For the last several years, I’ve decided on 1 or 2 “Healthier Habits” to develop over the course of that calendar year (with the intention of continuing each new habit for the foreseeable future).
It’s exciting for me to choose my healthier habit each year because eating and living healthier usually feels very overwhelming to me.
It doesn’t come naturally to me like cleaning and decluttering does… and it’s not anything I particularly enjoy, not like a good organizing project!
When it comes to healthifying my life, the only thing that works for me is to START SMALL, make ONE change at a time, and continually work at it until it becomes a true habit (something I do without even thinking about it).
Hmmm… that advice sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it!! 🙂
I also love looking back at previous years’ Healthier Habits and realizing just how far I’ve come over the past decade — all making ONE SMALL change at a time.
Why Do I Start My New Habits in January?
Here’s a secret… it’s NOT because these habits are my “New Year’s Resolutions”!
While I certainly do NOT think healthier habits (or any goals) should be reserved for the beginning of a New Year, I have personally found that this time period works really well for me because I have more “downtime” during this part of the year… meaning I have more time to focus on learning, trying, and doing something new.
I don’t have yard work or fun outside activities vying for my attention, all the holiday “extras” are done and over, Dave and the older kids are back to school, and I always seem to have a break in the requests of my time from church, school, etc. from the middle of January through the end of February.
Change is hard for me!
Who can relate!?!
I need to focus on making conscious efforts to change my behavior in order for my habits to really stick, so over the last decade, I’ve utilized the 6 weeks from Mid-January through the end of February to jump-start my new healthier habit.
Of course, I continue pursuing and honing the healthier habits all year long (and into the foreseeable future) but those first 6 weeks are crucial to my success because THAT’S when I form the new habit (and get rid of old habits).
But Why Only ONE New Habit A Year?
That’s just what I’ve found works best for me!
As I mentioned above — change is hard and not something I enjoy. Too much change at once and I’m ready to throw in the towel before I even get started.
One change (sometimes 2) at a time just seems to work for me. The changes stick better, the habits form more easily, and my new routine develops more naturally than when I try to force too many changes at once.
If I could drill one Simple Living Message into your brain, it would be THE POWER OF ONE!
- one small change
- one new habit
- one better choice
- one task crossed off your list
- one decluttered drawer
- one organized shelf
- one pile of papers to shred or recycle
- one bag of trash
- one box of donations to bring away
- one dollar put into savings
- one chunk of time spent doing something you love
- one page in your book (seriously, this is how I read at times!)
- one earlier morning
- one more dollar saved
- one pound lost
My list could continue for miles!
I know it doesn’t seem like much in the beginning (seriously, I really do understand) BUT over time, the power of ONE has the potential to completely transform your entire home and life.
If you don’t believe me, just look at where a decade of Small, Simple, Healthier Habits has brought me!
I want to note that I actually got a fair amount of criticism and “you’ve got to be kidding me” type of comments from readers who thought my yearly healthier habits were too easy, too small, too insignificant.
But I stuck with it… and while I know there’s always more I could do (and will continue doing) to live and enjoy a healthier lifestyle, it truly is amazing to look back over the past 10 years and see that the power of ONE small healthier habit has made such a massive impact on my life!
2011 Healthier Habit = Get More Sleep
Proper sleep health has always been important to me as it has such a huge effect on every aspect of my life — but this was the year I really pushed hard to be in bed on time instead of always doing “one more thing”.
Ironically, it was also the year we had our first baby (the baby who NEVER slept!)
Dave and I both did really well getting to bed on time (and waking up on time) until the last month of the year when baby Nora kept us both up for the majority of December (and the next 3 years — LOL!)
9 years and 4 children later, we are back to a much happier and healthier sleep routine again… and it feels good!
This is most definitely a healthier habit I will take with me throughout my life — and one I hope my children will carry with them as well!
2012 Healthier Habit = Drink More Water
While I’m far from a health or nutrition expert, I have realized (through my own personal experience, and now doing quite a bit of research) that drinking enough water each day is one of THE SIMPLEST THINGS we can all do to improve our overall health and wellbeing.
Water is free (or at least very frugal), it’s readily available pretty much everywhere, and consuming enough of it can have profound effects on our skin, nails, hair, sleep patterns, weight management, digestion, muscle tone, mental well-being, and more!
I try to drink at least 100 ounces of water every single day — and while this might seem like a lot, it’s now a habit for me and my body has “regulated” to drinking this much water (I promise, I’m not in the bathroom all day long!)
2013 Healthier Habit = Use Butter Instead of Margarine
This change seems like a lifetime ago — but I remember how challenging it was for me at the time.
I grew up on margarine and the cost difference between margarine and butter is BIG (especially for how much butter our family goes through each week!)
Now, 7 years later, I no longer buy or use margarine, Crisco, or vegetable oil. Instead, I substitute butter, coconut oil, olive oil, or even applesauce in all my recipes.
NOTE: I know many of my old recipes on the blog still call for “butter or margarine” and “vegetable oil” but I just haven’t made the time to go back and update them all — it’s on my long list of “Things To Do Eventually” though!
2014 Healthier Habit = Switch to Full-Fat Dairy Products (no post for this one)
This switch was relatively easy for me once I found my “sources”. Aldi now caries whole milk Greek and regular plain yogurt, as well as whole milk, full-fat cottage cheese, and cream cheese. We also have a health food store just about a mile from our house — it’s expensive but has excellent options for full-fat dairy.
