No matter how you feel about resolutions, chances are most of us are looking to kick off 2016 on a good note. To help you get started, we've compiled 100 (one hundred!) easy-to-implement tips to help you nail whatever it is you're aiming to accomplish next year.
Whether it's to exercise more, eat healthier, stress less, booze less, lose weight, quit smoking, manage money better, get more sleep, learn a new skill, or go green (phew!), these hints, tips, and steps below will help, guide, and support your efforts. Here's to a happy and healthy New Year!
I Want to... Exercise More
Working out isn’t just for getting buff. Exercising results in both physical and mental benefits, from reducing stress and anxiety, to improving self-confidence, to enhancing cognitive function. The good news is that adding regular exercise to your day isn’t tough. Just use the tips below and start moving!
1. Fit it in any and everywhere.
With tons of home workouts at your fingertips, you can exercise even if finding the time, cash, or transportation to make it to the gym is tough. Or try any of our awesome GWODs—they can be done with zero equipment, in a small space, and in less than 20 minutes.
3. Get motivated.
Stay on track by reminding yourself of the benefits of exercising, seeking fit-spiration (it's literally at your fingertips), or becoming an “intrinsic motivator”—someone whose drive to succeed comes from within, rather than from external factors. If you don’t consider yourself a natural intrinsic motivator, follow these 15 genius ways to motivate yourself that actually work.
4. Work out first thing in the morning.
The upsides to working out in the a.m. might just inspire night owls to become morning people! Exercising before breakfast has been linked to effective fat loss. Breakfast and exercise contingently affect postprandial metabolism and energy balance in physically active males. Gonzalez JT, Veasey RC, Rumbold PL. The British journal of nutrition, 2013, Jan.;110(4):1475-2662. And getting your workout done first thing ensures it’s completed before the day gets away from you. Here are 24 helpful hacks, plus the perfect morning workout—even if you're not a morning person.
5. Work out while you work.
Seated doesn’t have to mean sedentary. Any time you’re stuck in the cubicle or hunched over a keyboard, take a break for deskercise. Even if they don’t prep you for an upcoming Ironman, those breaks will get the blood flowing and burn a few calories.
6. Make time fly.
There are lots of great ways to make workouts more exciting—like having the right tunes, working out in a group, or exercising with that special someone. And as we know, time flies when you’re having fun.
7. Make it quick.
Interval workouts—think tabatas and other high intensity interval training (HIIT)—can be done in as little as four minutes and provide an array of benefits, including building cardio endurance and burning fat.
8. Sneak it in.
Working out without working out? NEAT! Non-exercise activity thermogenesis is everyday activity that burns calories such as running errands, cleaning the house, chopping veggies, traveling by foot or bicycle. Days that you can’t make it to the gym are the perfect opportunity to up the ante NEAT-wise, whether that means taking the stairs, going on a mopping-and-vacuuming spree, or washing the car.
9. Make a plan.
Having a results-oriented game plan is a key to success when it comes to working out. Fundamentals of resistance training: progression and exercise prescription. Kraemer WJ, Ratamess NA. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 2004, Jul.;36(4):0195-9131. Whether you work towards that 5K, download a checklist to keep you organized, or set reminders to strength train three times times per week, arrange your weekly workouts in advance. Plus, research shows that imagining yourself achieving fitness goals can enhance athletic performance. Benefits of motor imagery training on muscle strength. Lebon F, Collet C, Guillot A. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association, 2010, Sep.;24(6):1533-4287. Make a routine of rehearsing making healthy choices by visualizing the result of all your hard work.
10. Keep track online.
Logging your workouts allows you to keep track of what you’ve done—whether it’s miles run, reps lifted, or poses practiced. Plus, by paying attention to what kind of workouts you’re doing, you’ll know when to start changing things up, thereby avoiding the dreaded fitness plateau.
