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New Year’s resolutions are so 2021—plus, how many of them really stick? And leave behind that “new year-new you” mindset, too: Instead, focus on making the you you already are healthier and happier! This easy 14-day challenge will put your mental and physical health on the front burner by giving you just one daily task to accomplish. Each one is a super-effective way to boost your health. Let’s get started, and for more from our membership club, visit our library of Prevention Premium Exclusive Guides & Challenges.
Toss expired meds
Here’s a job you’ve most likely been putting off for a while. Still, you don’t want to simply toss all the old pills down the drain or toilet–some meds can expose the public to chemicals through the water system, plus cause pollution. “According to the FDA, the best way to dispose of old or expired medications is through drug take-back programs,” says Jennifer Caudle, D.O., a family physician and associate professor of family medicine at Rowan University. “Some medications may be disposed of at home, but it’s important to review FDA recommendations to understand what drugs can be discarded at home and how.” The FDA also offers a “flush list” of medications you can safely dispose of on your own.
Day 2: Declutter your email inbox
What’s more frustrating than searching through hundreds of unread messages for the one email you need right this second? Not a lot, so lower your blood pressure and improve your mood by taking the time today to start deleting. “For many people, organizing in and of itself can be a de-stressor,” says Deborah Serani, Psy.D., a psychologist, author and professor at Adelphi University. “And streamlining can be empowering.” After you do original declutter, schedule ten minutes each evening to get rid of spam and any unnecessary info that came in during the day, and you’ll start the next day calmer, and more organized.
Day 3: Check your first aid kit
The Red Cross recommends that you include the following in a first aid kit: absorbent compress dressings, adhesive bandages (assorted sizes), adhesive cloth tape, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic wipe packets, aspirin, instant cold compress, 2 pairs of nonlatex gloves, hydrocortisone ointment, gauze roll bandage, roller bandage, sterile gauze pads in multiple sizes, oral thermometer, tweezers, and emergency first aid guide. The Prevention MyMedic kit has all this and more. If you have a car, consider preparing two kits and keep one in your trunk (include an emergency blanket in that kit).
Day 4: Schedule those doctors‘ appointments
Have you put off a checkup? Is it time for that colonoscopy? Procrastinate no more. “Regular checkups are an important step to staying on top of your health,” says Caudle. “Not only should you see your doctor when you’re sick, but you should also go when you’re well to review preventive screenings and services that are important for your health.” Make appointments for each member of your household around the same time annually, so it’s an event that everyone participates in as a team, and no one forgets it’s time for their visit.
Day 5: Offer someone an olive branch
Have you gotten off on the wrong foot with a colleague or neighbor? Whether or not you’ve contributed to the tension, take the initiative and offer to buy her a coffee. A simple, friendly gesture is a proactive way to reset your relationship, and cut your daily stress a ton. The easy way to conversationally get on the same page? Keep things light. “Share a photo of something personal and neutral, discuss a football game, tell a joke, or share a recipe,” says Harris B. Straytner, Ph.D.., clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. “Be the bigger person by placing your own resentments on the side.”
Day 6: Deal with that paper clutter
When your desk looks like a typhoon hit it, chances are you feel anxious and unproductive. Says Serani, “When we create environments that are clear, clean, and open, we jump start our neurochemistry. These kinds of spaces increase the feel-good chemicals dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin in your brain.” Clearing your space can also have a positive effect on your motivation: When you straighten things up before tackling an important task, you may well do it better. In the same way, ridding your kitchen counter of stacks of junk mail, school flyers, and old to-do lists could well encourage you to use that space for prepping healthy meals!
Day 7: Face your fridge
“Did you know up to 40% of food that is produced ends up wasted?” asks Mackenzie Burgess, R.D.N., culinary dietician and recipe developer at Cheerful Choices. So sort through what you have, then make a plan for the future: “To prevent some of this food waste, consider checking your fridge every few days for any items on their last leg. Then, prioritize using these foods in recipes or freezing to make them last longer.” You don’t always have to chuck food that may still have a bit of nutritional kick left in it, though. Burgess says you can blanch and freeze veggies that are near to going bad; freezing is also a good option for sauces like pesto and tomato paste.
