Use the excuse of a new decade to live your life better and healthier.
Heard the saying “those who fail to plan, plan to fail”? Well, that applies for every little thing you do in life, not just the big, brag-worthy goals. While setting lofty targets such as winning a competition or getting a promotion are great motivators, don’t forget about the day-to-day habits that will set you up for success (or failure) eventually.
Here are 20 meaningful health resolutions to make, from getting a whole new tribe to finally kicking that sugar habit.
1. Own what you eat
That’s right. If you’re guzzling bubble tea every day, you’d most likely look like a bubble tea bauble at some point: soft and round. Re-examine your diet and take small steps to make it healthier. Start with a pantry raid and throw out anything – sauces, sweets, salad dressing, flavoured yoghurt – with added sugar. Replace them with healthier options that offer more than just a sugar high. For instance, fresh or flash frozen raspberries are high in antioxidants and contain a decent source of fibre (8 grams per one cup serving) instead of a raspberry jam that’s full of sugar (12 grams per tablespoon). It’s a small change but one, over time, you’ll reap benefits from.
2. Cultivate new friends
Old friends may know your history but they may not always know you, version 2020. While it can feel heartless to distance yourself from childhood buddies, know that this is a form of growth. Be open to making new friends and actively look to surround yourself with people that have the same goals, values and interests as yourself. Similarly, if there’s a toxic individual present in your life, use the new year as a motivation to walk away, or at the very least, put some space between you two.
3. Be bored
This 2020, plan pockets of time to… do nothing. According to Sandi Mann, a senior psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire, being bored sparks creativity and increases one’s ability to problem-solve. The downtime will give your mind a break, allowing it to reset back to zero before it pushes us to seek new goals or explore new territories and ideas.
4. Prioritise your mental health
We all have bad days. When you choose flight over fight, negative emotions often get buried and resurface when we next feel stressed or overwhelmed. If you’re striving to keep your mental health in order, start by accepting and processing your feelings without judgment (listen to Brene Brown on the topic of vulnerability if you don’t trust us). Employ the use of mindfulness apps like Headspace or practise daily meditation and reflection using Calm. If you need extra help, seek out a therapist or counsellor for objective advice.
If you’ve tried all this and are still battling negative emotions, consider that you might be experiencing a bout of depression. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) defines a major depressive episode as at least two weeks of a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities, as well as at least five other symptoms e.g. sleep issues, changes in appetite and weight, difficulty concentrating, feeling fatigued, psychomotor agitation or retardation and recurring thoughts of death and suicide.
Reach out to HealthLine (1800-223-1313) or to helplines like AWARE (1800-774-5935), Care Corner Counselling Centre (1800-353-5800) and Samaritans of Singapore (1800-221-4444). There should never be any shame in taking charge of your mental well-being.
5. Set healthy boundaries with positive language
What’s the secret to healthy relationships with your friends, family, colleagues and even children? Establishing and sticking to personal boundaries, and verbally communicating them in a clear, calm, firm and respectful manner (listen to this TedTalk for why you should). If you find yourself at a loss of where to begin, start by replacing what you’ll usually say with positive words and phrasing.
Example: I’ll try to make it.
Example with positive language: I won’t be able to make it but please send my regards.
Example: I don’t want you to throw the ball inside the house.
Example with positive language: Please take the ball outside, thank you.
6. Love your gut
Gut health is important so don’t overlook it. Drink enough water, get enough fibre and if you’re not already eating fermented foods (e.g. sauerkraut, miso, kimchi), start. Consider adding a probiotic and maybe even a prebiotic to your daily supplements but if it all sounds too complicated, make a post-dinner apple cider vinegar drink (watch the sugar, though). This is a simple recipe to follow.
7. Buy better sleep
We all need to sleep better. Plus, good sleep is the gateway to all wonderful things in life – more energy, happiness, confidence, positivity… you get the drift – so it’s worth spoiling yourself with a new sleep toy/accessory. Consider aromatherapy diffusers that double up as a way to scent your space, a white noise machine, new sheets or just download sleep and/or snoring apps that monitor your sleep health.
8. Invest in your health
Just as you set aside a monthly sum for your dream home/vacation/bag, do the same with your health. Each month, spend on something that goes towards your health: Pilates classes to build a strong core, physiotherapy or sports massage sessions to relieve those aches, or a Soda Stream so you drink less diet sodas. Consider even buying some home gym equipment to ensure a daily workout.
9. Try a new sport
Use your body or lose it. As you age, it gets harder to master new motor skills and build muscle. This 2020, commit to a new or preloved sport (netball anyone?), or a low-impact exercise like yoga, reformer pilates, tai chi, or swimming. Commit to it for at least three months and schedule weekly (or more) sessions so you can really decide if it’s for you at the end of 90 days.