I Want to... Eat Healthier
Weight loss isn’t the only reason to change up our eating habits. Sometimes eating more healthfully simply makes us feel happier. Follow these tips to treat yourself to healthy eating in the new year.
1. Don’t deprive yourself.
No need to go cold turkey forever when it comes to your favorite treats. Aim to eat nutritious foods your body loves 80 percent of the time. Use that other 20 percent to treat yourself a bit.
2. Graze healthfully.
Tide yourself over between meals with healthier snacks. Whether your thing is sweet or savory, crunchy or chewy, there are plenty of options for snacking smart. Bonus: Not being too ravenous at the next meal might make it easier to eat slowly, notice your body’s fullness cues, and not overeat. Eating slowly led to decreases in energy intake within meals in healthy women. Andrade AM, Greene GW, Melanson KJ. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2008, Jul.;108(7):0002-8223.
3. Eat fresh produce all year long.
Find out which fruits and veggies are in season—even in the winter—and stock up at the store and farmers' markets. Eating fresh means eating the tastiest and most delicious produce around.
4. Indulge smarter.
Chocolate-dipped strawberries? Choco-Nut popcorn? Yes, please. Lower sugar doesn’t have to mean less deliciousness.
5. Understand emotional eating.
There is a link between how we feel and how we eat, particularly when it comes to stress. Stress, eating and the reward system. Adam TC, Epel ES. Physiology & behavior, 2007, Apr.;91(4):0031-9384. Figuring out what kind of eater you are and whether you look to food to comfort you in times of anger, boredom, stress, or sadness will help you formulate a plan for making different decisions when faced with those emotions.
6. Make holidays, birthdays, and special occasions a little healthier.
Holidays and special occasions are always a good reason to enjoy delicious food. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to celebrate without going overboard.
7. Be mindful at meal times...
Staying tuned in to what you’re eating (as opposed to the phone or TV) is a great way to eat until you’re full, but not beyond. Being relaxed and mindful can also help you heed fullness cues.
8. …But don’t overthink it.
Recent research shows that the more time we take to think about whether or not we should eat something, the more likely we are to find a reason to justify eating it. The role of neural impulse control mechanisms for dietary success in obesity. Weygandt M, Mai K, Dommes E. NeuroImage, 2013, Jul.;83():1095-9572. Checking in with yourself about your mood and are great habits to have, but remember to trust your gut (pun intended).
9. Start the day right.
Studies suggest that eating a healthy breakfast is linked to sustained weight loss and weight management, particularly when that breakfast is nutritious and fiber-rich and high in protein. Beneficial effects of a higher-protein breakfast on the appetitive, hormonal, and neural signals controlling energy intake regulation in overweight/obese, "breakfast-skipping," late-adolescent girls. Leidy HJ, Ortinau LC, Douglas SM. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 2013, Feb.;97(4):1938-3207. Long-term weight loss and breakfast in subjects in the National Weight Control Registry. Wyatt HR, Grunwald GK, Mosca CL. Obesity research, 2002, Apr.;10(2):1071-7323.
10. Use the buddy system.
Having a partner with the same healthy-eating ambitions has been shown to help both people reach their goals. Involving support partners in obesity treatment. Gorin A, Phelan S, Tate D. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 2005, May.;73(2):0022-006X. If you don’t yet know anyone with goals similar to yours, find a community online.
I Want to... Stress Less
Feeling crazy stressed, super tense, or stretched too thin? You’re not alone. A whopping 70 percent of Americans experience physical or emotional symptoms of at some point. Nip stress in the bud, or at least reduce its effects, with these tips.
Quieting the mind has been shown to relieve stress. Mindfulness-based stress reduction, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and Zen meditation for depression, anxiety, pain, and psychological distress. Marchand WR. Journal of psychiatric practice, 2012, Dec.;18(4):1538-1145. And because it can be done so many different ways, from sitting to walking to chanting or even dancing, it’s one of the most versatile stress reduction techniques around.
