These small changes can lead to big improvements in your physical and mental health in the coming year.
We all want to feel good and be healthy, and sometimes that might mean making some sacrifices in the moment to reap the benefits later — like taking time out of bingeing TV to exercise for a bit. But those compromises don’t always have to be monumental. As you’re trying to be healthy, small daily habits can make a surprisingly big difference, especially as the effects accumulate over time.
We’ve got a dozen healthy habits that can help you enjoy better physical and mental health in the coming year, all backed by science.
12 daily habits for your health
Here, we’re talking about small adjustments that benefit every human. With these minor modifications to your daily routine, you can start working toward better health without having to give up a ton of time, money or enjoyment.
1. Prioritize sleep
Going without sleep is a lot like expecting your phone to run all day on a 12% battery. Your body needs time to not just rest and recharge, but also to do important work like learn new things and solidify memories.
Adults should get at least 7 hours of shut-eye each night. If this is a challenge for you, turn to your circadian rhythm. This is your body’s natural process that should help you fall asleep, stay asleep and wake up feeling refreshed.
How do you use your circadian rhythm for better sleep? Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
2. Walk more
Heading out for a stroll boosts your physical and mental health, so it’s well worth adding to your list of healthy daily habits.
On the physical front, regular walking supports your immune system, reduces joint pain and makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight.
Any exercise helps your mental health, and that includes walking. If you want to shift your daily habits to combat symptoms of depression or anxiety or to boost your mental wellness in general, make it a point to lace up your walking shoes each day.
3. Read for 30 minutes
Feeling stressed? Crack open a book. One study found that a half hour of reading can have the same stress-busting effect as known sources of calm, like yoga and humor.
Reading also does a lot for your brain, strengthening connections there. That study showed that diving into a book has both short and long-term benefits for your brain health. So to maintain the boost, make reading one of your daily habits When you do, you’ll also be actively working to fight cognitive decline as you age.
Another stress reducer and mental health booster, meditation gives you a way to tune into the present moment. In our busy, hyperconnected world, this can go a long way toward not just keeping yourself healthy, but also protecting your happiness.
Starting meditation could be as simple as doing a little reading on it and setting a timer for, say, 5 minutes each day. But there are also plenty of good apps to guide you. You can even incorporate a meditative mindset into your regular activities, such as mindful eating.
5. Spend time in nature
Getting into nature can help us soothe ourselves. It offers an effective counterbalance to all the screentime built into most of our days. In fact, an expanding body of research shows that time in nature can:
- Improve our cognition
- Increase attention span
- Lower risk of mental illness
- Increase empathy and social connectedness
You can combine this with other healthy habits, like your daily walk. Ideally, aim for green (like a forest) or blue (like bodies of water) spaces during your time outdoors.
6. Eat more plant-based foods
You probably already know that eating nutritious food makes you feel better. As an overarching concept, though, healthy eating habits can feel a little vague.
So let’s be specific: work to get more plants onto your plate. A plant-based diet helps you maintain healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and reduces your risk for some chronic conditions. Plants are full of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients we need to keep our bodies working optimally.
Try to incorporate more fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes into your daily meals. It might be helpful to keep a produce bowl on your kitchen counter so you can grab things as a quick snack, too.
7. Drink more water
This is one of those areas where it’s easy to see how healthy habits help. Since we’re mostly water, it makes sense that we would need to continually replenish our body’s supply. Getting enough water helps your body flush waste and keeps your joints lubricated, while acting as a shock absorber for your spine and helping your digestive processes.
To build healthy habits around water, start carrying a reusable water bottle with you. Whenever you’re bored, take a sip. Your body will thank you.
8. Reduce alcohol intake
Reducing the alcohol you consume does a lot for you, especially if you used to binge drink. It:
- Lowers risk of high blood pressure, depression and other conditions
- Decreases symptoms of those conditions
- Helps your body better absorb nutrients
- Improves sleep and minimizes fatigue
- Supports liver health
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that men have two drinks or fewer each day, while women stick to a max of one drink per day. To help yourself out here, figure out a non-alcoholic beverage you like a lot. Soda water, bitters and a lime can scratch the cocktail itch without adding another alcoholic drink to your daily total.
9. Quit smoking
Does this come as any surprise? Smoking is bad for your heart and lungs, and it’s also bad for your longevity. Long story short, if you want to live a longer, healthier life, kick the habit.
As you’re figuring out how to be healthier, don’t turn to vaping. It might be less harmful, but it’s just as addictive and still comes with health risks.
10. Spend time with those you love
If you’re pursuing healthy habits to feel happier in 2023, hang with your people. Social connection goes a long way toward boosting our moods.
If you already have a group of friends or family, let this be a reminder to hit them up. Call someone you haven’t talked to in a while or invite a few people over for a game or movie night. Check how you feel afterward. Better? We thought so.
If you don’t have a social circle, make 2023 the year you intentionally work on making connections. That could mean striking up a conversation with a coworker or getting to know your neighbors.
11. Take a break from electronics
Screen time takes its toll. In fact, studies directly link it with lower psychological well-being.
Fortunately, the reverse is true. A digital detox can:
- Improve your sleep
- Boost your focus and productivity
- Reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Support real-life social connections (see the point above)
You could try going off social media apps for a while and see how you feel. But if you want to incorporate this into your healthy daily habits, carve out time each day where you’re screen-free. For better sleep, maybe make that the last hour before bed.
12. Take on a new hobby
Your healthy habits can also be fun and rewarding. What have you always wanted to do? Your answer to that question might point you toward a new hobby to explore in 2023. And getting into it can help you reduce stress and boost mental well-being.
Plus, some hobbies can get you moving, supporting both your physical and mental health. Maybe you get into playing pick-up soccer at the park, or you explore yoga.
Ultimately, you’ve got a lot of options for healthy daily habits you could incorporate into the coming year. You can pick one or two, or go big and go for the full dozen. Either way, you’ll be moving yourself toward a healthier, happier 2023.