New Year, New You
WRITTEN BY SHALINI RANA AND DR. SWATHI
Wow, 2023 is here already! The world is definitely experiencing a whirlwind of emotions with this one. You name it– excitement, nervousness, dread– the new year is going to mean something different to everyone. But a common theme that I hope you feel when the new year rolls around is that it brings a breeze of optimism and the sense of a fresh start. So no matter what feeling is at the forefront when you think about the upcoming weeks, try to remember that it’s never too late to implement a change in your life. Now is the time to put in the effort to become the best version of yourself. Let's discuss some healthy habits you can pick up this January and how you can be successful in keeping up with the “new you” for the remainder of the year.
What are some healthy habits for starting the year off right?
Learn to be more productive
Productivity is a must if you want to be successful in different areas of your life. A great way to be more productive throughout the day is to start using to-do lists or schedules where you block out times of the day for your tasks. For example, if a goal of yours this new year is to start getting your work done earlier rather than procrastinating, try to set aside a time block during the day to complete that work. If you have an assignment you want to complete from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., make sure you are at your desk and ready to start the work by 9:59 a.m. Gather things like water/coffee, snacks, and anything else you will need around you so that you minimize the need to get up and get distracted. And then, set a timer for yourself that hopefully forces you to work quickly to get the task done in the allotted time.
For some people, it's more effective to write down your to-do list by hand because when you get something done, it feels great to physically cross that item off the list. Keeping these lists can keep you on track for what you have to get done in the day and push you to be as productive as possible and improve your time-management.
Movement is king (or queen!)
Fitness and physical wellness are so important. Not only does it give you energy and can be a healthy alternative to things like caffeine, but it can also make you look and feel stronger, as well as help increase your self-confidence. If your goal is to lose weight, but hitting the gym seven days a week is not attainable, try to increase the amount of physical activity you get throughout the day in smaller areas. Try taking the stairs instead of elevators, taking walks after meals, or even jogging in place while you watch your favorite show. On the other hand, if your goal is to get more muscular, meal prepping can help you make sure that you’re eating enough calories and protein throughout the day and can save you on days that you really don’t feel like cooking.
Set financial goals
There are so many ways to help slowly improve your financial stability. If your goal is to save money, set realistic budgets that are not impossible to achieve. Try to pinpoint the areas of your life where you can cut expenses, like using food-delivery services or ordering out too often. If your goal is to increase your income, have an idea of how big of an increase you’re looking for, and then set monthly expectations for yourself to help you achieve it. Things like investing or learning about how to sell things online are some things that you can spend time learning about to help you reach your goal.
Work on your relationships
Spend some extra time this year working on your relationships. Show gratitude to those who matter in your life and spend more time with them. If you have a busy schedule, figure out ways to make time for them and really put in the effort. Be more attentive and thoughtful.
Keep up with your overall wellness and mental health
Let’s all make keeping up with our mental health a priority this year. Anxiety and a low mood can really weigh you down and get in the way of you living your best life. Some things you can try are meditation, yoga, and fitness. Or, set aside time to catch up with friends. If comfort and peace can help ease your anxiety, watch that show or movie that eases tension, or find stress-relief in comfort foods. One new thing you can try out for the new year is investing in a really good CBD product to help alleviate stress and anxious feelings or to get better sleep.
How can I actually keep up with my goals this year for longer than a week?
To start off, I really believe that consistency is the key to a productive daily routine. Let’s face it, for a lot of us, starting off strong is easy no matter what the task is. I’m sure you’ve experienced brief periods of success when starting new goals, like hitting the gym every day or starting that new diet. But after some time, a day came around where you just couldn’t find the time to make it to the gym. Or, a night out with your friends led to thinking, “It won’t hurt to forget the diet for one day.” And that one day of skipping out led to another, and before you knew it, there was a really good chance that it would take you screaming “Happy New Year!” to ever revisit these resolutions again. The reality is that some changes are just too drastic and can be unsustainable to include in your daily routine. A good alternative could be implementing smaller habits that don’t take as much effort to do consistently over a long period of time and working your way up from there.
One way to approach this could be to add 3-4 things to your daily routine at the start of the year. These things could be as simple as wearing that retainer that’s been sitting in the back of your drawer for a few months, or trying to wake up 30 minutes earlier every day. Focus on completing these tasks every day for a week, and if you succeed, increase the intensity of the habit or add 1-2 more tasks to the list and focus on being consistent with those. This step-wise approach can be much easier to maintain than trying to face a really big goal head on, all at once.
What to do if you’re at a loss on how to start the new year?
If 2022 left you feeling lost or stuck in a bad place, and you need a way to get your life back on track, one way to help regain focus in your life can be to sit down and write out what the ideal version of yourself looks like. List it all– your ideal daily routine, career advancements, fitness goals, etc. Do you want to workout four times a week? Did you want to get started on that side hustle that will give you an extra source of income? Have fun with this, and hype yourself up! Focus on including details that you know have motivated you in the past. This process of visualizing exactly what you want out of life can be super motivating and can bring back a sense of purpose to your life if you feel like you’ve lost that. It can really allow you to see the bigger picture and to focus on what you want for yourself during your lifetime.
And after you have this description written out, don’t worry if you feel overwhelmed. Start off by separating out your goals into different areas of your life, such as career, home life, finances, wellness, etc. And then write out realistic monthly goals that can help you reach your ideal habits by the end of the year, followed by weekly steps you can take to reach those monthly goals. Breaking it down like this can help you feel like you can actually tackle becoming the best version of yourself, slowly but surely, and you have a much better chance of staying consistent this way. From here on out, focus on small victories in each aspect of your life. If you ever feel unmotivated, re-read your description of what your ideal self looks like, and remember that no habit is too small to start implementing.
What if I just feel… bleh?
2022 was a rough year for a lot of people. No matter which stage of life you’re in, you may be heading into the new year with dread and anxiety. Sometimes, life can feel like you’ve become a robot, and you’ve lost your sense of passion or creativity. But no matter what happens a week from now, or even a month from now, I’m a firm believer that life is ultimately about finding happiness. If you’re feeling like things aren’t as exciting as they used to be, try to make time in your schedule to either learn a new skill or find a new hobby. This may be the millionth time you’re hearing someone say this, but trust me when I say that setting aside time each day for something that you actually want to do can feel incredible and like life has a purpose again. If reading or painting isn’t your thing, try learning new skills like car maintenance, how to DIY things in your home, or how to better your sense of style. Personal growth can be so fulfilling and bring some enthusiasm back into your life.
The bottom line
To start off the new year right, aim to become the best version of yourself and work towards happiness. We’re here for a good time, not a long time, so make the most of how you spend your days. Aim for a bit of self growth every day, no matter what category of your life this falls in. Remember that at the end of the day, what you want for yourself will be your biggest driving force, and there are so many sustainable techniques to help you get there. Finally, remember that it’s never too late to make a change in your life, and as cliche as this is, no change is too small as long as you stay consistent with it. You got this!
This article was edited by Dr. Swathi and was written by Element Apothec Scientific Communications Intern, Shalini Rana. She is a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) candidate at Rutgers University Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy in Piscataway, New Jersey.