As we prepare to kiss 2020 goodbye and greet a hopefully less chaotic 2021, the pressure to create meaningful New Year’s resolutions is upon us. We’ll admit it: The stakes feel much higher this year.
Sure, you could pledge to lose weight or work out more, but we all know that vague, half-formed New Year’s resolutions wind up in the recycling bin. So to help you identify a specific, actionable resolution to devote yourself to come January 1, we asked eight health and fitness pros about the personal commitments they plan to make.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the rampant burnout, anxiety, and depression that have accompanied it, 2021 resolutions may look different than in years past—and that’s a-okay. After all, even the smallest acts of self-care go a long way these days.
Here’s hoping some of these expert-backed ideas provide inspiration for a happy, healthy, and productive new year.
1. Drink more water
Dietitian Colleen Christensen, R.D., says drinking water is her personal health goal for 2021—and for good reason. “Hydration is so important for our bodies to not only function optimally but to feel their best,” she says. “Inadequate hydration has been shown to impact our digestion as well as our cognition.”
“Typically, we focus on food and less on hydration when thinking of health-related resolutions,” she says. “This resolution is super-important for a few reasons, thanks to the pandemic. Many of us are less active right now, which, in addition to dehydration, can also contribute to constipation.”
Read More: 8 Fun Ways To Drink More Water When You Hate Water
For Christensen, switching up the water bottle she uses and adding flavor from fruit helps her stay motivated to drink more water. Setting an hourly reminder to drink water or tracking your water intake on an app can also help move the needle.
The Mayo Clinic recommends men and women drink a baseline of at least 15.5 and 11.5 cups of water per day, respectively.
2. Meditate regularly
Personal trainer Heather Black, C.P.T., is resolving to make meditation a regular practice in the new year. (And if this busy personal trainer and single mom to four boys can carve out the time to get quiet, we all can!)
“Prior to the pandemic and resulting shutdown, I had been attending regular meditation classes,” she says. “It was so helpful for my stress levels and constant feelings of overwhelm, and I’m looking forward to getting back into the habit. It’s incredible how something as simple as focusing on your breathing can make such a positive difference.” (Check out this meta-analysis on meditation’s positive impact on stress and wellbeing if you’re not sold.)
Not sure how to start? Apps like SimpleHabit, Calm, and Headspace make it easy.
3. Dedicate more time To fun and relaxation
This coming year, Dr. Ryan M. Greene, D.O., medical director for Preg Appetit!, wants to designate more time in his schedule for pleasurable activities that have nothing to do with work. “If we do not set time aside to recharge and reset mentally, burnout, discontent, depression, and many other negative health outcomes will soon follow,” he says. “This applies to anyone in any field on planet Earth.” No matter who you are or how you make a living, it’s important for your mind and body alike to take time off to turn off thinking and reset.
What that downtime looks like will be different for everyone. A couple of suggestions to get the wheels turning: Start a craft project or take an educational class online (try platforms like MasterClass and Coursera).
4. Go plant-based
Trainer Emilie Nasseh, C.P.T., is focusing on becoming more devoted to a vegan diet come 2021. “In years past I tended to focus mostly on improving my workouts and the aesthetics of my body rather than on the food I was putting into my body,” she says. “During the pandemic, I’ve been able to read more about better diets, improving gut health, and the benefits of plant-based eating—and I’ve slowly started to transition over the past few months.”
Read More: The Best Supplements For Plant-Based Eaters
With plant-based meat sales skyrocketing amidst the pandemic and an increased emphasis on eating nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables to support immune health, Nasseh isn’t alone in this. But if you’re not ready to commit to eating full-on plant-based, consider challenging yourself to participate in the annual Veganuary (yes, that’s a vegan January). Or, get on the Meatless Monday bandwagon.
5. Spread The Love at least once a week
The pandemic has made many of us feel even more grateful for what we have—and now’s the time to show it.
“One of my 2021 New Year’s resolutions will be as simple as a text message or email [expressing gratitude], just something to brighten the recipient’s day and make them feel seen and heard,” offers John Fawkes, C.P.T., personal trainer and managing editor of The Unwinder. He plans to send at least one feel-good note per week.
Fawkes has been considering doing something like this for months, but January seems like the perfect time to implement his idea. “Quarantine and all the craziness of the past year has made the practice seem all the more important. Not to mention, positive psychology research consistently shows we can actually lift our own mood, happiness, and self-image by practicing gratitude.” Who couldn’t benefit from that right now?
6. Sit less, stand more
From potentially increasing mortality risk to wrecking your posture, sitting is really, really bad for you. Sitting (especially in front of screens), can also contribute to mindless snacking and eye strain.
While you might think a yoga instructor doesn’t spend too much time sitting down, you’d be surprised by all the administrative work involved in running a studio (especially amidst the pandemic). That’s why Jeanine Duval, a certified Kaivalya yoga instructor and the co-founder of tarot card group Edelwyn, is making a conscious effort to spend less time sitting next year. “Aside from a wide range of health benefits, I’m personally doing this to improve back pain and feel more flexible,” she explains. “I’m going to incorporate a desk I can stand at or implement regular walks in between writing sessions.”
7. Eat three servings of different vegetables Per day
“It may seem simple, but this year I have a goal of consuming three full servings of different vegetables every day,” says Gabby Geerts, R.D., dietitian at Green Chef. “Eating more vegetables only has positive effects on our health, reducing risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and obesity.” Cruciferous veggies have even been linked to lower risk of some cancers.
Read More: 5 Ways To Sneak More Greens Into Your Snacks
“Previously, I would look to cut back on eating out or snacking,” she explains. “This year, I’m looking to add to my diet in hopes of avoiding more negative associations with New Year’s resolutions.”
To stay focused on your goal and load up on more veggies, Geerts advises logging your intake in a journal. No, French fries don’t count!
8. Redefine self-care
“This upcoming year, I am committing myself to redefining what self-care means for me,” offers therapist Taylor Orlandoni, L.M.H.C. In a landscape of self-care portrayed as expensive face masks and wine, “it is important to consider self-care as more than an indulgent treat but a mode of being,” she says. “Although I will certainly indulge in the Instragam types of self-care (the fluffy blankets, under-eye masks, yada yada), I am committing to expanding my self-care to encompass more.”
For Orlandoni, that includes redesigning her WFH setup to distinguish work from relaxation spaces in her home. “Brains literally function better when they are able to say, ‘okay, this is my office. I do work here.’ Or, ‘this is my bedroom, I rest here.’ So, when you are in a pandemic, working from home, and your ‘home office’ is really just a corner desk in your studio apartment, your brain gets really confused,” she explains.
Carving out daily time for relaxing activities like coloring or knitting, or scheduling time to do absolutely nothing, also go a long way. And those are some New Year’s resolutions we can all get behind, right?