I will say that while I’m happy we made the switch to full-fat dairy, this is one habit I don’t stress too much about. If I can’t find whole milk products, I’ll just by 2% or less if we’re really in a pinch.
I would really like to get back to making my own yogurt, but we eat it so quickly that the time it takes to keep it in the fridge is more than I’m willing to spend right now — especially with high-quality store-bought options.
2015 Healthier Habit = Buy Higher Quality Bread and Eat “Healthier Fats”
This was the year we officially switched from white bread to buying whole-wheat or whole-grain bread from the store. Of course, now I make much of our own whole-grain bread from scratch (see my 2019 healthier habit below) — but this was a great starting point for me and for my family.
Also, after switching to butter 2 years before, this was the year I made the switch from vegetable oil to olive oil and coconut oil.
I also started integrating healthier fats into our everyday lives — eating lots of avocados in guacamole, pudding, and smoothies; including lots more nuts and seeds into our daily snacks and recipes, and we got our kids to eat salmon (well 75% of them will eat salmon!)
2016 Healthier Habit = Eat Less Processed Meats
After Dave’s parents gifted us with a 1/4 of a cow for Christmas in 2015, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to remove many processed meats from our home.
Truthfully, I still buy all-beef hotdogs on occasion, and the kids absolutely LOVE all-beef summer sausage and this breakfast sausage from Costco, but for the most part, I am fairly diligent with buying and preparing high-quality beef, pork, chicken, and fish on a very regular basis.
Obviously, the fact that we are gifted A LOT of beef from Dave’s parents helps to minimize our costs, but we plan to continue purchasing meat in bulk even if they stop gifting it to us! 🙂
I get lots of questions about how well our kids eat meat — honestly, I think all of my kids would say that “meat and potato” meals are their favorites. They do love a variety of casseroles, but they are huge fans of meat-potato-veggie meals.
2017 Healthier Habit = Use Real Maple Syrup and Start Flossing Every Day
Dave and I both grew up with imitation syrups — and honestly, I think there are worse things to consume so it never really bothered me all that much. However, I decided that 2017 would be our year to switch to real maple syrup.
It was hard… not only did the kids complain about the taste difference, but the “Real Deal” is SO MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE than the imitation stuff!
We utilized one sneaky trick to help our children transition to Maple Syrup… it worked like a charm! Now our entire family happily consumes real Maple Syrup with our whole grain pancakes… and to be honest, we sometimes skip the syrup altogether and just opt for fruit on our pancakes!
Also, if you’re looking for a good deal on Maple Syrup, we buy the Kirkland’s brand from Costco (it’s delicious and the best price per ounce I’ve found anywhere).
In 2017, I set a 2nd healthier habit of flossing every day. I have definitely skipped a few days — but considering I almost never flossed for the first 31 years of my life, I’ve been doing pretty well these last 3 years!
2018 Healthier Habit = Pack Low-Waste Lunches and Eat TONS of Veggies
We use Planet Boxes and Bags to pack lunches every school day — and we always bring reusable water bottles wherever we go.
The Planet Boxes were a bit of an investment up-front (I actually purchased them in 2017), but we’ve been using and loving the Planet Boxes for 3 school years already and they still look brand new.
Regarding the veggies… as many of you know, our family now eats SO many veggies each and every day! We eat veggies for breakfast, we eat them for snacks, we eat them roasted, and I always have a large assortment of vegetables prepped and ready to go in the fridge at all times.
As I incorporated more veggies and fresh produce into our meals, I naturally began cooking more from scratch — which morphed into using very few process foods. I truly have nothing against processed foods and we still eat them on occasion, but I’ve really come to enjoy cooking from scratch and figuring out ways to make things myself instead of buying them.
NOTE: this was also the year I committed to losing ALL my baby weight for good! Read more about how I lost 60 pounds in 60 weeks in this post!
2019 Healthier Habit = Grind My Own Grain (and eat a wide variety of whole-grains every day)
This habit has been a true labor of love — it honestly IS a “habit” now. I slide my grain mill out almost every single day, without a second thought, any time I need flour or other grains for cooking, baking, and more.
Along with hard and soft White and Red Wheat, I grind, roast, steam, and boil Spelt, Einkorn, Kamut, Barley, Buckwheat, Amaranth, Millet, Farro, Oats, Quinoa, and more on a near-daily basis.
Cooking, eating, and ENJOYING whole grains with my family has become a passion of mine — and while my journey to find the perfect loaf of 100% whole grain bread nearly killed me (OK, not really, but it was a long road) I can honestly say I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning about, experimenting with, and tasting such a huge variety of grains.
My children have enjoyed the process too — regularly asking questions about grains and learning right along with me.
I know I haven’t shared as much as I could about my whole-grain journey on the blog (just a handful of my favorite whole-grain recipes) but that’s because I’m not sure it really “fits” here on my simple-living blog. I will continue to evaluate this as the months go by.
The power of ONE is truly amazing and transformative!
Don’t let yourself feel defeated or lose hope that you aren’t making big massive life-altering changes.
Just pick something small and start implementing it today… and then work on it again tomorrow.
What new habit will you work towards this year?
NOTE: Check back later this week to read about my new 2020 Healthier Habit! 🙂