The new year has come and gone. Many celebrate this change of calendar dates as a chance to start fresh and have a better year. That more positive turn around the sun starts with each individual and the choices they make. This year, it’s more important than ever to set achievable, healthy resolutions, such as improving our mental resilience and physical health. The good news is that there are a number of ways to embrace this goal.
1. Don’t Let Hobbies Slide
The changes to our life patterns wrought over the past year have been intense. However, that makes pursuing a creative pastime that brings you pleasure even more vital than before the WFH craze removed the last physical barrier between work and the rest of your life. While this might involve physical activity, its health benefits aren’t bound to an exclusively physical focus. Pursuing a hobby for its own sake–not seeking to make it a side hustle or an alternate source of income—offer substantial psychological and neurophysical benefits. The importance of play cannot be overestimated when it comes to our physical health and mental wellbeing. So, whatever you delight in doing, pursue it. Set aside time each day to simply enjoy life, wherever you are.
2. Kitchen Adventures
It’s no secret that diets predicated on highly processed foods aren’t great for the human body. But whether you’ve just lost touch with your kitchen inspiration or never learned the basics of measurement and ingredient combination, 2021 can be a great year to get into the habit of making delicious foods that fit your budget needs. There are a number of amazing cookbooks that can help you explore ethnic cuisines from around the world, different lifeways or nutritional outlooks, and even help save money. Convenience food may seem less expensive, but its hidden costs add up, and they aren’t all tied to your pocket. Studies have shown that the act of creating meals or snacks for yourself and your family can offer unanticipated psychological benefits.
3. Explore New Physical Pursuits
Along with getting in some cardio and maybe trying a new yoga form this year, it’s important to remember a crucial point. In order for physical activity to have the full benefit, you need to have fun. The past year took many of the social activities humans have enjoyed for millennia away from us, activities that we might not have recognized before the recent pandemic made gatherings unsafe for so many.
Humans have always been creatures of the physical, and whether you’re too shy to get out on the dance floor or love to cut a rug, physical movement is important to us in a number of ways.
But you can still explore dancing and positive interaction. While it won’t replace going out and being social in person, pursuits like learning to dance on Broadway in the privacy of your own home and keeping company with a productive, high energy crowd, can actually boost your mood long after you exit the virtual classroom. The benefits accrue to children, adults in their prime, and especially those who may have recently left the professional sphere.
4. Break Up with the Sedentary Work Day
We need to talk about how we’re sitting in one place for hours at a time. It’s not good for us, especially now that many of us work in our homes. Prolonged sedentary postures are bad for everyone. They play havoc with your joint and muscle health, create nerve stress in your lower limbs, and have also been shown to negatively impact cardiac health. That’s just the sitting part. It doesn’t incorporate the pressures of prolonged computer use on the eyes or our neurological health.
This is why it’s important to get up and move at least once each hour. Structure your workload to allow for breaks during which you complete simple tasks, make food, reconnect with your family or roommates. These breaks can be a good time to complete essential household chores in 15 or 20-minute stretches, since many tasks involving bending, lifting, and carrying items from one place to another. While you can structure a longer break to include formal exercise, it’s not essential to creating a pattern that incorporates movement.
5. Make Time for Mindfulness
This is not a specific activity. Being fully present in whatever you are doing, not thinking of anything else, or stressing about some other aspect of daily life offers a host of benefits. Your brain needs to relax, too, otherwise, when it’s time to sleep, you may have trouble. Some enjoy adult coloring books or yoga meditation routines. But mindfulness can be achieved by taking a walk and looking at the world, weeding a garden, scrubbing a bathtub, or making a pan of brownies. The important aspect of any of these activities is to focus on just doing them. You are committing to being fully present at the moment. Because we’re physical creatures, this mental commitment has a physical-chemical reflection, and can actually help to reduce both psychological and physical stress levels.
Staying healthy in 2021 isn’t all about designing an ambitious exercise routine that you probably won’t be able to maintain. It’s not about punitive diet regimes that will go out the window, leaving behind unnecessary psychological guilt. Instead, it’s about reconnecting with ourselves and those we love, checking in with ourselves and making sure we pursue what satisfies and supports us as individuals, and finding the real goodness in each moment we’re here. There are a great many stressors in life, but our health shouldn’t be one of them.