2. Start LOLing.
Hearty laughter is more than fun; it’s also therapeutic. Research has shown it has positive effects on relationships, physical health, stress response, and fatigue. [Laughter and depression: hypothesis of pathogenic and therapeutic correlation]. Fonzi L, Matteucci G, Bersani G. Rivista di psichiatria, 2010, May.;45(1):0035-6484. A case of laughter therapy that helped improve advanced gastric cancer. Noji S, Takayanagi K. Japan-hospitals : the journal of the Japan Hospital Association, 2011, Jul.;(29):0910-1004. [Effects of laughter therapy on postpartum fatigue and stress responses of postpartum women]. Shin HS, Ryu KH, Song YA. Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing, 2011, Dec.;41(3):2093-758X.
3. Move your bod.
The rush of endorphins (your brain’s “feel-good transmitters”) that comes after vigorous exercise is also known as the runner’s high. Whether it manifests as calm or a feeling of euphoria, either one offers stress relief.
4. Chill with Fido.
Now's the time to become a Corgi lover or a cat fan. Spending quality time with a pet has been shown to activate oxytocin, a hormone that lowers stress. Psychophysiological effects of human-animal interaction: theoretical issues and long-term interaction effects. Virués-Ortega J, Buela-Casal G. The Journal of nervous and mental disease, 2006, Feb.;194(1):0022-3018.
5. Get a massage.
Not only does a rub-down feel darn fantastic, it’s also a proven way to reduce stress. Physiological responses to touch massage in healthy volunteers. Lindgren L, Rundgren S, Winsö O. Autonomic neuroscience : basic & clinical, 2011, Sep.;158(1-2):1872-7484.
6. Listen to music.
Get grooving—music has been shown to help us chill out. From music-beat to heart-beat: a journey in the complex interactions between music, brain and heart. Cervellin G, Lippi G. European journal of internal medicine, 2011, Mar.;22(4):1879-0828. Go for the classic(al) stuff; it’s been specifically shown to reduce anxiety, anger, and stress. Coping with stress: the effectiveness of different types of music. Labbé E, Schmidt N, Babin J. Applied psychophysiology and biofeedback, 2007, Oct.;32(3-4):1090-0586.
7. Get in touch with your inner yogi.
Restorative yoga is all about stillness and being calm. In one study, participants with cancer who practiced it experienced positive changes, both for their mental health and their quality of life. Restorative yoga for women with ovarian or breast cancer: findings from a pilot study. Danhauer SC, Tooze JA, Farmer DF. Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology, 2008, Oct.;6(2):1715-894X.
8. Get creative.
Grab some supplies and start creating. In studies, art therapy (a program that involves creating art to explore feelings, reduce anxiety, improve self-esteem, and work through conflict) has been shown to reduce stress. Art therapy may be benefitial for reducing stress--related behaviours in people with dementia--case report. Mimica N, Kalinić D. Psychiatria Danubina, 2011, Jun.;23(1):0353-5053. If you don’t have access to an art therapy provider, consider taking on some creativity-boosting habits.
9. Take five.
Make a habit of treating yourself to five minutes of relaxation a day, even if you have to schedule it in your calendar and set a reminder. If you have a few moments to look out the window or take a quick, mindful stroll around the block, you have time to de-stress.
10. Have sex or masturbate.
Good-feeling and good for you, sex and masturbation have been shown to make people less reactive to stressful situations. Blood pressure reactivity to stress is better for people who recently had penile-vaginal intercourse than for people who had other or no sexual activity. Brody S. Biological Psychology, 2005, Jun.;71(2):0301-0511.
I Want to... Booze Less
Imbibing makes us pay—in dollars and in calories—and for whatever not-so-great decisions we might make while intoxicated. Alcohol effects on performance monitoring and adjustment: affect modulation and impairment of evaluative cognitive control. Bartholow BD, Henry EA, Lust SA. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 2011, May.;121(1):1939-1846. So it’s no wonder that resolving to drink less in the new year ranks as a top priority for many people. Especially after a sodden holiday season, cutting out alcohol (or at least cutting back on it) makes sense. The tips below will help you dry out, without sacrificing fun.
