Last year, you signed up for a gym membership. The year before that, you went vegetarian. Unfortunately, you only remember hopping on an actual treadmill a few times in January, and you gave up your new diet when a friend invited you to her backyard barbecue.
Instead of committing to a New Year’s resolution you probably won’t keep, here are a few small changes you can make right now to help boost your mood, improve your focus, and get fit in 2015.
1. Get A Standing Desk
In case you hadn’t heard, sitting is killing you.
In the short term, too much time on your butt strains your muscles — by killing any electrical activity that would normally take place in them — and leaves you feeling sore.
Over the long term, being sedentary for long periods makes you more likely to gain weight, which also pushes up your chances of developing chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Parking yourself at a desk or on the couch also raises your chance of developing certain types of cancers. One recent study found that for every additional 2 hours someone spent sitting, they had an 8% increase in their risk for developing colon cancer and a 10% increased risk for endometrial cancer.
2. Toss That Soda
Back in our hunting and gathering days, we rarely found something in the wild as compact and calorie-dense as a can of soda. More than 250,000 years of human evolution later, our brains are still hard-wired to savour sweets. A soda provides a rush of sugar-dense, empty calories that won’t leave you satiated; regular consumption is associated with weight gain.
Drinking something like soda also sets off a cascade of chemical reactions in the brain’s reward center that tell us that what we’re doing is good for us, even though it isn’t. As a result, sugar becomes a habit that’s physically hard to break.
3. Go Outside
Taking a quick break from the indoors is one of the quickest ways to boost mood and jumpstart creative thinking. Walk outside regularly, studies suggest, and you’ll likely strengthen your memory and reduce your risk of developing breast cancer too.
4. Stop Juicing
Ever smashed an entire week’s worth of fresh produce into a few ounces of greenish liquid? Or worse, splurged $US9 on a tiny bottle of something labelled “detox” or “cleanse”? The veggie-crushing madness stops now.
When you juice a handful of produce, you remove all of the fibre (the stuff that keeps you feeling full and satisfied until your next meal) but keep all of the sugar (a bottle of Suja’s “Green Supreme” cold-pressed juice has more sugar than a can of Coke). All of this plus the fact that they’re so low in protein makes juice cleanses a recipe for losing muscle, not fat.
5. Move Near A Window
Aside from granting you a pleasant view, being by a window while you work, eat, or chat helps boost your mood, keep you alert during the day, and make it easier to fall asleep at night. By exposing yourself to natural light — especially early in the day — you help your body set its internal circadian clock.
The benefits of natural light are especially important at work. A recent study found that people who worked in windowless offices lost up to 46 minutes of sleep each weeknight. That lost shuteye adds up: Losing almost 4 hours of sleep each week translates into 15 hours of sleep loss every month, or just over 8 full days each year.
6. Write Down Something You’re Grateful For
It might sound cheesy, but taking note of the little things can have a real and lasting positive effect on everything from your mood to your relationships. Two recent studies found that keeping weekly “gratitude” journals boosted feelings of optimism and overall life satisfaction.
In one of those studies, which focused on couples in romantic relationships, people’s feelings of connectedness with their partners rose on days when they also reported feeling more grateful.
7. Download The 7-Minute Workout App
Get the benefits of a sweaty bike ride and a trip to the weight room in 7-minutes, no fancy workout gear required. The 7-minute workout app builds on new research suggesting that short spurts of intense exercise can provide long lasting benefits comparable to longer, more gruelling regimens.
8. Write Down A Personal Goal — And Something That Could Get In The Way Of It
Positive thinking can be powerful, but simply visualising your promotion at work isn’t going to make it happen.
New research suggests that picturing the positive outcome and then picturing some of your own personal behaviours that could prevent that outcome from coming true is the best way to achieve your goals. New York University psychology professor Gabriele Oettingen describes the exercise in her new book, “Rethinking Positive Thinking.”
9. Swap The Meat In Your Next Meal for Beans, Nuts or Grains
If eliminating meat from your diet is too extreme, try cutting back on it for just one meal.
Aside from being great for the planet, eating less meat can add years to your life and slash your chances of numerous chronic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, circulatory disease, hypertension, and cancer.
10. Take The Stairs
Instead of crowding in the elevator on your way to work, opt for the stairs. Short bouts of exercise — even a few minutes’ worth — can have measurable benefits. A recent study found that short bursts of exercise sprinkled throughout the day were not only more appealing to people (meaning they were also more likely to do it) but helped improve some measures of health more than exercising for the traditional 30 minutes each day.
11. Put A Plant On It
Bring some flowers into the living room or keep a cactus at your desk. A few bits of green around the home or office can serve as an anytime pick-me-up, boosting emotional well-being.
12. Pick Up One Of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s 8 Book Recommendations
Anyone who wants to better understand the world we live in should read these 8 books, according to Hayden Planetarium director, COSMOS narrator, StarTalk host, and author Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Tyson came up with his selection back in 2011 during a Reddit AMA when a participant asked which books should be read “by every single intelligent person” on the planet.
Sounds like a good way to start the year.
13. Look Away From This Screen
Staring at a computer, smartphone, or tablet changes the tear fluid designed to keep your eyes moist, making it more chemically similar to the fluid of people with dry eye disease.
When we’re on our tablet or computer, we not only blink far less than we do while reading or talking with someone, but we open our eyes wider too. All that exposed eye makes our tears evaporate quicker and dries out our eyes.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.