As the New Year kicks off, it’s easy to get excited—and overwhelmed—by the new promises and commitments that’ll make 2016 your best year yet. Want to lose a couple pounds (the healthy way) or read The New Yorker cover to cover every month? Go for it!
But as you set these intentions for yourself, don't forget to acknowledge the awesome stuff you’re already doing for your health and happiness. The 10 healthy habits below rarely get much recognition, but they are so worth celebrating. And better yet: They’re the building blocks for your new resolutions.
1. You fit in exercise.
There’s a reason gyms are always jam-packed come January 2, and that’s because getting fit AF is at the top of just about every must-do list. The good news? You may not realize it, but you're already working toward your fitness goals every time you walk to work, take your pup for a stroll, or go out for a night of dancing . Heck, even everyday activities like grocery shopping or cleaning your house can be a form of exercise.
Amp it up: Take what personal trainer Stacy Berman, founder of Stacy’s Bootcamp and The System by Stacy, calls “the bathroom challenge.” (Don’t worry, this has nothing to do with digestion.) Just pick any exercise and commit to doing one set of it every time you have to hit the loo. “You can imagine after a minimum of 10 visits to the bathroom per day, 10 sets of any exercise will up your fitness game,” she says. Plus, Berman herself is proof positive that it works; this strategy is how she achieved her personal goal of crushing 10 unassisted pull-ups!
Another option? Channel your inner kid. “Playtime is the epitome of working out without realizing you are working out,” Berman says. “It’ll keep you active and smiling.” So find something fun—like an adult kickball league or going for a round or two of Horse—and get out there.
2. You’re saving money.
Have you set up a regular automatic transfer to your savings account? Great! Already contribute to your 401(k)? Awesome! Since finances are just no fun (for most people) and our inboxes are constantly flooded with enticing “can’t-miss” deals, it can be hard to save money. So give yourself props for contributing—no matter how little—to your grown-up piggy banks (a.k.a. your savings account).
Amp it up: Though dealing with number-related nitty gritty can be a pain, that doesn’t mean you can’t kick your savings up a notch sans stress. Take, for instance, the times when an offer code knocks a couple bucks off your online purchase. Instead of keeping the cash you saved in your checking account, immediately transfer it over to an investment fund, suggests Andrea Woroch, a consumer and money-saving expert. “This is the fastest way to make those savings work for you and help you grow your dough,” she says. And be a smart shopper: Woroch recommends using coupons or an app like CouponSherpa and trackif.com, which lets you know if something you’ve bought is up for a price adjustment. Still stumped? Any of these 94 tips will help you save more, stat.
3. You give back.
That whole "it’s better to give than to receive" thing? It’s so true! Volunteering offers a load of health benefits, makes you happier, and brings you good karma, after all. Whether you’ve donated toys to kids in need over the holidays or contributed to your coworker's Cycle for Survival team, know this: You did good this past year.
Amp it up: If you want to do a bit more good, you’re in luck, because it’s a breeze (and doesn’t necessarily mean forking over more cash)! These 41 charities, organizations, and brands help you get involved in the community and improve the world around you. Try one, or try a couple—either way you’re paying it forward.
4. You’re a glass-half-full kind of person.
What do work stress, friend breakups, and body image issues have in common? They can seriously get you down, and sometimes they’re hard to avoid or even (seemingly) impossible to overcome. But if you’re the kind of person who pushes through it all, thanks to the power of your own positivity (or by leaning on friends in time of need), you’re doing it right.
Amp it up: During times that just seriously suck, "ask yourself, 'Will this matter in a year?'," suggests Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., author of The How of Happiness and professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside. "This question gives you a broader perspective on your life and makes you realize that most daily hassles, slights, upsets, or rejections are pretty trivial in the larger scheme of things." So that bad haircut or the fact that your roommate forgot to do the dishes? Do like Elsa in Frozen and let it go.
5. You take the time to take care of yourself.
Some might count getting a massage, hitting up a yoga class, or taking a vacation as indulgences. While they for sure land in the “treat yourself” camp, they’re by no means selfish acts—in fact, they can all play a part in self-care. “Our well-being is our own responsibility as grown-ups,” says life coach Christine Hassler, author of Expectation Hangover: Overcoming Disappointment in Work, Love and Life. “And the better we take care of ourselves, the better we are able to show up in the world and truly love and serve others.” True. That.
