With the New Year fast approaching, you might be looking for ways to make 2020 an amazing year. Here are some ideas for healthy habits you can build to change your life and show up as the best version of yourself both physically and mentally.
In the past year, I’ve been on a journey to design and live my best life.
After becoming successful in the corporate world and experiencing how unfulfilled I felt, I’ve taken the time to get honest with myself about what I value, and make the changes (big and small) that I need to live a happy life.
Related post: My Story
It hasn’t always been easy. This journey of personal development is long and it never really ends. I’ve struggled with perfectionism, overwhelm, and high functioning anxiety. But it’s been very rewarding to find a few great habits that keep me living intentionally and showing up authentically.
Related post: Finding Balance In Life: Achievement vs Enjoyment
With the New Year fast approaching, I know many people will be looking for the magic button to make 2020 their best year yet. But because there is no magic button, and because the life you live is a reflection of your actions and your effort, I thought it would be helpful to put together a list of the changes I’ve made over the last year that have had the most impact on my happiness. If you’re looking for inspiration on how to change your life, here is your starting point.
You see, I don’t agree with New Year’s resolutions.
In reality, you will see your best results when you get rid of that ‘all or nothing‘ perfectionist mindset and start embracing the fact that we are all imperfect but can make small decisions every day that reflect the best versions of ourselves.
So, below is a list of 17 ways that you can change your life for the better by improving your physical and mental health starting TODAY.
I also have an article on 10 ways to improve your life by organizing it.
As you look through these ideas, I recommend that you take on only ONE item at a time.
Do not try to change your whole life all at once, it will not go over well. Pick one habit that you’d like to adopt, and keep your promise to yourself. Once you’ve got that small win under your belt, pick up another habit.
Use the motivation that comes with success to fuel your improvement journey.
Drink More Water
I am happiest when I’ve got energy to show up the way I want.
If I’ve got a headache, or I am feeling sluggish, I am not having my best day.
Drinking my body weight in ounces of water has been the easiest healthy habit to adopt that has had a lot of impact on my happiness. I carry a 24oz water bottle with me wherever I go, and I make sure that it is always full. I drink 6 bottles in a day and feel on top of the world.
It gives me energy. It helps curb cravings. It postpones hunger, minimizes snacking, and eliminates emotional eating.
Yes I have to pee every hour, but at least that gets my body moving so is it really a bad thing? Look on the bright side.
If you want to start drinking more water, I highly recommend starting out by tracking how much you currently drink. The act of tracking it will automatically motivate you to drink more. I use my FitBit app to track this information, but you could use any free app on the market or create your own custom tracking sheet in your bullet journal.
After a few days, set a reasonable target: start out with half of your body weight in ounces.
So if you weigh 140 lbs, half of your body weight is 70 lbs, so you will drink 70 ounces of water each day. A cup is 8 ounces, so you will need roughly 9 cups, but it is much easier to use a water bottle.
Give yourself a goal of drinking that much water for 7 days. See how you feel and increase the goal as you get those small wins under your belt.
I’m grateful to have gotten to the point where drinking 5 litres of water comes naturally to me, and I don’t have to actively focus my energy on it. I still track it though, because it gives me the dopamine rush to check that box every day.
If you want more energy this year, up your water intake.
Move your body every day
Yes… any time you look up how you can improve your life, exercise will be near the top of the list.
If you’ve been avoiding making exercise a consistent part of your life, this may be slightly irritating. But the reason it pops up over and over again no matter where you look is because IT MATTERS.
Your body releases endorphins when you get your blood pumping. It makes you feel euphoric. It reduces stress and boosts your immune system. You feel GOOD after you exercise and with the boost in happiness and energy, you are ready to SHOW UP for the world.
Challenging your body’s physical limits also helps you challenge your mind’s mental limits.
You will know you have what it takes to achieve crazy goals, because you had what it took to do that 30th squat. You become stronger physically and mentally, and then you can achieve whatever you set your mind to.
Many people have a complex relationship with their weight, body image, and the word ‘exercise‘; but it doesn’t have to be so hard.
Set a goal of moving your body for 30 minutes every day.
- Walk your dog
- Do yoga
- Lift weights
- Go for a run
- Hike in the forest
- Jump on the trampoline with your kids
- Take a dance class
You don’t need a gym membership or a personal trainer. You just need to find a way of moving your body that feels good to you and do it consistently. Find one thing, try it for a week, and switch it up if it doesn’t feel right.
