The 10 Best Health Resolutions to Make, According to a Dietitian

And, no, none of them have to do with weight loss.

A woman sitting on a couch meditating
Photo: Getty Images / Westend61

Welcome to Thrifty. A weekly column where associate nutrition editor and registered dietitian, Jessica Ball, keeps it real on how to grocery shop on a budget, make healthy meals for one or two and make earth-friendly choices without overhauling your entire life.

I'm not one to make New Year's resolutions. I did Dry January last year and that's about as close as I've gotten. I've never really been a fad dieter, and I'm not looking to make any drastic changes or pursue major weight loss. That said, after a long holiday season full of lots of celebrating, the new year feels like a natural time to refocus on my health and get back on track with a healthier routine.

A healthy lifestyle does include what's on your plate, but it's much more than that. It includes how you move your body, how you feel about yourself, how you socialize, how you sleep, how you manage your finances and more. I'm not an expert on every facet of these topics, but as a registered dietitian, there are more productive resolutions than trying a new restrictive diet or unsustainable weight loss intervention. Here are some of the best health resolutions to make in 2022, according to a dietitian.

1. Try meditation

There are so many reasons to try meditation out this year. It can help decrease stress, improve focus, lower blood pressure and even reduce risk of Alzheimer's disease. Not to mention, it can be totally free. Try an app like MyLife for guided meditations. Or you can even do a walking meditation with our easy-to-follow guide. Taking some time to be present this new year can set you up for a happier, healthier year, both mentally and physically.

2. Find a type of exercise you actually love

Sure, trying to exercise more is a pretty predictable resolution. But instead of thinking of exercise as a chore to complete, shift your focus this year. Try different types of movement until you find something that you really enjoy and look forward to. This might be yoga, dancing, lifting weights, swimming,walking or even a combination of different exercises (plus, switching up your exercise routine can help reduce your risk of dementia). Choosing to move in ways you enjoy will help you get more exercise without even realizing it. Talk about a win-win!

3. Schedule regular social time

As humans, we are inherently social creatures. But over the last year and change, many of us might have fallen away from our typical social schedules (myself included). Having regular social time is key to feeling supported and maintaining strong relationships with those we care about, which can translate into longevity and healthier aging, too. This might mean having one day a week where the whole family has a meal around the table together (or more often, if you can). Or it can be getting together with a friend, either in person or virtually with phone and video calls. This new year, be intentional about regularly scheduling in social time.

4. Stick to a sleep and wake schedule

Sleep is important for so many things, which you probably are well aware of if you haven't been getting enough of it. Beyond helping with our energy levels, getting enough sleep can help support healthy immune function, improve heart health and even make your skin healthier. While the advice to get better sleep can be all over the map, most people agree about one thing. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day leads to better zzz's. If you need an extra nudge, try using the Bedtime setting if you have an iPhone that reminds you when to go to sleep and automatically sets an alarm to wake you at the time of your choosing. If you don't have an iPhone, reminders and standard alarms work well too.

5. Drink more water

If you make one resolution this year, get a reusable water bottle and carry it with you as much as you can. It will make it so easy to casually sip water all day. You'll be more hydrated without even realizing it, which can lead to better brain health, a healthier heart, better kidney function and much more. It's a free and easy way to improve your health this year.

6. Cut down on screen time

We all probably have a love-hate relationship with our phones. Sure, they are incredibly powerful and convenient. But maybe you've fallen victim to doomscrolling like me, where you go on Instagram and suddenly 30 minutes have passed and you're feeling stressed from all of the information you've just taken in. For kids and adults alike, there are a lot of reasons to keep screen time in check. Research has linked media consumption to higher stress levels, greater fear, heightened anxiety and sadness. This year, to help you cut down, try setting reminders on apps that tell you to put your phone down and get up for a break. You can also set your phone to give you screen time reports to track your progress.

7. Keep a journal

Another great way to be more present this year is by starting a journal. This might sound intimidating if you haven't done it before, but you really can make it whatever you want. I have kept a journal for most of my life (I do write for a living, so it might not be much of a surprise). Some days, I have pages of things to get off my chest. Others, I might just jot down a few words or what I had for dinner. I always try to include at least one thing I am thankful for as well, even if it hasn't been the best day. Taking time to reflect and practice gratitude can help your outlook for the new year and beyond.

8. Set a realistic budget … and stick to it

I am a recovering graduate student, meaning that my finances are a bit tight. When I don't keep track of my spending, expenses can sneak up on me. Finances can lead to stress regardless of your situation, and overtime stress can lead to some negative health consequences like increased inflammation and heart disease risk. Instead, make yourself an explicit (but flexible) budget and stick to it as best as you can. Some stress in life is inevitable, but keep it in check by budgeting to reduce your money-related worries.

9. Eat more vegetables

Many fad diets and new year's resolutions focus on things you should cut out or avoid. Instead of restricting, make a healthy eating change by focusing on adding more vegetables to your plate. Vegetables are versatile in flavor and function, and can be added to every meal from breakfast to dinner. Not to mention, they are super nutritious and loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Eating more vegetables can fight inflammation, reduce chronic disease risk, improve blood pressure, protect your brain and much more. Even adding a simple side salad is an easy way to boost your daily intake.

10. Schedule in time to rest

Chances are if you have made it this far in the article, you're like me and are constantly adding things to your personal and professional to-do lists. But let me just implore you to take some time to do nothing this year. It might seem counter-intuitive, but rest is something we all could be better about. Always going one million miles per hour can lead to chronic stress and burnout, so it's important to take some to slow down before it gets to that point. Rest is not something to feel guilty about. In fact, it can help to schedule in time to take breaks for yourself. We'll call it self care.

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