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It’s that time of year again: New Year’s resolution season! Start the new decade with your sights set on building and sustaining healthy habits.

Drop the binge-diet fad — trendy diets are a dime a dozen and lose-weight-get-happy mantras are doomed to fail because they are rooted in self-hate.

Reset your thinking. Focus on building healthy habits that you can sustain in the long term. You can set small goals that you can build on over time. Say goodbye to self-hate and commit to developing healthy habits that make you feel good.

Tracking your progress is a great way to make the health-centered changes crystalize into long-term habits. When you are setting goals, aim for the sweet spot where you are challenged to meet the goal but not overwhelmed by feeling like it’s out of reach. And be resilient!

One of the most common reasons we don’t follow through on our New Year’s resolutions is because we slip up once or twice and decide to just call it quits. It is easy to get discouraged if you are trying to meet a goal that is based on self-hate. Research has shown that it is more sustainable and successful over time to meet goals that are based on self-love, self-respect and enjoying the healthy habits you are creating.

Here are five healthy habits to develop for your 2020 New Year’s resolutions. Remember: No self-hate is allowed!

Limit social media use. You heard me. Research has shown that extensive social media use contributes to negative mental health and poor self-esteem. Invest in your mental health in 2020 and beat your social media addiction. Studies have found that limiting social media usage to 30 minutes a day significantly reduces feelings of loneliness, depression and anxiety. Here are some practical tips for setting limits on your social media usage:

• Set timers for how long you spend on social media each day.

• Be present. Commit to putting your phone away when you’re with company. Focus on the activity, entertainment or conversation you’re in rather than paying half-attention to your phone at the same time.

• Mute, unfollow or block any social media pages that negatively affect your mental health or self-esteem.

Integrate exercise into TV time. We’ve all heard that “sitting is the new smoking.” Whether you have a Netflix show that you are dying to binge or a show that you watch weekly, you can get in the habit of being active during TV time! Rather than sitting for an hour (or, let’s face it, a five-hour Netflix marathon), you can be exercising. Your body and mind will thank you. Plus, you’ll find that the time goes by quickly because your shows are on! Here are some ideas for adding some exercise to your TV-watching routines:

• Walk or jog on the treadmill as you stream your favorite shows.

• Make a game of it! Online, there are lots of workout plans based on popular TV shows. For example, do 10 pushups every time Joey says, “How you doin’?” on “Friends” or do 15 crunches every time Jim looks at the camera on “The Office.”

• Do a 90-second exercise circuit during commercial breaks.

New workout every week. For 2020, try a new form of exercise every week. For your healthy habits to stick, you are going to have to enjoy doing them! As you are trying new things, look for activities that improve your energy level and mood. Try to avoid exercising to “punish” yourself for eating or to “earn” food. Instead, build a healthy relationship with exercise where you do it because you love your body, not in order to love your body. If you take this mindset seriously, you’ll find it is a lot easier to stay motivated and positive about building exercise habits. Here are some fun new exercises to try:

• Jump rope. Set timers, count repetitions or have competitions with your family and friends.

• Swimming. Set a goal to swim a certain distance or amount of time. You can have races or even just get in the pool with friends and family.

• Try a new machine at the gym. Maybe there’s a machine that looks intimidating or that you have never tried — make that your new exercise for the week!

• Give yoga or Pilates a shot. Maybe you can try a new studio, a more difficult class or even hot yoga. You can also try yoga and Pilates videos on YouTube, if you prefer privacy during workouts.

• Get physical. Have you ever wanted to give boxing a try or take a self-defense class? Give it a shot this week!

Cook at home. Cooking at home is a habit that is healthy for your body and your budget. The meals that you make at home are often lower sodium, lower calorie and have less added sugar than eating out! Plus, practicing cooking is building a valuable lifelong skill. Here are some ways you can get excited about cooking at home:

• Try new things. The internet is abound with food blogs and recipes. Try to make a new dish every week. You’ll find some dishes that you enjoy and that you can make your specialty!

• Make it social. Take a cooking class with friends and family or make a deal with a couple of friends that each of you will cook for each other once a month. It will be more enjoyable and sustainable if it also includes quality time with loved ones.

• Keep it simple. If cooking is new for you, then don’t feel like you need to make a big change. Instead, try cooking two nights a week and bringing the leftovers for lunch! Or find a simple soup, salad or sandwich that you enjoy making regularly.

Sleep. Clocking eight hours of sleep each night is proven to lower your risk for physical health conditions and improve your mental health. Research shows that Americans suffer from sleep deprivation. Studies suggest that chronic tiredness reduces your emotional intelligence, self-esteem, capacity for empathy toward others, impulse control and positive thinking. Yikes! Get in the habit of sleeping a full seven to nine hours every night to make healthy changes in 2020. Here are some tips to improve your sleep habits:

• No screens in bed. The blue light in computer and phone screens interferes with our brain’s sleep-wake cycle. Cut out screens 30 minutes before you go to bed to have an easier time falling asleep.

• Have a routine. It is easier to be in the habit of sleeping properly if you try to go to bed and wake up at consistent times every day. This also means breaking the habit of binge-sleeping on weekends!

• Swap TV for a book. If reading isn’t your favorite pastime, try other screen-free habits that you can do before bed. Knitting, journaling, meditation, listening to music or drawing would be good ideas to try! 

Katie Cornford works in Kern County Public Health’s Waste Hunger Not Food program. She received her B.A. in political science from UCLA in 2016 and her M.A. in political science from UCLA in 2018. She is working toward her teaching credential from CSUB.

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