If you’re not ready for 30 minutes, start with 5. Build the habit of taking time to exercise and increase as you grow more accustomed to it.
I tend to stick with a single exercise program for a month, and then I get bored. I’ve done a weight training routine for a month, then switched to daily yoga for a month, then started running the next month, then taken a dance class.
You are not locked in for life.
But if you want to live a happy and fulfilling life full of energy and purpose, taking your physical health seriously is a big part of that.
It was one of the harder habits for me to build, but it was definitely the MOST impactful of all the things on this list. So find an accountability buddy and get moving. Track your exercise in an app (I use FitBit). Set a small goal that you can achieve and build up from there.
And don’t worry about the weight. It’s easy to get frustrated and give up when the scale isn’t moving, but exercise is not about the weight! Exercise is about boosting your energy, your mood, and your lifespan. It is not about dropping 10 pounds or getting back your high school body.
Learn to breathe deeply
I started meditating about two years ago when I was home with my kids. They were 3.5 years old and 6 months old which meant that by lunch time I was pulling my hair out. I love spending time with my kids, but 8 straight hours before they went down for a nap was not my forte.
I started to notice how irritated I felt, how the pressure built on my chest, and how little patience I had for my kiddos and the world around me.
I was not showing up as the best version of myself and I knew they deserved better. I found some YouTube videos and learned how to sit still and breathe for 5 minutes through some guided meditations.
From there I was able to practice 5 minutes on my own, then 10 minutes, and now I’m at 15 minutes. One of my goals this year is to be able to meditate effectively for 30 minutes (and by that I mean not falling asleep while I’m doing it).
No matter how you feel about ‘meditation’ in its formal sense, learning to breathe from your belly and having a strategy for calming down when things get stressful is key to maintaining a positive mindset, tackling challenges creatively, avoiding burnout, and feeling sane.
So if you’ve been feeling stressed, negative, or burnt out lately, perhaps meditation is the right focus area for you. I highly recommend you start with guided meditations because they make it so much easier to focus on the right things. Boho Beautiful’s guided meditation series on YouTube is my absolute favorite. You can also try the Headspace app and the Calm app.
When you’re starting to build a meditation habit, just remember:
- 3 minutes every few days is better than nothing
- thoughts will inevitably cross your mind; just notice them and let them go, don’t try to keep them away entirely and don’t feel bad about getting distracted.
- set a timer so that you’re not constantly checking the clock.
Cultivate a positive mindset
Life is wonderful, if you choose to see it that way.
In my desperate search for happiness back in the days of my miserable corporate career, I read a lot of really good personal development books that all had essentially the same message:
External circumstances don’t dictate your happiness levels. Other people are not responsible for your feelings. If you want to be happy, it is entirely within your control.
Cultivating a positive mindset can take time, but it is easy to get started. For me, the key was starting a gratitude journal.
Related post: How To Start A Gratitude Journal
Then I moved on to noticing my thoughts throughout the day, reframing negative situations with a positive light, rewriting certain thought patterns I had, and disassociating with negative people in my life.
Infusing gratitude and positivity into my days has made everything better. I am less stressed, I am am more motivated, I have better relationships, and I am overall so much happier.
Start writing 3 things you’re grateful for every morning, it will have an exponential impact on your life. And if you want to read more about happiness and positivity, I recommend the following books
- The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
- 10% Happier by Dan Harriss
- Untethered Soul by Michael Alan Singer
- A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
- The Happiness Track by Emma Seppala
Take on a challenge
Nothing forces us to learn and grow more than taking on a challenge that we aren’t fully ready for.
Often, we set limits on what we believe we can accomplish.
This year we decided to buy an old school bus and convert it into a motorhome to travel across North America. I didn’t even know what a crowbar looked like so you can only imagine me trying to tear apart a bus and construct a tiny house within it. You can follow our adventures on Instagram @mountainboundbus if you want to see the hilarity in action, but the point is that this is nowhere in my wheelhouse and I did it anyway.
If you’ve been feeling bored, or stuck, or wondering whether ‘this is all there is?’ to life, you need a challenge.
Find something that scares you more than it interests you and tackle it full force.
