You don’t have to overhaul your entire life to see improvements in your physical and mental health. Small, incremental changes over time have a big impact; and they’re more sustainable and actionable! They might seem insignificant in the moment, but trust us — they matter. In fact, your daily habits are one of the strongest predictors of your overall health. Let’s put it into context. A mile-long morning walk might not seem like much in the moment. But… if you repeat this simple habit for 30 days, that’s 30 miles clocked! 60 days? 60 miles! You get the picture.
“Little things have big results,” says clinical psychologist Kevin Gilliland, PsyD. “Whether it’s working on your sleep, spending less time on social media, or being more physically active, there are a lot of things within arm’s reach — our arms — that can have huge benefits to our psychological and physical health. That’s so encouraging!”
The Top 8 Sustainable Healthy Habits To Add To Your Wellness Routine
With all that in mind, what are some small things we can do (we’re talking simple, free, effective things you can do right now!) that’ll have a positive impact on your physical and mental wellbeing?
#1 Own Your Medical Health
No matter how old you are, or what conditions you might have, the healthcare world is daunting. Doctor visits, medical bills, lab tests, insurance paperwork… It can feel overwhelming. To regain some sense of agency over your health, try starting the habit of proactively scheduling routine visits. At the beginning of each month sit down and schedule everything you want to cover. Are you due for your annual physical? Have you checked in with your psychologist? When was the last time you had a dental cleaning or OBGYN check-up? Consider all of your wellness needs and add it to the list! Getting it all on the books will help you feel a sense of accomplishment, and then your visits will be set; out of sight, out of mind. And if you’re someone who likes to plan in advance, you can book appointments 3-4 months in advance. Maybe you even plan your calendar through the rest of the year!
#2 Fine Tune Your Bedtime and Wake Up Time
Try on a little sleep assessment. Are you feeling rested when you wake? Are you satisfied with how much time you have during the day? Happy with your wake-up time? Feeling like you have a solid bedtime routine?
Take inventory of your sleep health. If you’d like more time to yourself during the day, or need an extra hour to work out in the morning but can’t seem to go to bed at a reasonable hour ever, perhaps it’s time to revisit your sleep schedule and fine-tune. “Sleep is power!” says Dr. Gilliland. “It’s good medicine for your mind and body.”
If you’re feeling especially ambitious, this could mean you set your alarm for an hour earlier than your usual wakeup time… but for the rest of us who aren’t superhumans and can’t overcome the urge to hit snooze, it might take smaller steps.
Try something accessible first: scale back your bedtime — 15 min each week — for a month. Eventually, this will add up to a whole hour of more sleep. From there, you might feel energized enough to start getting up 15 minutes earlier each morning. Try this fine-tuning approach to your sleep schedule, and build from there. For more sleep hacks, try these tips!
#3 Increase Your Hydration
We say this a lot, but please consider drinking more water! Most Americans (an estimated 75%) are dehydrated — and hydration can impact so. many. areas. of your life. Still skeptical? Here’s everything you need to know!
Give your sleep, mental health, mental clarity, physical vitality, organ function, and energy levels a boost with good ole H2O. Yep… it’s really that simple!
But if you struggle, that’s totally ok (and normal) too. Try habit tracking your hydration (in a journal, in an app, on a whiteboard, etc), and/or setting a daily hydration goal. Or try carrying a cute sustainable bottle with you throughout the day for a physical reminder! The mindfulness around consuming more water should help redirect your focus to sculpt this new hydrated habit.
#4 Set Simple Tech Boundaries
Try to make a technology boundary habit this year; many of us have our energy sapped by phones, emails, and social media without even knowing it! Maybe that involves charging your phone away from your bed, so you’re not scrolling through Instagram or TikTok as the last thing you do before dozing off and the first thing you do upon waking.
Another tech boundary could be setting up your do not disturb feature for specific hours of the day, to give your brain a little breathing room. Maybe you give yourself one whole day per week away from your phone! And if that’s not possible, find a boundary that works for you. Maybe you avoid checking (and answering) your emails after business hours. Choose something simple and attainable that you can get started with, and see where the habit takes you.
#5 Do One Thing For Your Mental Health
Another one that sounds daunting but can be broken down into simpler steps. First, as we did with sleep, we need to take inventory. How are you feeling? How’s your mental health on a scale of 1-10? Which areas of your life might need more nurturing, and do you have adequate support?
One thing you can do today: find a therapist — one in your insurance network or a licensed counselor or psychologist near you. Schedule a consultation. If you aren’t ready for in-person one-on-one sessions, try downloading a therapy app or seeing if there are group counseling opportunities available to you. Test the waters, and see what’s out there — you deserve to have mental health support.
Some other simple things you can do right now?
- Take a 5-minute work break to clear your head.
- Compliment yourself! What’s one great thing you did today? Acknowledge your wins.
- Take a deep breath. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, slow down and check-in with yourself.
- Phone a friend (or loved one) if you need support. Having a network or community is important! You’re not in this alone.
RELATED: New Ways to Boost Your Mental Health
#6 Choose a New Nutrition Habit
Getting started with healthy eating isn’t about starting a new diet or counting every calorie or macro. It could be as simple as adding in a glass of water every morning or swapping your afternoon soda for an herbal tea! In fact, it’s better to start with something much smaller. You’ll be less likely to fail or crash, thus getting discouraged and giving up altogether.
You might simply start by tracking what you eat without making any changes. Simply observing your eating habits and bringing mindfulness to the practice of eating can start to effect positive change. If you’re ready to take the next step, consider making a goal of eating one green vegetable — spinach, avocado, asparagus — per day. From there, you could add a green to every meal (see how this snowballs?).
If you’re feeling more advanced and adventurous, try this hot tip from registered dietitian Lisa Mastela, RD, founder of Bumpin’ Blends: “Eat the rainbow,” she says. “Eat a variety of veggies and fruits daily; aim for five different colors of plant-based foods each day, and don’t eat the same ones every day — variety is crucial.”
#7 Try “Exercise Snacking”
Exercise snacking — a little bit of movement in bursts throughout the day, whenever you have a few minutes. This concept is amazing for busy schedules. You can set an alarm to get up and move every hour or even use the FitOn app to set workout reminders. You can choose a couple of ten-minute workouts to squeeze in throughout the day!
You could also set a goal of moving for just five minutes each day. Truly, a little “snack” of exercise. Whether it’s a five-minute stretch sesh or maybe five minutes of glute moves, you’ll be setting yourself up for success by getting consistent movement in each day — this could build into bigger exercise habits!
Keep it Small, Simple, & Sustainable
Whichever you pick, “Just do something small today, and then worry about something else tomorrow,” says Dr. Gilliland. “What we find is that this good momentum, these good habits… it all starts to spill into other things. If we start to walk a little bit, we tend to think about eating a little bit healthier, and so on.” One good action begets another, and a snowball effect ensues. What one simple habit will you try?