Want to have a happy, healthy year in 2024? While we can’t predict the future, we can help set you up for success and increase your odds of crushing your goals. Whether you want to change up your diet, lose weight, try intermittent fasting, run a marathon or stop biting your nails, keep reading.
We’re sharing the science behind resolutions (and why so many people quit them early), how to find motivation that lasts and more. We’re also sharing 20 science-backed healthy habits you can start anytime in 2024.
What Science Says about New Year's Resolutions
Almost half of Americans make a New Year’s resolution each year – but studies show that many of them fail (often due to a lack of willpower, everyday stress and negativity).
Other reasons we let ourselves down? Here are three big ones:
- False hope syndrome. We think it’s easier to change than it actually is, so we set goals that are too demanding and complicated for us.
- Cultural procrastination. We make resolutions for the future, rather than committing to change in the here and now.
- External motivators. According to the Self-Determination Theory, there are five types of motivation. The least helpful? Changing to win a bet or avoid a punishment. The best? Motivation that comes from within – you genuinely want to change and enjoy the new thing.
How to Predict if You’ll Stick to Your Goals
What if we told you we have a crystal ball to find out how likely you are to commit to your resolution this year (or anytime)? It's called the transtheoretical model of health behavior change (or the stages-of-change model), and it can help you determine how ready you are to change.
The TTM teaches you to start where you are – not where you think you should be, which is a red flag that we haven’t picked the right goal. The model isn’t designed to discourage you or crush your dreams. Instead, it helps you assess what you really want and how your goals might fit into your real life.
For example, if you resolve to cook every single meal at home, but you’re currently not cooking at all, you might want to adjust your resolution and commit to cooking twice a week. The TTM has shown promise for increasing physical activity among college students and encouraging teens to eat healthier meals, and it’s an assessment tool commonly used by personal trainers, dietitians and life and health coaches.
Here are the five stages:
- Precontemplation: You don’t want to change and feel comfortable where you are.
Ex: I don’t want to lose weight.
I hate eating vegetables and that won’t change.
- Contemplation: Maybe you’ll try something new or change, and maybe you won’t.
Ex: I should eat more vegetables, but I am not actually doing it.
I don’t exercise, but I know I would feel better if I moved more.
- Preparation: You’re planning to make changes in the near future.
Ex: I’m planning to join a gym in January.
I signed up for a meal delivery service that starts in two weeks.
- Action: You’re doing it! You’ve started your new healthy habit(s).
Ex: I’ve been eating vegetables at lunch and dinner, even if I don’t always like it.
I’m going to the gym before work three days a week.
- Maintenance: You did it! Those habits are easy to maintain.
Ex: After six months, I actually like eating salads.
I’ve grown to love my time at the gym.
Even if you’re no stranger to exercise and healthy eating, use this model anytime you want to start something new. But don’t let it discourage you! It’ll set you up to succeed.
And be honest: If you’re still in precontemplation, your behavior isn’t going to change yet. But you can shift into the next stage(s) at any time. The higher you climb on the scale, the more likely you will be to succeed. Tip: It’s also normal to go back to a previous stage, even after months or years. Take a break if you need to, but don’t quit!
4 Ways to Make a Healthy Habit Stick
Stack your habits. Almost half of our daily behaviors are repeated, so we don’t need to think about them. Link your new habit to one that’s second nature to commit to it faster. For example, add spinach to the smoothie you already make each morning.
Be “smart” about your goals. S.M.A.R.T. goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound plans. A smart goal might be: I commit to cooking a healthy dinner twice a week starting in January. (Instead of: I’ll start cooking more.)
Start with the first step. If you’ve never biked on the road, signing up for a 100-mile ride might be a little too ambitious. Instead, aim to ride your bike for 30 minutes, three times a week for a month, then scale up your goal or adjust it. Small steps add up and give you a boost of self-confidence and motivation.
Get rid of the obstacle. Avoid what might derail your habit, whether it’s sitting on the couch after work instead of running or driving past your favorite fast food place when you are supposed to cook a healthy dinner. By avoiding those obstacles, they can’t throw you off your game.
20 Science-Backed Healthy Habits You Can Start Anytime
Ready to set a goal (or two) for 2024? Here are 20 of our favorite healthy habits that you can start anytime.
- Learn to say no – and make it a full sentence. When we say “yes” but mean “no,” it can lead to overwhelm and exhaustion.
- Prioritize rest. Adults need 7-plus hours of sleep a night, but about one in three aren’t getting enough. Sleep is non-negotiable.
- Stop multitasking. Juggling too much at once can impact focus, attention and performance. Whenever you can, do one thing to completion, then move on to the next.
- Practice gratitude. Being thankful can change the brain, so make it a point to think about why you’re grateful even on tough days.
- Commit to your digestive happiness. Digestive enzyme supplements can help reduce digestive discomforts like gas and bloating, to help you feel your best after every meal.* Browse our digestive enzymes.
- Put your phone down at night. Avoid blue light from screens for an hour or more before bed to help yourself get a good night’s sleep.
- Move your body daily. Even 10 minutes– like a walk around the block – is enough to reap all the benefits of exercise.
- Get outside. Spending time in nature (aim for two hours a week) offers plentiful benefits beyond fitness.
- Find ways to give back. Volunteering can actually be good for your mind and body!
- Train your brain. Love sudoku or word games? Turns out, they can help your brain health.
- Learn something new. Whether it’s a new language, gardening or knitting, your brain and mood will thank you!
- Take up meditation. Even short sessions of mindfulness practices can help calm the mind, reduce daily stress and even boost well-being.
- Eat the rainbow whenever you can. Fiber is a nutrient of concern for many people, and it only comes from plants. Choose vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes and more to get all the benefits (like promoting regularity, satisfying hunger and helping beat belly bloat).
- Take a deep breath. Simply changing how you breathe can reduce everyday stress and its physical side effects. Commit to checking in with your breath a few times a day.
- Try intermittent fasting. Research shows that fasting for a set number of hours each day may have health benefits.
- Focus on regularity. Sure, occasional constipationhappens, but the fiber in kiwifruit can help maintain regularity and healthy digestion.* Learn more about what’s “normal” when it comes to regularity.
- Maintain a normal weight. It can help you stay healthy as you age – and even modest changes can make a difference.
- Train for the future. Exercise can help older adults stay mobile and reduce their risk of falls – but don’t wait. Make sure your fitness plan includes resistance training as well as cardio, and practice getting up off the floor. It sounds simple, but that’s a skill everyone should maintain!
- Laugh more often. Now this is a resolution anyone can get behind! Laughing, chuckling and giggling release feel-good endorphins, and studies have shown that prolonged laughter (and laughter yoga — yes, it’s real!) can temporarily boost your well-being.
- Cook at home. When you cook at home, you know what’s going into your food – and what’s not. If you have a food intolerance or want to improve your diet, preparing healthy meals at home can help!