10. Eat in more
It may be cheaper and quicker to dine out but what you don’t pay for financially, you’ll pay for nutritionally. Home cooking doesn’t need to be Michelin-star standard. Look at perfecting a number of easy, go-to nutritious meals – e.g. protein-rich salad, baked salmon with grilled veggies, omelettes with veggies and healthy fats – and you’re all set. To up the challenge, cook something new each month, and by the end of the year, you’ll have a decent number of recipes under your belt.
11. De-dust your house
It’s not just the haze that can trigger health issues – the dust in your indoor environment affects your health in a vital way. Don’t take it upon yourself to deep clean your home; hire someone to get it sorted for you. And while you’re at it, you can reduce dust by having air-purifying plants around, using an air purifier, changing or cleaning the air filters in heating and air-conditioning units every month, and just keeping your home space clutter-free.
12. Take your lunch break
Working through your lunch break may seem like a good idea when you’re time-crunched or not feeling hungry/in the mood, but it really isn’t. Research has shown that skipping meals can cause your metabolism to slow down, which leads to weight gain over time. If lunching with gossipy colleagues or hitting up a crowded food centre fills you with dread, why not take the lunch hour to invest in your well-being instead? Go to the gym, sit down and mindfully have a sandwich while you listen to a Ted Talk, or do something (e.g. colouring, knitting, meditation) to de-stress – this way you’ll be back at your desk refreshed.
13. Book your doctor’s visits
Do you have a health plan? We thought so. This year, get one in action. Start by scheduling your yearly health screening, then move on to the other must-dos like pap smears (every three years for women aged 21 to 65), mammograms (they cost just $50 after the HPB subsidy) and do a diabetes risk assessment by answering this simple questionnaire – yes, you may be at risk even if you don’t have a family history. No one likes bad news, but early detection will make a world of difference.
14. Consume better media
We pay for Netflix, meal subscription plans, and cold pressed juices/kefir/kombucha, so why don’t we pay for better content? Devote a portion of your social media time towards reading or learning something useful – pay for a Straits Times subscription, bookmark a series of videos on YouTube, download motivational podcasts, or get a reading list together focusing on local authors. Feed your mind and watch it reap the benefits.
15. Do a daily digital detox
There’s enough research out there warning us of the dangers of blue light – it increases symptoms of migraines, damages the retina, causes skin damage and inflammation – so do yourself a favour and turn your phone to airplane mode two hours before turning in, and read a book or journal instead. Over time, you’ll create a better sleep habit and less reliance on social media for those quick dopamine hits. And FYI, there are tons of productive things you can do when you aren’t on social media.
16. Know your supplements
Very often, the food we eat is not as nutritious as we would like them to be, hence the need to supplement. Do some research and look into getting a good multivitamin. Introduce magnesium into your diet for better sleep and reduce inflammation, consume an activated form of folic acid (e.g. methylfolate) even if you’re not planning on starting a family, as it promotes formation of healthy blood cells. Also consider adding a vitamin D supplement to maintain healthy bones.
17. Build stronger bones
As women, we’re prone to suffering from osteoporosis so it’s vital we get enough calcium in our diet through the foods we eat. Aside from upgrading your diet, focus on building some muscles, be it via a HIIT workout or using some free weights (besides dumbbells, these things at home make great weights). Familiarise yourself with lifting techniques by watching how-to videos by qualified fitness instructors, and if your budget allows, engage a personal trainer or join a gym class that involves weights and strength training.
18. Make your own cleaning products
Commercial cleaners have a heavy toxic load and while we can’t avoid them all, we can reduce our exposure. A simple window cleaning solution just needs ¼ cup of white vinegar, 1 tbsp of cornstarch and 2 cups of warm water, while a multi-purpose cleaner can be made from ¼ cup of white vinegar, 1 tbsp baking soda, 1 litre of hot water and ½ a lemon.
19. Drink less alcohol
Dehydration, added sugar, sleep disruption… the ill-effects of alcohol are well known. If cutting out alcohol is not an option, it’s worth considering healthier, low ABV or boozeless options. Look for bars that sell booze-free Seedlip cocktails, ask bartenders for a creative mocktail – they all have a few up their sleeves – or just enjoy drinking some sparkling water with a squeeze of fresh citrus juice.
20. Be kind to yourself
All in, it doesn’t matter what you resolve to do this 2020. Ultimately, if you do just one thing, do this: extend loving kindness to yourself. Ask for help, talk about your worries, allow yourself to be okay about not being okay and whatever happens, focus on moving forward and starting every day fresh.