Practicing healthy habits doesn’t have to be a chore. It can be the reward itself.
Overindulgence is the hallmark of the holidays, and that’s why so many of us feel that it is important to commit to resetting in the New Year. More than losing that winter coat, however, is the great feeling of polishing our daily practices in simple ways to make life easier and more enjoyable. Here is a short list of minimum-effort tricks that amount to an overall family boost.
- The chug-a-pint challenge. One of the best effortless habits you can form is drinking a full glass of water first thing in the morning. You fire up your metabolism, flush your intestinal tract, and of course, hydrate your body1. Before breakfast or coffee, everyone in the family knocks back a glass of water. It only takes a second and sets you up to drink more water throughout your day.
- The idea of meditation is so scary to some of us – who has the time and the concentration to sit and wait for enlightenment? But actually, to make a difference, it only takes three minutes a day of sitting quietly, focusing on an object or body part like the hands, and just noticing the breath entering and exiting the body. Schools all over the country are instituting mindfulness practice because it decreases anxiety, aids concentration, and has a host of other health benefits2. Start by setting a timer for one minute and have everyone do it together in either the morning, or the evening before dinner or bed. Even if you have little ones, just let them be present for it and work your way up from there. It’s easier to do this with other people, and the more practice you get, the more the benefits will start to emerge.
- Eat Slower. We don’t even notice our food half the time, we are so busy fueling up and getting to the next thing. Just focusing on the sensations and flavors of your food naturally makes you slow down and savor whatever you are eating and this is better for digestion, metabolism, and maintaining a healthy weight3. When you eat slower, you become full faster and eat smaller portions. But wait, there’s more: slowing down makes your meal more enjoyable.
- Emphasize the positive. The 24 hour news cycle is insidious and chalk-full of suffering; consider allowing quality time to be punctuated with good news, examples of kindness and beauty, or reaffirming the things that make you grateful. Studies have shown that happiness is contagious, and actually good for us. In the same sense that emotions like fear and anxiety have health consequences, happiness can reduce the risk of heart disease, strokes, and diabetes4.
- Power down. Sleep is one of those things kids never think about, but adults fantasize about it actively, usually because they are not getting enough. To assist the brain in its nighttime job, turn down the lights in the house and power down the devices an hour before bedtime. Reducing stimuli indicates to your brain that sleep time is imminent and this sets you up for deeper, more restful sleep5. For that last hour or so before bed, consider reading, stretching, taking a bath, or just talking as a way of settling into bed. Good sleep hygiene will give everyone more energy and focus the following day, not to mention, putting everyone in a better mood. Even if sleep is not a problem for you, this small and easy step ensures that your whole family continues to get the rest they need. It also feels really good.
It really is the little things that can add up to big improvement, because with a little practice, these adjustments become automatic. It’s also good practice for our children to reframe their daily habits, so they understand that refining our daily routine is part of living. Setting reasonable, achievable goals for the New Year is one of the best ways we can reduce stress, become more productive, and enhance our own contentment. Even more, doing this practice as a family is a great way to bond.