Day 8: Get your car inspected
And not just if you need a new sticker! Taking your vehicle in for a brakes check and overall safety assessment on a regular basis is the best protection for you and your family. In addition to having a professional mechanic give your vehicle a top-to-bottom evaluation, AAA suggests performing your own check-up on a regular basis, including:
- Monthly checks, on the same day each month, of tire pressure and condition, plus oil, coolant, and windshield wiper fluid levels
- Taking note of smells, noises, or leaking fluid, which can help you avoid big repairs
Day 9: Try a new recipe
A change of taste is always a great change of pace. To start cooking healthier recipes when you really don’t know how to get started, start with easy concepts. “Use simple ingredients you’re familiar with,” suggests Burgess. “As a general rule, look for recipes that contain 10 ingredients or less, require little to no prep work, and have easy to understand instructions. This might be sheet pan dinners, a one pot pasta, or a simple chicken salad.” Burgess also recommends teamwork as a way to make cooking healthy a no-brainer: “Try setting up monthly dinners with a friend who enjoys cooking, and join forces to create a few healthy meals.”
Day 10: Beat insomnia like a pro
- Begin by relaxing your entire face: your forehead, eyelids, and jaw.
- Relax your shoulders and drop your hands, letting them fall to the sides of your body.
- Inhale and exhale and focus on relaxing your chest.
- Then progressively relax your legs, from your thighs down to your calves, ankles, and feet.
- Clear your mind for ten seconds. Visualize whatever scene is relaxing to you, whether that’s the waves at a beach, lying still in a dark room, or zoning out in a hammock looking at the sky. Let thoughts come and go without focusing on them. If needed, repeat “don’t think” to yourself over and over.
Day 11: Update your dental care routine
Make an appointment with your dentist for a checkup, and ask for help tweaking your at-home regimen. Is your toothpaste really the best for getting the job done? Are you flossing the right way? Get the pro tips you need for a healthier smile, and change what’s not working. Also, familiarize yourself with a general outline of what you should be doing to care for your teeth and guns, as outlined by the Mayo Clinic, including advice on how many times to brush per day, when to replace your toothbrush, using the right amount of floss, and more.
Day 12: Schedule a hearing test
You may not have had one since you were a kid, and a lifetime of loud music and environmental noise (hello, daily traffic and street construction!) can take a toll. “Hearing loss not only affects your health, it affects your quality of life,” says Caudle. According to data from Harvard Medical School, you may be experiencing hearing loss if you have symptoms such as:
- Always needing the volume turned up on your TV
- Asking people to repeat themselves
- Missing phone calls or having trouble hearing the voice on the other end.
Tell your PCP you’d like your hearing checked, and if needed, to refer you to an audiologist for advanced testing. Plus, definitely turn down your headphones.
Day 13: Fix whatever that thing is that bugs you
Do those smudges on a particular doorway set your teeth on edge? Does your messy linen closet make you feel messy in general? Today is the day to tackle the job, and then you’ll have one less thing in your life that bothers you.
Day 14: Schedule time to nurture yourself
Do not feel guilty about this—it’s not self-indulgence, it’s self preservation. “When we make time to schedule self-care moments like resting, decompressing, exercising, eating well, sleeping well, or setting boundaries, we nurture ourselves,” says Serani. “Identifying your own unique needs for ‘me time’ keeps your physical, emotional, and mental well-being balanced.” Whether it’s watching And Just Like That, reading that novel that’s been living rent-free on your bedside table, bubble-bathing it, or savoring your favorite meal, make it something you really, really enjoy, to recharge emotionally and remind yourself that you count. Do it today—and then tomorrow, make regular “me time” a habit for good.
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