- Run a marathon
- Foster a dog
- Renovate your kitchen
- Start a side business
- Refurbish a piece of furniture
- Join a board of directors for a charity
- Take a class in something you know nothing about
- Do some rejection therapy
It is wonderful to appreciate everything you already have in life, but as humans we are happiest when we are learning and growing, so if you’ve been feeling stuck, do something that throws you out of your comfort zone.
Give up something that isn’t serving you
Whether it’s sugar, a negative relationship, or your Facebook app, giving up one thing that is sucking your time or energy without bringing you closer to your goals is a fantastic way to improve your life.
By tackling one small thing at a time, you build the momentum you need to keep going.
Giving up something that isn’t serving you is about teaching yourself that you can trust yourself.
You can trust that you will do what’s best for your body, mind, and spirit.
You can trust that you will follow through with what you say you’re going to do.
You can trust that you accomplish whatever you set your mind to.
Start simple by cutting out one thing that you know is no good, and see where the momentum takes you.
Learn something new
Sometimes we can feel stuck in life when we’re going through the same old routine day in and day out.
If you want to spice up the New Year, learn a new skill!
I took up watercolor painting last year and it has brought so much joy to my week.
At first, it was honestly intimidating because I am the least artistic person you’ll ever know. I also hate spending time on things that I am not fantastic at, so I avoided doing it for the longest time. But after a while, I embraced the learning curve and allowed myself to create ‘art‘ just for the sake of creating it.
Last year, I had been struggling to find the balance between accomplishing things and enjoying my life, so I took a mini sabbatical from my goals. Since then, I’ve been prioritizing doing things just because I feel like it, and watercolor painting was my way to do just that.
If you aren’t feeling fulfilled or balanced in your life, you need to grow. Take up a new skill to make next year better!
Read a personal development book
Nothing boosts my self confidence, skyrockets my motivation, teaches me something new about human nature, and fuels my desire to build an amazing life more than a good personal development book.
I may or may not be a huge book worm that reads a book a week and is part of 3 different book clubs… you’ll never know. But I also didn’t read much at all until I discovered the self help section of the book store.
I haven’t stopped learning since.
I highly recommend you get yourself a good personal growth book (and reading socks, an arm knit blanket, and a good ol’ cup of tea) and cozy up for 15-30 minutes a night.
You will learn so much about what holds you back, what you’re capable of, and how to break through to your full potential.
If you want recommendations on books to read, and a sneak peek at what I learned along with some of my favorite quotes, check out these posts:
Do a social media detox
When you aim to live authentically and intentionally, comparing yourself to other people is going to crush you.
Your actions and your goals need to align with your values and represent the life YOU want to live, not the lives of other people on social media.
Related post: Are You Working On The Right Goals?
Everybody knows that social media does not paint a true picture of what life looks like but only highlights the bright, shiny, happy parts. We also know that social platforms are built so that you can easily spend more time than you thought you had mindlessly scrolling through different feeds.
The average person spends over 2 HOURS A DAY on social media!
It does not serve you to spend so much time looking at what everyone else is doing.
Comparing your starting point to someone else’s end point is detrimental to your achievement! Your expectations for how quickly you will succeed become unrealistic and you stop putting in the work because you feel like you’re not getting there fast enough.
Put your head down and focus on YOUR path. Do the work and you will see success.
If you want to make 2020 your best year yet, do a social media detox.
Related post: How To Do A Social Media Cleanse
You don’t have to give up your cell phone entirely and live under a rock, but you should take a week or a month away from it and see how much more productive and content you feel.
Other peoples’ opinions are none of your businessRACHEL HOLLIS
Do a social media cleanse, establish healthier boundaries with social media, and live your best life.
Floss Every Night
There are little things we can do in life that prevent a myriad of horrible things from happening later. Like eating your vegetables and moving your body, flossing is right up there in terms of maintaining a healthy smile!
According to public surveys, only 16% of people floss daily!
What I love about flossing every single night is honestly just the sense of accomplishment. It is an easy habit to maintain once you’ve started it.
The trick to mastering it when you don’t feel like it is by promising to yourself that you will floss at least ONE tooth each night.
Flossing a single tooth is so easy that your brain can’t even come up with an excuse as to why you should procrastinate it, and once you’ve got the floss wrapped around your fingers and are flossing one tooth, you’ve removed the barrier to action and will obviously floss the rest of your teeth since you’re already there.
I loved using this hack to trick my mind into committing to a simple little goal that I’ve been avoiding for years.