Amp it up: By now you probably know how awesome meditation is (just check out all its benefits!). As it turns out, a daily mindfulness practice is one of Hassler’s favorite exercises in self-care. This state of stillness lets you get in touch with your feelings and take stock of your relationship with yourself, she says. Good stuff, considering how easy it is to get bogged down by life’s stressors. Need help kick-starting your meditation habit? Take a look at this video, and know that even experts struggled when they first started meditating.
6. You set goals.
As author Napoleon Hill said, “A goal is a dream with a deadline.” Though it’s sometimes easy to forget about the deadline part of the equation, you deserve props for even having the dream—whether that means running your first (or fastest!) 5K, nailing a handstand, or blasting through a boxing session.
Amp it up: Since imagining you hit the weights every day isn’t going to add muscle to your frame, you’ve got to put in the work to make the dream a reality—though we get that life (and impromptu happy hours) happen. To take your goals to the next level, Chris Freytag, fitness expert and founder of GetHealthyU, suggests embracing deadline-oriented training by signing up for a contest or challenge. And remember, the finish line is just the beginning of the next race: “As you finish each challenge, find the next one to work towards,” she says.
7. You cook for yourself.
Calling for delivery may win out more often than not, but preparing a meal for yourself once or twice a week (even if it's boiling a pot of pasta or scrambling eggs) deserves a round of applause. Research shows that when you cook at home, you’re likely cutting back on calories, sodium, and fat—and saving money in the process.
Amp it up: By default, your home-cooked meal is probably going to be healthier than a restaurant. That said, there are a couple smart tweaks you can make to make things even healthier. Swap out butter for heart-healthy olive oil, and try flavoring foods with salt-free seasonings, like fresh garlic and onions, dried herbs, and low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, suggests Alana Fiorentino, RDN, CDE, a dietitian-nutritionist and certified diabetes educator based in New York City. And always, always include veggies in your meals, she says. (If you find it difficult to cook a meal for just one person, here's everything you need to make it happen.)
8. You’re grateful.
Experts believe and studies suggest that expressing gratitude can improve relationships, boost happiness, and may even be linked to exercising more and visiting the doctor less. So it’s safe to say that an attitude of gratitude is all-around good for you; it’s also something to be proud of, even if it’s not something you focus on all the time.
Amp it up: According to Lyubomirsky, feeling sincerely grateful regularly is no easy feat—humans naturally tend to take things for granted. Her top tip for taking your gratitude to the next level: Get on a schedule. “The key is that it has to be made a habit and it has to vary (i.e. not be the same each time),” she says. Set time aside (it doesn’t matter if it’s once per day or once per week; that depends on your personal preference) to jot down someone or something you’re grateful for and explain why.
9. You’re always learning.
“The act of learning is the act of loving life,” says Lauren Zander, chairman and co-founder of Handel Group, a corporate consulting and private coaching company. (We couldn’t agree more.) Plus, Hassler points out that learning nixes boredom, stretches the mind, and challenges us, all of which can boost feelings of fulfillment. So be proud of watching The History Channel, listening to podcasts during your commute, or signing up for a class on a site like Skillshare.
Amp it up: Consider enlisting a partner in crime to take learning to the next level. Whether it’s your BFF, significant other, or kid, having someone to hold you accountable will help keep you committed, Hassler says. Bonus: You get to spend some quality time with someone you love in the process, Zander adds. We call that a win-win.
10. You're (pretty) organized.
If there’s one thing the much-discussed book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up brought to light this past year is that an organized life is a happier one. So if you’ve spent even a small part of 2015 decluttering, cleaning out your closet, or tackling the pile of paperwork on your desk, you’re on the right track.
Amp it up: All that purging you’ve done? Keep at it—especially if it’s a project you started in the past. Get rid of anything you don’t use, need, or like, suggests Hassler. It’s the first step to becoming the most organized person in the world.
“The best way a person can bring order to their life is with structure, repetition, and patterns,” Zander says. In other words, set routines for yourself, like paying your bills on a certain date or turning Sunday fundays into the days you grocery shop and cook up a meal or two for the week ahead. “People do well with routines,” she adds. “It’s not a lack of spontaneity, but wisdom.”