Raise your hand if you’re already dreading all the “lose your pandemic weight in 2021” articles. Fitness goals are great, but not every health goal has to involve swimsuit season. Here are some health goals you can set in 2021 that have nothing to do with the number on the scale.
Become More Mindful
Mindfulness refers to being conscious of your feelings and surroundings. It sounds simple, but many people cope with pain, anger, and stress by tuning out of the world. Being more mindful is shown to help people manage stress, reduce anxiety and depression, and improve self-esteem, among other benefits.
The simplest way to practice mindfulness is to slow down and think about your emotions and actions while you do something. For example, when you want to grab a snack, pause and ask yourself what you feel like eating. If it is a hamburger and you’re trying to cut down on fast food, think about why you want to eat that food. Does fast food make you feel better when you’re stressed? Is it too overwhelming to cook something at home? Becoming more aware of how you feel and why you behave in certain ways will help you make better decisions in life.
Meditation is also a great way to practice mindfulness. Apps like Calm and Headspace have well-rated beginner programs to ease you into the practice. You can also find guided meditations and calming music for free online.
Eat More Veggies
Eating healthier is one of the most common New Year’s Resolutions. But instead of committing to a miserable diet you don’t even enjoy, make healthy eating more manageable by adding more vegetables into your diet. You’re more likely to stick to this instead of starving yourself for a few weeks before binging on all the delicious foods you missed.
According to the CDC, only 1 in 10 adults eats the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables each day. Most veggies are low in fat and full of vitamins and minerals that your body needs. Try adding one extra serving of vegetables into your diet each day and work your way up from there.
And remember, this doesn’t mean you have to eat canned green beans with every meal! (Unless that’s your jam.) Experiment with recipes and find foods you enjoy. When in doubt, fresh spinach or cauliflower blended into a smoothie becomes practically undetectable.
Find Movement You Enjoy
If you’ve been told pumping iron at the gym is the only way to get fit, you’ve been sold a lie. Our bodies rely much more on general movement than intense daily workouts. If your goal is to build muscle or train for a sporting event, sure, but don’t feel like you have to buy a pricey gym membership to get healthy.
The CDC recommends adults get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week, which equals about 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. They also recommend 2 days a week of muscle-strengthening activities. If you’re new to working out, start with moderate aerobic activity first.
The goal is to get moving. If you feel like going for a run, awesome. If walking is more your style, that’s great, too. The secret to staying active is finding something you enjoy. If you hate running, don’t run. It’s not the only way to get fit. You might need to experiment with different activities for a while before you find your thing. Try online workout videos, dance classes, and whatever else looks remotely interesting until you find an activity that gets you moving and puts a smile on your face.
Think therapy is only for people with mental illnesses or trauma? Think again. Unless you’re 100% satisfied with every aspect of your life, you could benefit from a visit or two with a therapist.
Therapy can help you become more self-aware, work through tough decisions, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and becoming healthier in your mind and body. If you can afford it, this is definitely something to try in the new year.
Adopt Intuitive Eating
If you feel out of control when it comes to food, try adopting intuitive eating this year. This principle focuses on honoring your body’s hunger and fulness signals by eating when you’re hungry and quitting when you’re full. It also encourages keeping all foods on the table (figuratively), so you never feel deprived of a certain snack or meal.
Intuitive eating has helped millions of people return to a healthy weight after years of dieting and being subject to a repeating weight loss/weight gain cycle. Learning to listen to your body will help you develop a better relationship with food, crave junk food less, and eat healthier overall.
Get More Sleep
Sleep affects virtually every aspect of our bodies and minds. Poor or limited sleep is linked to a weaker immune system, reduced concentration, greater risk of heart disease, and depression, just to name a few.
Everyone’s situation is different, but try to prioritize sleep more this year. That may mean cutting out one show at night to get to bed 30 minutes earlier—or sneaking in a nap!—hiring out tasks like yard upkeep or cleaning to help you keep up with the chores, or even cutting work hours if you’re spread too thin. Again, these changes may not be possible for everyone, so do what you can to catch a few more Z’s when possible.