You can apply this principle to any goal you set:
- Eat at least one bite of salad before you toast the bagel
- Do at least one squat today
- Run at least 1 minute
It’s astonishing to witness the biggest barrier to accomplishing our goals: getting started.
Once you’ve made the starting point as easy as possible, momentum will carry you forward and you will achieve more than you set out to do.
So floss your teeth, or start your business. Little wins lead to big results.
Go outside every day
Making decisions, thinking critically, coming up with creative solutions, communicating effectively with other people, and living life on purpose takes a whole lot of energy!
I used to notice an afternoon slump in my energy levels right around 2pm. I was pretty much useless after that in terms of accomplishing big things. Tasks that would usually take me 20 minutes were now taking 40 minutes. The quality of my work wasn’t as good after lunch.
Now, part of this had to do with eating carbs at lunch. Replacing sandwiches with salads eliminated the urge to fall asleep after lunch. However I was still experiencing a serious amount of mental fog around 2pm.
I started going out for a walk every day at lunch and it was so impactful that I haven’t missed a lunch time walk in over a year.
When we go outside, the sunlight makes us feel happier. The rain makes us feel alive. The fresh air gives us energy. The increased heart rate releases endorphins that make us more positive. Our brains get to take a break from focused work and instead get to dream and come up with some of our most creative ideas.
Take a walk every day at lunch, whether it’s for 5 minutes or 60 minutes. And if you can make it happen, get outside every hour even to just stand there and take three deep breaths. Your mood and your focus will skyrocket.
If you want to live a happier and more productive life, get outside every day.
Make bedtime sacred
Committing myself to being in bed by a certain time each night has absolutely changed how I show up the next day.
We all know that not getting enough sleep is detrimental to our health: we are more prone to illness, at higher risk for chronic health conditions, and overall just a hell of a lot crankier.
There’s a huge difference between waking up on Monday morning full of energy, in a great mood, and ready to crush it, versus waking up on Monday morning exhausted, not thinking about anything other than coffee, and spending hours wishing we were back in bed.
The only difference is whether you got enough sleep the night before.
We can fall into a pattern where our evenings are spent staying up past bedtime scrolling through the phone or watching hours of Netflix. It was a hard habit for me to break, but by committing to a social media detox and setting up an amazing morning routine, I finally felt the difference in my mood, energy, and motivation when I was asleep by 9pm.
Whatever your bedtime and morning routine looks like, start by making sure you are getting 7-8 hours of sleep.
To be perfectly honest, I shoot for 10 hours of sleep on Sundays, because nothing is better than waking up on Monday morning before your alarm clock and being 100% ready to start the day.
There are a number of things you can do to make going to sleep easier
- stay off your phone/computer/TV for 1-2 hours before bed so that the blue light doesn’t affect your circadian rhythm
- make sure your bedroom is pitch black (put black tape over all the little lights that shine on your gadgets when they’re plugged in and invest in black out curtains)
- do something relaxing before bed (yoga, meditation, journaling, reading, having a bath, etc.)
Getting enough sleep consistently allows me to show up intentionally and authentically, instead of reactively and impatiently.
Write an affirmation
If we don’t watch our thoughts, we can get caught in negative thought spirals.
Especially if you happen to be less positive or are in an environment of negativity and haven’t focused on cultivating a positive mindset. There can be a lot of thoughts that pop through your head in the run of a day that are not serving you.
- I am too fat
- I am too ugly
- I am too young
- I am too old
- I’ll never be able to do that
- I shouldn’t bother trying
- They all think I’m crazy
- This was a stupid idea, I am an idiot
- When will I learn
- I knew I wasn’t good enough for this
- I’m a bad mom/wife/daughter/friend/etc.
These thoughts can pop into our minds and genuinely shift our identity and how we see ourselves and our place in the world.
Personally, I’ve carried a lot of guilt about not being present enough as a mom. We all want our kids to have amazing childhoods, but it is easy to compare yourself to someone else’s situation and feel like you are never doing enough.
Repeating the affirmation that “I am doing enough, I have enough, I am enough” has helped me recenter my perspective when I’m feeling guilty about not doing enough with the kids. I actually got the phrase from this meditation video and it has served me well.
If there are thoughts that are holding you back and not lifting you up, actively replace them with a sentence that affirms the reality you desire to see.
Repeat it every day and notice the subtle shifts that occur when you shift your perspective.
Journaling over emotional eating
Giving up snacking was one of the hardest habits I had to break.
