What new habits — big or small — have improved your physical, mental or spiritual health this year? For instance, did you start eating healthier food? Sleeping more? Cutting down on social media?
What bad habits have you fallen into this year? Do you have ideas for changing them?
In “Our Favorite Healthy Habits of 2021,” Tara Parker-Pope shares the Well section’s best advice for better living. Here are excerpts from four of the entries:
Enjoy exercise snacks. Too often we think of exercise as a formal activity we have to do for an hour at the gym each day. But a number of studies show that short bursts of exercise several times a day lead to meaningful gains in fitness and overall health. Just as you might grab a handful of chips or nuts to break the monotony of your day, an exercise “snack” is a quick movement break. Get up and pace when you’re on the phone. Do jumping jacks, lunges or a wall sit, or walk the stairs for 20 seconds. My go-to exercise snack is 10 wall push-ups.
Take a gratitude photo. If a gratitude journal isn’t your thing, make a plan to take one photo a day of something special in your life. It can be a cute picture of your dog, a sunset or a delicious meal. Take a moment to study the photo, sit with your feelings of gratitude, and then share it with a friend or post it on social media.
Print a “feelings” list. Every day when you brush your teeth or make your coffee, ask yourself: How are you, really? Think of a word that describes exactly what you’re feeling. Unsettled? Energetic? Delighted? Frazzled? (Avoid standard answers like “good,” “fine” or “OK.”) This simple labeling activity is surprisingly effective for calming stress and taking the sting out of negative thoughts. Studies show that when we label our feelings, it helps turn off the emotional alarm system in our brain and lowers our stress response.
Make it easy: In the scientific study of habit formation, the thing that makes it harder for you to achieve your goal is called friction, which typically comes in three forms — distance, time and effort. The friction-free habits you’ll keep are those that are convenient, happen close to home and don’t take much time or effort.