1. Skip the pub crawl.
For some people who are attempting sobriety (or just trying to imbibe less) it’s helpful to avoid certain social situations, especially the ones that tend to focus on drinking, like happy hours, pub crawls, wine tastings, etc. Choose other activities such as venturing outdoors or going on an unconventional date that doesn't involve sitting at a bar. And don’t let FOMO get you down—plan alcohol-free group activities and ask friends to hang out before they hit the bar.
2. Keep a record.
Use an app to track what you’ve drunk in real time or create a simple calendar that logs the details of your drinking—what you drank, how much, when and where, plus any consequences or other details. This can teach you more about your behaviors around drinking and help you change them.
3. Focus on the benefits.
For many people, cutting down on booze means a clearer head, more energy, and weight loss, all of which can beget healthier choices. Keeping all the positives in mind will motivate you to stick with it.
4. Enjoy it in moderation.
As long as you’re not battling alcohol dependence, learn to party sensibly. Avoid the trap of depriving yourself so completely that you eventually break and end up overdoing it, by occasionally enjoying a drink or two.
5. Get enough sleep.
A study found that people who sleep less are prone to drink more. Short sleep duration is associated with greater alcohol consumption in adults. Chaput JP, McNeil J, Després JP. Appetite, 2012, Jul.;59(3):1095-8304. It’s not clear whether drinking affects the quality of sleep or lack of sleep drives people to drink, but it’s still worth getting the recommended seven to nine hours of shut-eye.
6. Get educated about alcohol.
Alcohol may be widely used, but many myths about alcohol, drinking, and hangovers persist. (“Beer before liquor, never been sicker, anyone?”) Knowing the facts about what you’re drinking (and not drinking) could empower you to make better choices.
7. Bounce back from slip-ups.
(And help yourself recover.) Try not to let a lapse in judgment or willpower torpedo your efforts. Studies show that when people slip up (by eating or drinking more than they’d planned), they fall into a kind of low self-esteem spiral—they dwell on their “failures,” their self-esteem takes a hit, and they end up making further poor choices. Self-esteem, restraint, and eating behavior. Polivy J, Heatherton TF, Herman CP. Journal of abnormal psychology, 1989, Jan.;97(3):0021-843X. Getting a bigger slice of the pie. Effects on eating and emotion in restrained and unrestrained eaters. Polivy J, Herman CP, Deo R. Appetite, 2010, Aug.;55(3):1095-8304. If you find yourself leaving the bar a few rounds after you said you would or partying harder than you intended, try to reflect on exactly how and where you went wrong and what you can change next time. Remember, a slip-up leads to an opportunity to get it right the time!
8. Discover the wonderful world of booze-free beverages.
Learn to love coffee and tea, assorted non-nonalcoholic beverages, and mocktails. Get creative with juices, soda water, and garnishes, and you could find yourself becoming a sober barfly.
9. Make a plan and stick to it.
Scrap the ol’ “wing it and hope for the best” tactic. On lazy afternoons watching the game or wild nights at the club, one beer/pickleback/sake bomb can turn into many before you know it. Before going out, decide how much you’ll drink and stick to your limit.
10. If you’re going to booze, make the healthiest choices available.
Cocktails with less salt and sugar mean fewer calories, and the fancier the booze, the fewer the hangover-inducing additives. (Overdid it anyway? Check out the best and worst foods and drinks for hangovers.)
I Want to... Lose Weight
If an indulgent holiday season left you want to shed some pounds, you’re not alone. A 2012 survey estimated that the number of American adults who are dieting jumps from 34 million during the holidays to 50 million in the first two weeks of January. Use these tips to stay on track and meet your weight loss goals—plus check out our massive list of tricks for losing weight the healthy, science-backed way.
