2020 was a year like no other, so our incoming New Year’s resolutions hold a bit more weight than normal. We’ve felt disconnected, unhealthy, lonely, or worried all year, and this holiday break might not have been as restorative as we’re used to.
For most of the past year, we were strained, even when we didn’t know it. In our constant attempts to navigate pandemic reality and normalize all that was new, our minds and bodies didn’t have time to turn off, and a short holiday break won’t reverse the effects of a year’s worth of subliminal strain. However, the calendar striking 2021 brings a new opportunity to make positive personal change, and regain our mental resilience.
But there’s one important question we are all asking ourselves: “Where do I start?”
The answer? With YOU.
Commit to yourself in 2021, and strive to make healthy changes that are specific and personal to you.
Need some inspiration? Here are some tips to help make 2021 about you.
Oura’s New Year’s Health Tips
1. Small steps aren’t something to overlook — they’re a great place to start.
Bad habits are hard to break and good habits are hard to form — but why? Well, think about it in the context of learning a new skill. Procedural memory is the type of memory that is linked to motor skills (or knowing how to do things without a lot of active conscious thought), and it’s important to the formation of habits. If you know how to play the piano, you probably put in years of practice, but you also couldn’t imagine just losing that ability in a single day. Creating new habits or breaking old ones can be just as difficult, so a good place to start is with a commitment that is too small to fail. If you want to start taking working out seriously, start with smaller, more manageable steps to ease yourself out of the sedentary 2020 and into a more active 2021. Take a look at your Oura activity trends and start with a small, specific goal like decreasing your inactive time by 5-10 min each day.
2. Instead of cutting things out, make healthy additions.
“No more processed sugars.” “Carbs are so 2020.” “I’m deleting my social media apps.”
Eliminating habits is difficult, and if you center your resolution around loss, it can be even harder to stick to it. Instead, try to make your 2021 goals about progress and healthy additions. It’s all about committing time to what’s best for your mental and physical health. If you want to reduce your social media time, instead of wiping your app library, add an audiobook or mindfulness app to it, and wind down before bed with a chapter of a new book or a soothing sleep story. And, if it’s your diet that is taking a toll on your body, instead of telling yourself to cut out entire food groups, commit to adding more water or an extra vegetable to your daily meal schedule.
3. Sleep is your secret weapon.
While it may seem like a “duh” idea, sleep is something that we all still overlook at times and could get more of. Increased total sleep brings more chances for deep and REM sleep — restoring our minds and bodies to help us establish healthy habits. Just like our calendars, we often look to hit our reset buttons at midnight every January 1st. Well, committing to getting 7-9 hours of sleep can be your secret weapon for a happier and healthier 2021.
4. Focus on what you can control. Let go of what you can’t.
2020 is already infamous for being a series of unfortunate events — most of which we had little control over. We did our best, but it always seemed like an upward climb with no end in sight. And while January 1st, 2021 doesn’t mark the end of pandemic life, it does mark a new beginning. While we sat in the same chair in the same sweatpants for days and masked-up every time we got a delivery, it was easy to get exhausted with our reality. So, as we move into 2021, try spending more time focusing on what you can control and less on what is out of your hands. Do your part in stopping the spread — wear a mask, social distance, and stay at home when possible — but also remember to focus on creating or maintaining a healthy routine. Those who don’t have any type of routine can suffer from increased stress levels, worsened sleep quality, and decreased energy levels, so experiment with new meal prep, new at-home workouts, or a new coffee roast until you find your ideal daily routine.
5. Making 2021 about you and your health doesn’t mean you have to exclude others.
After all this, it’s easy to hear a phrase like “Make 2021 about YOU” and think “That’s selfish” or “I don’t want to self-isolate even more.” You might think that, when you focus more on yourself, it can be easy to exclude others in favor of personal change. 2020 has made us feel stranded as if person-to-person interaction was a different lifetime, but it has led us to adopt new ways of interacting and connecting with others. So, when you make your New Year’s resolution, choose what’s best for you, but also choose to embrace the comfort and peace of mind others can bring. Help others help you by inviting your close friends and family members into your process; it can be a great way to motivate yourself to honor your commitments. Though this past year wasn’t easy, for the first (and hopefully last) time, we are all experiencing this isolation together — sheltering in solidarity with each other, united in our goal to make 2021 a year of positive change.
- Stressed? Anxious? REM Sleep Can Be Your Mind’s Reset Button
- Oura Hacks To Stay Healthy At Home
- What if Social Distancing is Good For Our Health?
- Eichenbaum, Howard, and Neal J. Cohen. From Conditioning to Conscious Recollection: Memory Systems of the Brain. Oxford Univ, 2001.
- Northwestern Medicine. “Health Benefits of Having a Routine.” Northwestern Medicine, www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/health-benefits-of-having-a-routine.