a simple, but healthy, ritual you can institute right now.IKvyatkovskaya / Getty Images stock

Resolutions are creeping up on us — we can almost seeing them lurking behind all the winter comfort foods and holiday cocktails. But who says we have to wait until the new year to start thinking about our health goals?

Going all in once the calendar flips to 2021, without a gradual transition, can set you up for failure. After all, one of the biggest obstacles people face when tackling resolutions is starting off strong, but then having motivation quickly dwindle within a few weeks. If we start taking small steps now, we can make the transition a more gradual one, making it easier to incorporate changes into our routine and stick with them.

Research shows that small accomplishments signal the reward circuitry in our brains, this releases feel-good chemicals making us feel more confident, boosting our self-esteem and fueling our intrinsic motivation. So while these habits may seem like no-brainers, mastering them now can make a huge difference in your motivation level next month.

So what are some small goals you can begin with that will help you jump-start your New Year's health goals? I’ve included some ideas to get you started. Pick one to start with, and then add an additional habit each week this month. Don’t forget to acknowledge your victories (no matter how small) as you go. Over the next few weeks you will slowly gain momentum, setting yourself up to take off running in the new year!

1. Drink a glass of water every morning

By now you’ve probably heard the recommended advice of drinking half of your body weight in ounces of water daily. But if that seems like an impossible feat, or if you’re already doing that, try out this simple way to drink more. Set out a water bottle or a glass of water next to your coffee machine so that in the mornings, before you take a sip of anything else, you’ll drink a glass of water. Before your day has even started you've accomplished something healthy for your body.

2. Add one vegetable a day into your diet

Encourage yourself to eat healthier by committing to eating just one additional vegetable a day. It could be mixing an extra handful of spinach into a smoothie, adding broccoli to your stir-fry, or eating kale chips as a nighttime snack.

3. Move for 5 minutes a day

Not into exercise? That’s OK. Commit to moving your body for just 5 minutes a day, whether that be marching in place while cooking over the stove or going on a walk around the block. Lowering your expectations for exercise lessens the motivation required to get yourself off the couch and reduces the amount of willpower needed to power through a longer workout. And you may be surprised how easy it is to turn that 5-minute walk into a 10- or 15-minute stroll once you get moving.

4. Sit down on Sundays and plan your workouts

I love encouraging my clients to take a seat on Sunday and map out their week. If you live and die by your calendar, you’ll love this tip! Spend just 5 minutes looking at the week ahead and scheduling in some “me” time for your workouts. Whether it’s a 5-minute yoga stretch on an app or a full 45-minute walk or HIIT workout, put it in your calendar on the day and time you plan to complete it. The simple fact that you spent 5 minutes doing this is something to celebrate!

5. Work on your relationship with yourself

Whether you want to find motivation to exercise, feel more confident at work or be happier in general, cultivating a positive relationship with yourself is the first step in getting there. Try setting a journal next to your bed or a self-improvement book on your coffee table next to your remote control. Before going to bed or watching your favorite show, encourage yourself to take a pen to paper and connect with your thoughts and feelings.

6. Loosen up a stiff body part

Is your neck always tight? Or maybe your hips are always sore? Choose one area of your body, and commit to one stretch a day to help loosen that area up. If it’s your neck, try dropping your right ear to your right shoulder for a few breaths, and then switching sides. If it’s your hips, try sitting with your right ankle over your left knee to stretch the outer hip and glute. If it’s your shoulders, do shoulder rolls while you open up your emails in the morning.

7. Establish a 5-minute nightly routine

Banish stress and replace unhealthy habits, like snacking and drinking, by taking a few minutes for yourself at night. Set an alarm on your phone as a reminder and then set the timer for 5 minutes. Do a meditation, deep breathing, journal or text a friend. Focus on spending those minutes doing something that relaxes you. It could even be a new nighttime beauty routine, like a face mask or massaging your feet with lotion. Practice some self-care any way that is relaxing to you in the evenings.