1. Set a realistic goal.
Think about what you can reasonably expect to be able to lose given your routine, lifestyle, upcoming trips and parties, and so on. Setting goals that are too lofty can hamper long-term weight loss. Unrealistic weight-loss goals among obese patients are associated with age and causal attributions. Wamsteker EW, Geenen R, Zelissen PM. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2010, Feb.;109(11):1878-3570.
2. Pump iron.
Strength training gets you toned, buff, and it boosts metabolism, which aids in weight loss. Effect of acute resistance exercise on postexercise oxygen consumption and resting metabolic rate in young women. Osterberg KL, Melby CL. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 2000, Aug.;10(1):1526-484X. Strength training increases resting metabolic rate and norepinephrine levels in healthy 50- to 65-yr-old men. Pratley R, Nicklas B, Rubin M. Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985), 1994, Jun.;76(1):8750-7587. Talk about a win-win!
3. Expect success and fight to stay positive.
Weight loss can be as much a mental game as a physical one. Successful weight loss is associated with positive expectations. The effects of outcome expectations and satisfaction on weight loss and maintenance: correlational and experimental analyses--a randomized trial. Finch EA, Linde JA, Jeffery RW. Health psychology : official journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association, 2006, Apr.;24(6):0278-6133. Imagine yourself meeting your goals and remind yourself of all the great reasons you’re making the effort to lose weight.
4. Sub smartly.
Almost every favorite dish can be made healthier with a substitution. Try trading avocado or unsweetened applesauce for butter and vanilla for sugar. Heck, even sugar-laden desserts can be swapped out with healthier desserts.
5. Picture yourself eating something.
Research shows that picturing yourself eating a particular food can decrease our desire to eat it. Thought for food: imagined consumption reduces actual consumption. Morewedge CK, Huh YE, Vosgerau J. Science (New York, N.Y.), 2010, Dec.;330(6010):1095-9203.
6. Keep a diary.
Successful weight loss and food diaries are a match made in heaven—research shows that recording what and when you eat aids in losing weight. If you’re more likely to tap on your phone than scribble on a pad, move your food diary to a mobile or desktop app. Research has shown that using online tech to track progress aids weight loss efforts.
7. Burn fat.
Short, intense bouts of exercise like tabatas can help reduce body fat and provide a powerful workout in a short time. The effects of high-intensity intermittent exercise training on fat loss and fasting insulin levels of young women. Trapp EG, Chisholm DJ, Freund J. International journal of obesity (2005), 2008, Jan.;32(4):1476-5497.
8. Curb overeating.
Portion control makes all the difference when it comes to weight loss. Use of portion-controlled entrees enhances weight loss in women. Hannum SM, Carson L, Evans EM. Obesity research, 2004, Jul.;12(3):1071-7323. Fight portion distortion by getting a handle on what a sensible serving looks like.
9. Savor every bite.
Eating slowly gives your body a chance to feel full, making it less likely that you’ll overeat. Eating slowly increases the postprandial response of the anorexigenic gut hormones, peptide YY and glucagon-like peptide-1. Kokkinos A, le Roux CW, Alexiadou K. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, 2009, Oct.;95(1):1945-7197.
10. Guzzle water.
Drinking water keeps us feeling full, which means fewer calories consumed. Drinking water is associated with weight loss in overweight dieting women independent of diet and activity. Stookey JD, Constant F, Popkin BM, et al. Obesity. 2008 Nov;16(11):2481-8.
I Want to... Quit Smoking
From cancer, heart disease, and stroke to blindness, blood clots, gum disease, tooth loss, and yellow skin and fingernails, the list of grim health outcomes associated with smoking is pretty long. The new year is the perfect time to quit—and the tips below will help you do it.
1. Motivate yourself to quit.
Make a list of reasons you want to stop puffing and all the awesome things that will result when you’re no longer smoking. Keep this list handy and refer to it frequently.
2. Set a quit date.
Commit to the day you plan to quit and do what you have to do to make it stick—write it down, tell loved ones, or set reminders and alerts on your phone.
