6 New Healthy Habits You’ll Actually Want To Stick To In 2022

This year make realistic, easy to stick to resolutions, that aren’t bound for the graveyard

6 Healthy Habits You'll Actually Want to Stick To

by Maria Lally |

A new year is just around the corner, one that might be every bit as unpredictable as the last, so forget about setting yourself large, stressful goals that leave you feeling overwhelmed during an already bleak month. Instead aim to form these six, small-ish habits that feel doable and can be slotted easily into your life.

Join a ‘green gym’

During the first lockdown, workouts quickly moved online with Joe Wicks leading the charge. When spring arrived, however, many of us took our exercise outside and by the end of 2020, the number of women cycling rose by 50% and searches for ‘wild swimming’ increased by 94%. Even when restrictions lifted some gym chains began offering outside workouts in their car parks or tennis courts, and woodland workouts led by personal trainers sprung up.

A US study that looked at post-lockdown anxiety and ‘green exercise’ found those who had exercised outside reported fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression. ‘The data is very clear that the mind and the brain are healthier when we more time in nature, but also outdoors in general,’ said Dr David A. Merrill, from the Pacific Neuroscience Institute’s Pacific Brain Health Centre in Santa Monica, who led the study.

Pay attention to your immune system

If Covid has taught us anything it’s that our immune systems are worth paying attention to, with searches for ‘boost immune system’ up by 84% in 2021. This doesn’t need to involve a new supplement or particular food though, according to Dr Jenna Macciochi, a lecturer in immunology at the University of Sussex and the author of Immunity – The Science of Staying Well. ‘A strong immune system is the result of many different inputs across diet, exercise, gut health, mental wellbeing, sleep and recovery,’ she says. ‘See each as a layer of swiss cheese: each action we take to protect ourselves against infection offers protection but also has holes. When we layer our actions, holes in each layer are more likely to be covered, collectively offering a good barrier to poor health.’

Dr Macciochi’s top immunity tips? Lots of different types of fibre and plants, plenty of protein and a little oily fat. Sleep is key because it’s anti-inflammatory, so aim for 7-9 hours a night. Move every day, which rejuvenates the immune system, including incremental exercise like walking up stairs, which breaks up sedentary behaviour little sitting behind a laptop all day. Lastly, never underestimate how stress (especially the daily, low level kind) affects immunity, so take steps to address it.

Mindful thinking

If the last couple of years have been about mindful drinking, then next will be about mindful thinking. ‘What we allow inside our minds from news and social media, and what we tell ourselves, is as important as the food and drink we consume,’ says psychologist Linda Blair. ‘Be mindful of who you follow and be mindful of how much bad news you read. It’s important to stay informed, but you don’t need to know every twist and turn of Covid. Likewise, social media can be fun and thought-provoking, but it can also lead to low self-esteem if you consume too much.’

Setting time limits is key, says Blair, who also advises unfollowing or hiding accounts that leave you feeling flat.

And watch how you talk to yourself: ‘We’re all working from home again, which means more time inside our heads,’ she says. ‘If you find yourself speaking negatively about yourself – “I did a terrible job on that” – replace it with “I could have done better”. Speak to yourself the way you would your best friend. What if they messed up, or had a lousy day? What would we say to cheer them up? That’s how we should speak to ourselves.’

Do a couch to 5k(g)

Victoria Beckham recently shared a photo of herself on Instagram mid-squat with a weighty bar hoisted above her head, with the caption: ‘Trying to keep up with @DavidBeckham in the gym’.

If you currently don’t lift weights, now might be the time to start. Women begin to lose muscle mass after the age of 30 (around 3-8% per decade), which means a slower metabolism. Beyond that, lifting weights will keep you stronger, more flexible, living for longer, and it will improve your bone density and immunity, says personal trainer Matt Roberts who has worked with Naomi Campbell and Amanda Holden.

So, how do you get started? A simple body pump class is a good place to start, or buy some hand held weights and find a good workout online. ‘Start with basic, light loading, aiming for 12-15 reps in a set, and do three or four sets,’ says Roberts, ‘and build from that.’ He also advises ‘incidental lifting’ in everyday life, like carrying a shopping basket full of food around the supermarket instead of pushing a small trolley.

Eco eating / Become a ‘climatarian’

Earlier this month, the bar chain Revolution switched the passionfruit garnish in its pornstar martinis for edible rice paper to cut its carbon footprint. Rob Pitcher, the company’s CEO, said most customers removed it almost immediately. ‘[And] we fly it all the way from South America to do that,’ he told a Zero Carbon Forum event.

So will food go the same way as fast fashion and cars this year?

‘Food is one of the single biggest impacts that Western consumers have on the environment,’ says Tim Lang, a professor of food policy at City university, who is calling on the government to give British shoppers greater awareness of how their supermarket basket impacts the planet. ‘What we eat and how it’s been produced, processed and cooked matters a great deal.’ Professor Lang says small changes can help: choose small scale producers, and if you eat meat make it pasture fed – and a treat. ‘Fifty years ago meat was a treat,’ says Professor Lang. ‘Now it’s as cheap as chips. In fact, chips are more expensive. The bulk of our diet needs to be vegetables and fruits. This is good for our bodies and good for our environment.’

Dietitian Helen Bond agrees: ‘Increasing the amount of fruit and veg we eat, while reducing meat, helps. But swapping those flown-in foods like passionfruit and avocados for British pears and broccoli makes an enormous difference too. Consumers walking into supermarkets are like kids in sweetshops – they can buy and eat anything. Ins

Keep a mood diary

According to research from BUPA, mood diaries will be huge in 2022. A step on from journaling, a mood diary focuses on your emotions, and how you feel and why. ‘After a turbulent year that's placed great pressure on our mental health, mood journaling is becoming more popular,’ says Dr Elizabeth Rogers, Bupa’s Associate Clinical Director. ‘Keeping one can be a useful way to get to the root of lingering negative feelings and increase positive ones. This allows you to recognise negative emotions and take action to help these feelings, whether it's opening up to a friend or mental health professional. Writing down your feelings has been shown to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, too.’

‘When I wake up, the first thing I do is get my notebook and write stuff down,’ says Linda Blair. ‘It can be anything – what I’m looking forward to, what I worried about. Then I tear the page out, screw it up and throw it away, and my mind is clear.’

READ MORE: As We Approach The New Year, Here Are Some Things You Could Try To Boost Your Wellness In 2022

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