If you, like many of us, are reluctant to throw your current life out to make room for all the things you’d need to change to achieve your highest self this year, don’t worry. We’ve compiled a list of things to help you make your life a bit better in 2023 – and all of them are optional.
From picking away at paying off your debt to wasting a little less food, the following 23 tips could help you along the way to reaching your goals this year – or, if you follow No. 23, help you know when a goal is well worth abandoning.
1. Sleep better, get a good night’s rest
Getting adequate sleep is critical to our cognitive functioning and physical health. But even if it’s the most natural thing in the world, to do it well requires planning and preparation. Here are some ways to create a sleep routine:
- If your mattress is more than 10 years old, upgrade it and swap your pillows for new ones every 12 to 18 months.
- Include your skincare routine in your bedtime regimen – it’s a ritual that can help you rest better.
- Unplug at least one hour before bed or, better yet, keep screens out of the bedroom altogether.
- Read a physical book or write in a journal.
- Spend 20 minutes stretching, meditating or practising deep belly breathing.
2. Fight brain fatigue
There are ways to combat a tired mind:
- Take short breaks to rest for at least 10 minutes throughout the day;
- Caffeine can provide a boost in brain function, but remember, it only lasts for 15 to 30 minutes;
- Walk for 30 minutes a day;
- Exercise your brain but don’t make it a chore. Keep your mind active with word puzzles.
3. Improve your diet
Instead of attempting a total revamp of your eating habits, review these tips from registered dietitian Leslie Beck:
- Keep a food diary for a week: Record your food intake after each meal. Don’t wait until the end of the day or you’ll likely forget a few foods. Assess your food diary each day – what do you notice?
- Eat more fibre: Women, aged 19 to 50, need 25 grams of fibre a day; men should strive for 38 grams. Try chia pudding for breakfast, or add two tablespoons of ground flaxseed to your morning oatmeal.
- Practise eating slowly: Studies show that people who eat quickly are three times more likely to be overweight. After every bite, put down your knife and fork and chew thoroughly.
- Eat two servings of fruit and vegetables each day: Snack on fruit (whole fruit, not juice) throughout the day, include vegetables at lunch and dinner, such as poached eggs on sautéed greens, or stir pumpkin puree into your overnight oats.
4. Walk more
Taking 10,000 steps a day is widely accepted as a default daily goal; however, activity guidelines need to be tailored to the individual. For those who do not walk a lot, a modest increase in step count of an additional 2,000 steps a day is an attainable, healthy goal.
And the good news is that it is fairly easy to increase your step count: Walk to work, play sports with your kids, take the stairs, walk and talk to colleagues at the office instead of e-mailing.
5. Drink more water
Meet your daily fluid requirements (2.2 litres for women, 3 litres for men) and follow this simple guidance: if you’re thirsty, drink water.
Consider these tips to meet your daily water quota:
- Eat your water: Roughly 20 per cent of our daily water comes from food. Hydrate with water-packed fruit and vegetables.
- Flavour or fizz it: If you find plain water boring, flavour it with lime and basil leaves or raspberries and fresh mint. Bubbly water counts, too.
- Make it convenient: Keep a filled bottle or glass of water on your desk at work and on your kitchen counter at home, and buy a water bottle that can clip onto your bag.
- Use an app: Keep track of your water intake using an app such as Daily Water, Waterlogged or Water Alert.
6. Drink less alcohol
A report released last fall by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction suggested that consuming three or more alcoholic drinks in a week puts your health at risk. For a low risk of suffering negative, acute and/or long-term health outcomes from drinking, a person should consume, on average, just zero to two standard drinks a week.
For those looking to cut back, many companies now offer non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirits. Try non-alcoholic wines or no-alcohol distilled spirits over the holidays, or visit bars, hotels or retailers offering elevated, booze-free alternatives.
7. Eat enough protein
Protein is essential in a healthy diet. Getting enough helps repair muscles after a workout, supports a strong immune system and maintains healthy hair and nails.
How much protein do you need?
- Sedentary individuals require 0.8 g of protein per kilogram body weight per day. A 75-kg (165-pound) inactive person needs 60 g of protein daily.
- Adults 65 and older should consume more protein each day – at least 1.0 to 1.2 g per kilogram body weight – to preserve muscle mass and muscle function.
8. Eat less meat
If you want to give up or cut down on meat consumption for health, environmental or ethical reasons, there are plenty of vegan and vegetarian sources of protein, including:
- Cottage cheese: One cup of contains 30 to 32 g of protein.