3. Identify triggers.
Spend some time figuring out what triggers your cravings. For example, research suggests that merely being in places you associate with smoking can make you want to light up. Environments as cues to smoke: implications for human extinction-based research and treatment. Conklin CA. Experimental and clinical psychopharmacology, 2006, Jun.;14(1):1064-1297. Think ahead to what those places might be for you and come up with an alternative hangout spot for each one. Then make a plan for how you’ll handle cravings. One option is to sign up for SmokefreeTXT for ’round the clock encouragement and advice. Other ideas: Practice relaxation or call a friend for support.
4. Sing it from the mountaintops.
Tell friends and family that you are going to quit so that they can support and encourage you and hold you accountable.
5. Try, try again.
Each time a smoker tries to quit, they learn something about the process that makes them more likely to succeed the next time they try. Plus, research has shown that even successful quitters have experienced temporary relapses. How does a failed quit attempt among regular smokers affect their cigarette consumption? Findings from the International Tobacco Control Four-Country Survey (ITC-4). Yong HH, Borland R, Hyland A. Nicotine & tobacco research : official journal of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, 2008, Oct.;10(5):1462-2203.
6. Celebrate smokelessness.
Reward yourself for your efforts and successes. Buy yourself dinner or some other small treat to recognize your efforts. Maybe a smoke-free week calls for that book you’ve had your eye on, one month means dinner and a movie, six months without a puff calls for a massage, and so on.
7. Find power in numbers.
A smoking cessation group offers extra support from other people who are quitting, too, and increases the chances of quitting successfully by 30 percent.
8. Find something else for your mouth to do.
Chew gum, suck hard candy, crunch celery. Find something reasonably healthy you can keep on you at all times and pop it in your mouth when the urge to smoke hits.
9. Practice mindfulness meditation.
When the urge to smoke hits, try taking a step back, taking a few deep breaths, acknowledging the craving, and then letting it go. Research showed that smokers who practiced mindfulness training showed a greater rate of reduction in smoking.
10. Accept an assist.
Nicotine Replace Therapy (NRT) with patches, inhalers, and lozenges have been show to help people quit smoking. Nicotine replacement therapy for smoking cessation. Stead LF, Perera R, Bullen C. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, 2008, Jan.;(1):1469-493X. Talk to a doctor about whether one of these is an option for you.
I Want to... Save Money
The best things in life may be free, but it’s nice to have debts paid down, a decent credit score, and some money left over for that weekend trip or occasional retail therapy. Use the tips below for useful info on how to save without giving up spending altogether.
1. Learn the money basics.
Understanding finances, from the difference between good debt and bad debt to the ins and outs of budgeting, is the first step in managing money like a boss.
2. Save creatively.
Sock money away with some minor tweaks to your daily routine, like swapping store-bought cleaning products for homemade ones, or cooking inexpensive meals with a slow cooker (which also cuts down on electricity usage!).
3. Make financial responsibility sexy.
The good news is that it’s possible to spend quality time without spending lots of cash. Make cooking together or working out with your special someone into a date!
4. Cancel memberships and subscriptions you can live without.
Haven't been to the gym in a while? Consider canceling your membership to work out at home. Or get rid of cable and resolve to watch all TV and movies by streaming them for free or at lower cost.
6. Gift creatively.
Holidays, birthdays, “just-because” gifts… they can add up. But it’s possible to be thoughtful and frugal at the same time. Craft something special with your own two hands or give things that are super meaningful and super affordable.
7. Save automagically.
Set up an automated recurring transaction that moves money from your checking account and deposits it into your savings account. Whether it’s $2 per week or $15 each month, you’ll be putting something away consistently.
8. Take out less, make-in more.
There are plenty of ways to eat delicious food without dropping a ton of bank. Make takeout a for-special-occasions-only thing and start making healthy breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and sides, and dessert at home.