Working from home made it easy to walk by the pantry every hour and sneak a handful of nuts. I started paying attention to how often I used food to distract myself from a difficult task or to make myself feel better after a hard day or a rude comment. It wasn’t serving me, and snacking was one of the habits that I gave up this year. But I had to replace it with something, and journaling has provided me that emotional relief.
Getting my frustrations out on paper and either letting them go completely or working through obstacles that are now more tangible has helped me get through difficult situations more effectively than eating pumpkin pie ever has.
If you tend to gravitate toward snacks or desserts when you’re slightly uncomfortable, replace that coping mechanism with journaling.
For big issues weighing heavily on your heart, you can spend an hour or two getting everything out of your head. For little issues and irks throughout the day, just labelling how you feel and writing down a simple sentence helps you acknowledge and move on from the situation.
Adopt a habit of journaling to relieve the emotional burden that life brings, and you will feel more at peace and in control.
Finish your shower with cold water
This was a cool hack that I learned about in Tim Ferriss’ book Tools of Titans, which I write about in this post.
I shower every morning after I exercise, but it’s usually a hot shower, especially in the winters. Taking the last 30-60 seconds of the shower and turning the water as cold as it goes has given me so many benefits I never anticipated:
- I feel much more energy (and much less sleepiness) jumping out of that cold shower
- I feel mentally tougher because I can withstand the cold for that long
- I feel proud because I can comfortably swim in the Canadian ocean for the first time in my life
It’s a fun little habit to get into that not only improves your circulation, promotes immunity, and helps burn fat, but is also a mental game that is easy to win and gives you energy for the morning.
Connect with friends regularly
Connection is a basic human need that our hearts yearn for.
Unfortunately in today’s fast paced society with non stop social media usage, true connection is on the decline. A lot of people these days are feeling very lonely.
It can be challenging to find the time to meet up with people face to face, but keeping this time sacred in my calendar has been one of the highlights of my week and the biggest promoter of my joy.
Yes, even for an extreme introvert, social connection has been key in developing a balanced and fulfilling life.
Whether you host a dinner party for 20 people, or just meet up with one friend for coffee, making the time in your calendar for real connection is incredibly important to living a joyful and balanced life.
I take an hour on Friday afternoons and meet up with a friend to talk about life. We laugh and laugh and usually stay longer than an hour, but I am always glad I took the time to catch up.
If you want to make 2020 a better year, commit to connection.
Get a standing desk
If you work an office job, all of that sitting is taking a toll on your body. You are literally likely to die earlier if you spend all day sitting, regardless of how much you exercise. That is not an exaggeration.
My FitBit reminds me to walk 250 steps every hour, which gets me moving around a little bit, but the real game changer in my health was getting a standing desk.
My husband put together a little desk that goes on top of my normal desk (it only took a few hours) and I’ve been feeling so much less back pain compared to sitting all day!
If you don’t have the materials/tools/expertise to build your own desk, it really is as simple as stacking boxes on your desk to elevate your laptop/computer screen to eye level so that your neck isn’t always looking down. Grab a USB keyboard & mouse so that your arms and wrists are still in a natural position, and you are good as gold!
Nonetheless, making the shift from sitting all day to standing most of the day has been a healthy one!
There are so many ways you can change your life starting today. Sometimes, that’s the problem in and of itself because you just don’t know where to start.
However, if you take one idea away from today and implement it in your life, everything else will fall into place.
It is crazy for me to read down this list and realize how many healthy habits I’ve adopted over the past year or two and how much impact they’ve had on my life.
It goes to show that building one habit at a time can add up to momentous change.
I am so much happier this year than I’ve ever been. Part of this is because I’ve intentionally made some big changes in where I work, who I surround myself with, and how I spend my time. But a lot of it is just because I picked up a few habits here and there that made me happier, more energetic, and more mindful.
If you’re looking to change your life, I hope you’ve found some inspiration and I hope that you start today.
If you’d like to overcome perfectionism and procrastination and finally achieve your goals, I offer one on one coaching to bridge the gap between your current situation and your dream life so that your days may explode with joy. Come grab a free discovery session.
- Life Audit: Ultimate Guide To Your Best Year Yet
- 10 Tips To Stay On Top Of Your Goals
- The Ultimate Guide to Setting Goals and Achieving Personal Growth
What habit are you going to adopt starting today?