You’ve heard the advice: Lose 25 pounds. Improve your relationship with your mother. Give up sugar and wrap your ankle behind your head in yoga class. While these are all laudable goals, they’re pretty ambitious. Reaching too high (especially in a pandemic!) can set you up for disappointment, ensuring that any resolutions will be toast. Let’s not go there. There are lots of small, simple things you can do to make a big impact on your overall health and preserve your peace of mind no matter what 2021 looks like. Embrace the expert-backed strategies here and set yourself up for a better year.
Buy a plant.One or two leafy plants will do the trick. “You don’t want to create a jungle, because visual complexity makes us stressed,” says Sally Augustin, Ph.D., an environmental psychologist who sets up spaces that support well-being and the principal at Design With Science. But having a couple of plants nearby can alleviate stress, boost mental energy, and help you think more creatively, she says.
Need inspiration? Check out these low-maintenance houseplants.
Paint the room peaceful.
“We’re all home a lot right now and tense for various reasons, and there are so many uncertainties,” says Augustin. Painting a wall just the right shade may help you decompress a bit. “Science shows that colors that are relatively light and not very saturated are relaxing,” she adds, “and a light color makes the space seem a little bigger.” Augustin suggests thinking about a soft color, like sage green, and what it would look like if you mixed it with an equal amount of white. Benjamin Moore’s Pastel Green, Misty Blue, and April Pink are good examples of calming colors.3
Go double or nothing on exercise.Find a friend who enjoys the same type of exercise as you do and set a combined goal (such as jogging 600 miles or doing 150 hours of yoga between the two of you), suggests Natalie Dorset, founder of The Laughing Runner coaching in New York City. Each of you is responsible for completing half the goal, and neither of you can claim success unless the other does their share. The key is to hold each other accountable and cheer each other on. Not only will tackling a joint challenge be more fun, but “it can also be a good way to stay connected with a friend,” says Dorset.
Tap into your mood on social media.“Everyone talks aboutlimiting social media, but what I mean is noticing how you feel before and after engaging with it,” says Kati Morton, LMFT, author of Are U OK? “If you feel worse afterward, consider who you’re following or what you’re doing online and make some changes.” You can also delete your account altogether if it’s driving your anxiety through the roof. (Our minds can handle only so many political arguments and images of fake-perfect lives.) If social media leaves you feeling connected and amused, keep scrolling—as long as you are also staying present in your real life.5
Schedule preventive care checkups.Many of us put off doctor’s appointments last year because of the pandemic, but most primary care offices have developed precautions so patients can be safely seen in person, and some offer virtual visits so you can talk to your doc from the comfort of your couch, says Anita Skariah, D.O., a primary care physician at UNC Health. She notes that people with underlying conditions such as hypertension and uncontrolled diabetes may have a harder course with COVID-19. “Aside from masking, social distancing, and frequent handwashing, another line of defense is keeping chronic conditions under good control,” adds Dr. Skariah. “This may prevent our bodies from becoming overwhelmed if we should encounter the COVID-19 virus.”