9. Pay yourself first.
Deposit a bit of every paycheck into a high-yield savings account. Again, whether it’s a dollar amount or a small percentage, a few dollars here and there adds up.
10. Brew your own joe.
If you’re anything like the average American, you might be spending over a grand on coffee each year. Cold brewing makes delicious coffee hot or cold, and all you need is grounds, a container, water, and time.
I Want to... Sleep More
According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should be getting between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. But between making time for work, family, friends, exercise, and everything else we’re trying to squeeze in, a full night’s rest is often the first thing to go. Follow a few simple tips and tricks to get more (and better!) sleep.
1. Learn all the facts.
Deepening your understanding of the importance of sleep might help strengthen your commitment to catch more Zzz’s. Start by learning how sleep is good for our health, what sleep disorders look like, and the relationship between food and sleep.
2. Make it routine.
Keeping a regular sleep schedule will train your body and mind to wind down at bedtime. Though it’s tempting to try to use weekends or less busy periods of time to bank sleep, research has shown that you can’t really make up for sleep lost over a period of days in just one or two good nights’ sleep, so remember to make your weekends as regular as weekdays.
5. Skip the nightcap.
Boozing around bedtime can disrupt sleep. Increase your chances for restful sleep by imbibing earlier in the evening. Alcohol and sleep I: effects on normal sleep. Ebrahim IO, Shapiro CM, Williams AJ. Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research, 2013, Jan.;37(4):1530-0277.
6. Have sex or masturbate.
Hanky panky with someone you love (whether that means a partner or yourself) before bed can help you fall asleep. During and after sex, hormones like oxytocin that help you nod off are released.
7. Nap smart.
An afternoon nap is refreshing and rejuvenating—as long as you following napping best practices. Snoozing for 10 to 20 minutes at least three to four hours before bedtime generally won’t interfere with a good night’s sleep. The effects of napping on cognitive functioning. Lovato N, Lack L. Progress in brain research, 2011, Feb.;185():1875-7855. Effects of sleep inertia after daytime naps vary with executive load and time of day. Groeger JA, Lo JC, Burns CG. Behavioral neuroscience, 2012, Mar.;125(2):1939-0084.
8. Go for a (nature) walk.
Treat yourself to a stroll among greenery. Research has linked forest walks with better sleep.
10. Kick clocks and snooze buttons to the curb.
Relying on alarm clocks and snooze buttons wreaks havoc on our body’s natural rhythms. What keeps us awake? The role of clocks and hourglasses, light, and melatonin. Cajochen C, Chellappa S, Schmidt C. International review of neurobiology, 2011, Aug.;93():0074-7742. To develop better sleep habits, get a handle on your circadian rhythms and determine when your body naturally wants to fall asleep, wake up, work, and exercise—and then craft a schedule around those rhythms.
I Want to... Learn a New Skill
Taking a class in a new subject or teaching yourself a skill is more than just a way to pass time and have fun. It also keeps your mind sharp. The impact of sustained engagement on cognitive function in older adults: the Synapse Project. Park DC, Lodi-Smith J, Drew L. Psychological science, 2013, Nov.;25(1):1467-9280. Whether you’re in it to learn a new language so you can move to France for work, or simply trying to keep your mental edge, these tips will help.
2. Prep your mind.
We can make our minds sharper with simple tricks, from getting adequate sleep to clearing clutter, doodling, even playing video games—preparing us to absorb all kinds of new information and skills.
3. Take more blink breaks.
Research has shown that blinking more helps us focus attention and process whatever we’re seeing.
5. Immerse yourself.
Under the right circumstances, adults can learn to speak new languages as well as native speakers. Research has shown that immersion learning helps adults retain what they’ve learned.
6. Focus on technique, not outcome.
Try “deliberate practice,” which means first working on the techniques required to master a given skill, then setting specific goals, and finally getting (and using) feedback from trusted sources.
