It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the changes you want to make in the new year, from eating right to moving more. But if you take a step back and look at your day-to-day actions, you may realize you’re already making a lot of healthy choices. While there’s always room for improvement, if you can check off these basic habits, you’re on the right road to a healthy body and mind.
1. You walk every day.
Whether it’s through the grocery store, around the block, or on a treadmill, every single step counts. Hitting the road regularly can benefit your heart, relieve stress, and burn calories.
Step it up: For optimal heart health, walk briskly (at a moderate intensity) for at least 30 minutes, 5 days per week. You can even split it up into blocks of 10 or 15 minutes if that’s better for your schedule. Ready to take it up another level? Add some strength training, like this 10-minute body weight workout.
2. You make sleep a priority.
If you get 7 to 9 hours of shut-eye per night, congrats — you’re meeting the recommended amount for adults aged 18 to 60. Getting enough ZZZs helps lower your odds of developing long-term conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and depression; plus it helps you keep a healthy weight.
Step it up: Wind down about an hour before bed, and place your phone in another room so you’re not tempted to scroll through social media. Studies show that the blue light from smartphone screens can mess with levels of melatonin, the sleep-inducing chemical in your brain, and may even be linked to certain kinds of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
3. You hang out with loved ones.
Yep, being social is a sign of good health! People who have plenty of personal relationships are more likely to be healthier overall and even live longer. Whenever you catch up with a pal or sit down to dinner with your family, remind yourself of all the benefits you’re bestowing on your mind and body.
Step it up: Ditch the screen and connect in real life — research suggests that chatting face-to-face has more benefits than chatting over text or Facebook. And don’t hold back when it comes to your feelings: Expressing — rather than repressing — your emotions is key for a longer, healthier, and happier life, studies show.
4. You cook at home.
Studies show that people who cook at home eat fewer calories, carbs, and less fat than those who eat out more frequently. And you don’t have to be the next Ina Garten to enjoy a healthy home-cooked meal. Search our recipe finder for simple, delicious ideas that don’t take much time or effort to make.
Step it up: While home cooking may be naturally better for your body, you can make your meals even healthier for your heart with these simple swaps, such as cooking with vegetable oil instead of butter, or subbing avocado for mayonnaise.
5. You spend time outdoors.
Don’t underestimate the benefits of being around Mother Nature: Research shows that people who live in “greener” areas live longer, have improved mental health, move more, and feel more socially connected with others.
Step it up: On weekends, squeeze in a hike or stroll through a park to reap the rewards of both exercise and being in nature. And if you live in an urban area or can’t get outside as often as you like, simply putting some plants or flowers in your home or office can deliver health benefits, like cleaner air, a better mood, and sharper focus .
6. You’ve ditched sugary soda.
Great job — you’ve improved your heart health, lowered your blood pressure, and even reduced your risk of serious health issues like type 2 diabetes. Plus, you’ve avoided all those extra calories and sugar grams that can lead to weight gain.
Step it up: Time to give up diet soda too. Even the low- or no-calorie kind has been linked to an increased risk of health conditions like metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
7. You see your doctor regularly.
Just like taking your car in for maintenance, your body needs regular checkups too. See your primary care doctor regularly to get an overall view of your vital health numbers, like your blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight. It’s also crucial to see your doc for cancer screenings, immunizations, and vaccines as needed. Plus, she can look into any health concerns and will be able to catch any unusual symptoms early.
Step it up: Make sure you’re also scheduling appointments with specialists as needed:
- Dentist: 1 or 2 visits per year, depending on your oral health
- Dermatologist: See one for a personalized recommendation on how often you should get exams. You should also know the signs of skin cancer, and check your skin regularly for any unusual spots.
- Eye doctor: If you wear glasses or contacts, you should already be getting regular exams. But even if you don’t have vision problems or risk factors, get a baseline eye screening at age 40.
8. You stay out of the sun.
Soaking up rays (either from the sun or indoor tanning booths) has been definitively linked to an increased chance of skin cancer, not to mention wrinkles and sun spots.
Step it up: Sunscreen isn’t only for beach days. If you’re not already, you should wear it every single day on your face — even on cloudy days, up to 80% of harmful UV rays can affect your skin.
9. You look on the bright side.
If you’re the kind of person who always sees the glass half-full, kudos to you — your positive attitude lowers your odds of depression, cardiovascular disease, and even helps you live longer.
Step it up: According to research, you can actually spread positivity. Try tweaking your everyday language, like choosing to share something good about your day rather than bad, or asking co-workers how they’re doing instead of launching right into business at the start of meetings.
10. You say thank you.
Studies have shown expressing gratitude can help you feel better about your life, improve your relationships, and even help you avoid getting sick.
Step it up: Write it down. Research suggests that the act of sending thank-you letters or keeping a gratitude journal can give a big boost to your well-being and even help you sleep better. But don’t worry if you don’t have time — mentally sending a “thank you” (or a quick text) to whomever you’re grateful for can go a long way as well.
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