The new year is a great time to establish some healthy habits, but even the most well-intended attempts at change can backfire if you try to take on too much at once. Focusing on just a few key habits can set you up for your healthiest year yet! In this post, I’ll give you five daily habits to track that will give you the most bang for your buck if you want to be healthier in 2022.
Which Daily Habits to Track?
Time and energy are limited resources, and it’s easy to get a bit of analysis paralysis when deciding how to spend them.
So, I’m going to tell you! These are the five daily habits I most often work on with my 1:1 clients who are looking to improve their health.
Of all the daily habits to track, sleep should be number one on your list this year. Because if you’re like lots of American adults, you probably aren’t getting enough.
According to a November 2021 report from the Sleep Foundation, more than one third of all American adults report getting fewer than 7 hours of sleep per night. And that’s unfortunate because sleep is SO important to your overall health.
From a fitness standpoint, sleep enhances performance and recovery. Insufficient sleep has been linked with poor reaction time, decreased motivation to work out, and impaired muscle growth. In fact, sleep is the most important priority for recovery from exercise (we talk more about that here!).
Of course, health is so much more than how you look and how much weight you lift in the gym. And unfortunately, chronic insomnia has been linked with obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, anxiety, and other negative health outcomes.
Plus, you just feel better when you get plenty of rest.
How much sleep should you be getting? Aim for 7-9 hours per night for optimal health. If you’re not even close to that, a nighttime routine can help you get on the right track. Here’s how to create one of those!
Some health experts have called sitting the new smoking, and for good reason. A sedentary lifestyle increases your odds of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, chronic pain, and other serious health conditions.
And unfortunately, you don’t get a pass for hitting the gym an hour per day. You really need to get up and move around at least every couple of hours. Tracking your steps can help you to stay accountable.
Many fitness experts recommend getting 10,000 steps per day, which comes from a Japanese pedometer from the 1960s called Manpo-Kei (“10,000 steps meter”). And while 10K is a good guideline for health (and for calorie burn–walking is a great way to increase your total daily energy expenditure!), the exact number of steps you should take each day depends to some extent on how many you take right now. If your lifestyle is pretty sedentary, attempting to increase to 10,000 steps overnight can actually backfire.
If this describes you, I’d suggest establishing an initial habit of tracking your steps for a couple of weeks and averaging your daily total. If it’s significantly below 10,000, continue tracking with a goal of adding 1,000 or so to your daily average. Once that’s easy, you’ll increase your goal!
Already hitting 10,000 per day? Awesome! And, there’s no law saying you can’t do more. See how you do with 11,000 or even 12,000 steps per day!
I’m not sure when we (as a society) decided to glorify busy-ness, but it’s done us all a pretty serious disservice. All that hustle and bustle comes at the cost of your physical and mental health.
In addition to just feeling pretty crappy, distress (aka, bad stress) causes your body to make and release more of a stress hormone called cortisol. And chronically elevated cortisol levels can leave you more susceptible to weight gain, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and other health problems.
Taking some time for activities that relieve stress each day can go a long way toward improving your health. You don’t have to spend hours each day, but I do recommend that you budget just a smidge more time than you think you have time for.
There’s an old saying that goes, “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.” In other words, if life is too busy to take a second to prioritize yourself, then you-time needs to be your number one priority.
What counts as stress relief? It can be anything that makes you feel good! Some of my favorites include:
- Working on a puzzle
- Taking a hot bath
Blocking out time for stress relief in your schedule can help ensure that you actually do it.
Did you fall into a habit of going straight from coffee to cocktails during COVID? You’re in good company! I’m hearing from a lot of clients who’ve been struggling with getting enough water in the past couple of years.
Some people in fitness world get a bit overkill with the chugging, in my opinion. There’s no need to carry around a massive jug of water everywhere you go. But if you’re only getting in a couple of glasses per day, adding water to your daily habits to track can help you feel healthier and more energetic.
How much should you be getting? It varies, based on body weight, activity levels, and how much water you’re getting through foods in your diet (among other factors). I typically suggest that my clients aim for around 1/2 ounce per pound of body weight per day.
I have a question (and be honest): How many servings of veggies do you eat each day? If you’re like most Americans, probably not enough! By some estimates, only 10% of American adults get in the recommended 2-3 cups per day.
And that’s a bummer. Because veggies are full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to help your body function at its best!
Exactly how you track veggie intake is up to you, but I suggest either setting a goal of hitting at least 2 cups of veggies each day (and marking off every day you hit that goal) or aiming to eat veggies with lunch and dinner and marking off every time you succeed.
How to Get Started
Hopefully, while reading this post, at least one of these daily habits stood out as something you could work on.
And the great news is, you can get started on any one of these today! Note the emphasis on the word “one.”
One of the most common mistakes I see with habit tracking is trying to take on too many habits at once. You’ll have much better odds of long-term success if you focus on just one at first. Once you feel pretty good about your progress, just add another!
I’ve created a free guide (complete with a printable habit tracker) to set you up for success. Grab you copy now, and watch your email in the next few days for more helpful tips!