Learn how to salsa, watch only edifying TV programmes (thankfully, Gossip Girl finished up this month), practice Ashtanga yoga the recommended six times a week…You can guarantee that all these good intentions for 2013 will last about a fortnight – if you’re lucky.
We all know New Year’s resolutions are rarely kept. They allow us to justify our scoffing of inordinate amounts of sugary foodstuffs over the festive season, but by the end of January, most of us will be back to our bad old habits.
The good news is, as long as you keep the goals realistic, there’s no reason why you can’t overhaul your routine. When it comes to health, it’s often the simplest changes that have the most transformative effects. Here are five easy-to-stick-to resolutions that will have you feeling on top of the world in a matter of months.
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1) Get more sleep
It improves memory and mood, reduces the number of inflammatory proteins in the blood (which cause the inflammation linked linked to heart disease), keeps your weight in check, and lowers rates of stress and anxiety: sleep may not be a panacea, but it’s pretty darn close.
It can be tricky so work up to it. Around a third of us in the UK experience insomnia at some stage in our lives. Busy schedules, laptops in bed, an unhealthy diet can all have a negative effect on the quality of our sleep.
Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, doing gentle exercise in the evening such as yoga or tai chi, and cutting down on your caffeine intake will, among other things, help you get a more restful night’s kip. Try taking it one small step at a time. For the first week just try to get to bed 10 minutes earlier and work up from that. For more advice, visit The Sleep Council.
2) Breakfast like a king
Eat a nutritious, energy-boosting breakfast and you’re more likely to make healthy choices throughout the day.
For optimum nutrition, plump for porridge and fruit. Containing vitamins, minerals, protein and dietary fibre, oats are also believed to lower your cholesterol, fight weight loss and even improve your sex life. Serve with a kiwi or two handfuls of blueberries for a hit of vitamin C and sweeten with honey instead of sugar.
Team with a glass of pure orange juice with a heaped teaspoon of vitamin B-packed Brewer’s Yeast (great for energy, your eyes and skin, and keeping muscle tissue healthy), and you’ll have a spring in your step well into lunchtime.
[Related: Five healthier breakfasts]
3) Take up a new activity
It’s not surprising that Britons waste an estimated £37million a year on gym memberships. The motivation to hit the treadmill three times a week tends to weaken as the cold, dark January days stretch on endlessly.
Instead of signing up for the gym this year, try your hand at something new, such as yoga, kickboxing or a dance class. The satisfaction of progressing each week as you learn a new move or skill will help you to stick at it for longer. Bringing a friend along will also strengthen your resolve.
4) Stop smoking
It’s one of the best decisions you can make for your health and the New Year is the perfect time to kick the habit. There are lots of things you can do to help yourself, such as altering your diet. Certain foods make cigarettes taste terrible, so embrace cheese, fruit and veg, and avoid fizzy drinks and caffeine. Before you get started, consult your GP or visit the NHS website for advice.
5) Eat more oily fish
A major source of omega 3 fatty acids, oily fish can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and strokes, and is great for your skin and eyes. Aim to eat two to three 140g portions a week.
[Related: Are oily fish supplements a waste of money?]
This year, don’t put yourself under pressure with plans to run a marathon when you can barely manage a flight of stairs, or ditch pizza for a macrobiotic diet – such drastic changes will invariably end up in failure. If you really want to feel great on the inside, it’s all about small and achievable steps. Happy New Year!