Oftentimes when we set goals to better ourselves, we look to the scale first. It makes sense because it’s a measurable number that we can definitively change, but it leaves most people chasing the latest diets and exercises that make empty promises about our well-being.
We read books and blogs about diets. We buy memberships to gyms and specialty studios. We restrict our carbs, fats, or general calorie intake. We create workout regimens for ourselves that aren’t realistic, and we continue to run in circles while watching our friends, celebrities, and other people we follow on Instagram live their dream lives in their dream bodies—thinking to ourselves, “They’re so lucky” or “I wish I had their genes.”
Our weight only speaks to a small portion of what can make us healthier, and focusing on the number on the scale can lead to unhealthy behaviors, thoughts, and feelings that could derail you from your goals. And those people that you’re envying on Instagram? The truth is: You’re not seeing all of the behind-the-scenes work and other healthy habits they cultivated to maintain that lifestyle (e.g., meal prepping, work outs, etc.).
It’s time to start taking your own steps toward developing healthy routines. HuffPost put together a great list of places to start that don’t involve stepping on the scale called 50 Healthy Resolutions That Aren’t Losing Weight, including:
HP says: Commit to those eight hours. Proper shuteye is linked to better mental health and a lower risk for physical health conditions.
Additional research: Everyone has a lot to do and a lot going on in their lives, and the first thing that seems to suffer is sleep. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends 7-8 hours of sleep every night for adults. According to the organization, even missing out on 1-2 hours over the course of several days can severely lower your ability to function properly throughout the day, and extended sleep deficiencies may lead to deteriorating mental health (e.g, mood swings and depression), as well as physical health (e.g., obesity and heart disease).
HP says: The benefits of a meditation practice are boundless, from improved mental health to better concentration to a lower risk for disease.
Additional research: According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, meditation helps to relieve many symptoms, including reducing anxiety, stress, and sleep disturbances, and may even help treat high blood pressure, menopausal symptoms, irritable bowel syndrome, and ADHD.
Keep a journal.
HP says: This could be a book that gives you prompts or just an empty place to scribble out your frustrations. Studies show journaling can be cathartic for your mental health.
Additional research: Multiple studies show that writing in a journal can help manage the symptoms of mental illness, including depression, anxiety, and stress. Additionally, it can have a great impact on those recovering from traumatic experiences or addiction. Here are 30 journaling prompts to get you started.
Compliment someone once a day.
HP says: And not just on their appearance. Genuine compliments can go a long way for both you and the other person.
Additional research: “Compliments can lift moods, improve engagement with tasks, enhance learning, and increase persistence,” said Professor Nick Haslam, School of Psychological Sciences, University of Melbourne. “Giving compliments is arguably better than receiving them, just as giving gifts or contributing to charity has benefits to the giver.”
HP says: Studies suggest that gratitude can improve overall well-being and may even boost physical health. Try keeping score of what you appreciate every day. Need some ideas to get started? Here are 100.
Additional research: It’s easy to believe that giving thanks can make us happier and more optimistic, but research from UC Berkeley actually shows that showing gratitude can also affect our physical health. Researchers found that people who kept a gratitude journal for 2 weeks experienced fewer headaches, less stomach pain, clearer skin, and reduced congestion.
HP says: Donating your time to people or an organization in need can do a world of good. And if you needed more reason: Research shows volunteering can improve your health. It may also increase your happiness levels thanks to a circular effect. Kindness makes you happy, and happiness makes you kind.
Additional research: Helping those in need is fulfilling, and just like giving a compliment, studies are revealing that showing kindness is making a positive impact on overall well-being. The Corporation for National and Community Service says that volunteering regularly can lead to greater self-worth and help people live longer.
Cook at home more frequently.
HP says: You’ll end up getting healthier in the process. Research says homemade meals can help you skip out on excess calories.
Additional research: Cooking at home may take a little longer than ordering out, but it saves you calories and money in the long run. Harvard Medical School suggests that educating yourself on nutrition and cooking your own meals can prevent diabetes.
HP says: It’s actually a key to a happier life but it’s a habit people rarely practice. Make your internal dialogue as kind as it would be if you were talking to your best friend.
Additional research: Autumn Collier, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist at Collier Counseling, recommends changing the way you talk to yourself—specifically, shifting your internal dialogue from “I should” to “I’d like to.” (For example, “I should eat healthier.” vs. “I’d like to eat healthier.”) Here’s why: “What we tell ourselves creates an emotion, and that emotion yields a behavior. The word ‘should’ places an expectation of perfection on our lives that is often unrealistic. The phrase ‘I’d like to’ removes the feeling of not being enough and lowers the stake.”
Say a mantra every day.
HP says: Mantras can keep you grounded in the moment, allowing you to reap the rewards of mindfulness, and they could help you actually believe what you’re saying after a while. (Yes, you are beautiful. And yes, you should repeat that to yourself every day if that’s what you need.)
Additional research: One study on speaking or chanting mantra regularly showed positive effects on digestion, mental health, blood pressure, and sleep.
Do an activity outside of your comfort zone.
HP says: There’s a whole life to discover on the other side of your routine. Not to mention the fact that doing something different may boost creativity.
Additional research: There are multiple references that say challenging yourself to go out of your comfort zone is the only way to success. “Challenging yourself pushes you to dip into and utilize your personal store of untapped knowledge and resources,” said Abigail Brenner, M.D., a private-practice psychiatrist. “You have no idea what you’re made of unless and until you venture outside of your own familiar world.”
“Taking risks, regardless of their outcome, are growth experiences.”
Making healthy choices doesn’t have to mean a complete overhaul of your current lifestyle. Starting small and expanding on the healthy habits you develop is the key to maintaining a lifestyle that benefits your body and mind.
Not sure where to start? Need some motivation to get started? Join Moksha Method’s monthly newsletter and receive on-demand yoga classes, plant-based recipes, and tips to help you stick to your health goals.