7. Get better at hacking.
Not this kind. Life hacks are tips, tricks, and shortcuts that make everyday life easier, more efficient, or just plain fun. Skills in and of themselves, some life hacks even make us better at learning. Hone in on one area of life you wish you had more mastery of—laundry, etiquette, personal finance—and choose two or three hacks to learn and integrate into your routine.
8. Ace any test.
If you’re taking a class in the new year, good study habits go a long way. Many of them are as simple as taking written notes, reading aloud, and training your memory. When learning met memory. Macleod CM. Canadian journal of experimental psychology = Revue canadienne de psychologie expérimentale, 2011, May.;64(4):1878-7290.
9. Commit to 100 days of practice.
With the app 100, users accept a challenge to practice getting better at something for 100 days and share a ten-second video of their progress as they go. People are using the app to learn gymnastics, ukulele, juggling, and more. Although there are no promises about how proficient you’ll be after 100 days, the app and community could provide built-in motivation to practice and learn from others.
10. Learn for the sake of learning.
Even if there isn’t a specific skill you absolutely need to have, learning for its own sake is fun and keeps the mind sharp. The impact of sustained engagement on cognitive function in older adults: the Synapse Project. Park DC, Lodi-Smith J, Drew L. Psychological science, 2013, Nov.;25(1):1467-9280. From survival skills (hey, you never know, right?), to getting better at Excel, to performing first aid, there are tons of skills that could come in handy, or could just be really cool to know and show off.
I Want to... Go Green
Resolving to take better care of our environment isn’t only great for Mother Earth. It benefits us too, by making the places we live, work, and play healthier and safer. Check out some tips below for simple, easy ways to be more eco-friendly.
1. Clean greener.
By making your own cleaning products, you’re saving a few bucks while doing your part to save the planet. These solutions get the job done minus the toxic chemicals that can leech into our waterways, which is healthy for you and the environment.
2. Treat the planet well while traveling it.
From the way we pack to our mode of transportation to where we stay, there are many ways to leave a smaller footprint when we travel. Many of them are as simple as turning down the thermostat, unplugging appliances, and suspending newspaper delivery while we’re away.
3. Carry a reusable water bottle.
Pick up a BPA-free bottle for your water and you won’t have to buy (and waste) disposable bottles anymore. Bonus: One dollar from every purchase of this useful, reusable bottle provides clean drinking water for people in need.
4. Eat fewer animal products.
The environmental resources that go into animal agriculture are considerable—around 2,000 gallons of water go into raising a single pound of beef, for example. Ease into vegetarian dining slowly by starting with Meatless Mondays.
5. Ditch paper coffee cups.
Over 14 billion paper cups are used each year to serve coffee. Invest in an awesome travel mug that will keep your brew piping hot without adding to that massive paper cup pile. Bonus: Most coffee shops offer a few cents off your order for bringing your own mug.
6. Make your effort social.
Join others trying to make a difference for the planet by accepting a challenge on carbonrally.com. You can commit to turning off the lights every day for a week, eliminating drafts in your home, giving up meat for two days, and lots more. Compete, socialize, and rally others to join.
7. Let there be (more efficient) light.
Compact fluorescent light bulbs use between 60 and 80 percent less energy than regular incandescent bulbs. This is an easy, quick way to make each room in your house more energy efficient.
8. Learn to love towels.
Paper makes up one third of municipal landfill waste, so now is a great time to cut down on our paper towel use. Luckily, there are far greener ways to wipe and dry in the kitchen, like cloth towels made from recycled materials and/or organic cotton.
9. Bag plastic bags.
Start packing groceries and other items in reusable bags that can be easily to carried around for whenever you might need to grab groceries, pack a snack, or run errands.
10. Close the (fridge) door.
It turns out that knowing what you’re reaching for before you open the refrigerator door can help you can save a significant amount of energy. Plus, when the fridge is running efficiently, it keeps food fresher, reducing opportunities for food waste.
Originally published December 2014. Updated December 2015.