- Eggs: One large egg contains 6 g of protein.
- Lentils: One cup provides 18 g of protein.
- Edamame: Every ¾ cup of shelled green soybeans delivers 16 g of protein.
- Hemp seeds: Three tablespoons offer 10 g of protein.
And don’t forget about getting other key nutrients such as vitamin B12, vitamin B3, iron and zinc.
9. Cook for maximum nutritional value
You’re eating more vegetables, but are you cooking them for maximum nutritional benefit?
Steaming is one of the best methods to preserve easily damaged nutrients, such as vitamin C and many B vitamins. Dry cooking methods such as grilling, roasting and stir-frying also retain a greater amount of nutrients than boiling.
And – contrary to popular belief – microwaving does not kill nutrients, nor are frozen vegetables significantly less nutritious. Frozen vegetables closely match the nutrient content of their freshly picked counterparts because they’re flash-frozen at peak ripeness.
10. Follow a budget
Budgeting is an essential tool for meeting your financial obligations and goals. It’s a monthly tally of your income and expenses that lets you track where your money is going and be sure your spending and saving match your financial goals.
The best budget is the one you’ll actually use. Be honest with yourself about what habits you’ll stick with. If you search online, you’ll find plenty of free options to try. You can also look at spreadsheet software such as Excel, Google Sheets or Apple’s Numbers, which come with ready-to-use budgeting and savings templates.
11. Pay off debt
There is almost no end to the varieties of debt you can take on – student loans, car loans, personal loans, lines of credit, payday loans, debt-consolidation loans.
There are two basic strategies to pay off debt:
- Avalanche: Top down, paying off your debt with the highest interest rate first;
- Snowball: Top up, beginning with your smallest outstanding obligation first and “snowballing” your way to the largest).
12. Start investing your money
Investing can feel intimidating, but at its roots, it’s making your money make you money. You purchase assets at a given price with the hope they will increase in value. The greater the increase, the higher your returns. Of course, that comes with risk, so to get started investing, the first thing you want to do is consider your risk tolerance.
Some investments (such as stocks and cryptocurrency) can be quite volatile. Other assets (such as bonds) are less risky but offer more modest potential returns. Most experts advise investing in a mix of asset types to mitigate risk. For beginner investors, it’s best to begin with low-risk options such as ETFs or mutual funds.
You can start investing, without an adviser, by opening an online brokerage account or using a robo-adviser. There are many to choose from, including online brokerage services operated by the big banks and fintechs such as Wealthsimple or Questrade.
13. Save for the future
Building an emergency fund – or “rainy day fund” – is a crucial part of ensuring your financial health. Putting money aside specifically for unforeseen expenses is essential to keep those mishaps from wreaking havoc on the rest of your financial plans.
Consider these potential places to stash money away:
- Your TFSA: A tax-free savings account is an investment account and a tax shelter. The annual contribution limit in 2022 is $6,000.
- Your RRSP: A registered retirement savings plan is a savings plan for retirement and is a tax-advantaged account (meaning it provides a tax break). The maximum RRSP contribution limit for 2023 is 18 per cent of your previous year’s earned income or $30,780 – whichever is less.
14. How to ask for a raise
Remember that it’s reasonable to ask for a raise each year. If your responsibilities keep growing, you could pitch a new role to your employer. Sometimes it can be easier for employers to justify increased compensation for new positions.
Go to your boss with a firm number for the increase you are prepared to accept and the details of why you deserve it. Focus on the accomplishments associated with your increased responsibilities, and compensation, including salaries for similar roles inside and outside the organization.
If your employer says they can’t afford your request, ask what is possible: more vacation time, or other perks. If that figure is not acceptable, be gracious, and consider polishing up your résumé for a new job.
15. Travel more responsibly
As much as two per cent of the world’s carbon emissions are caused by global air travel, not to mention the potential impact overtourism has on local environments.
Satisfy your travel bug, but still travel responsibly:
- For air travel: Consider carbon offsets, which allow travellers to purchase a reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions to compensate for the emissions produced.
- Once you’ve arrived: Go local. Ask a hotel, restaurant or tour guide for recommendations to help tourism dollars benefit the community you’re visiting. Choose locally sourced and created cuisine.
- Treat your destination like your home: Go beyond reusing towels by bringing your own biodegradable toiletries in refillable containers – leave behind as little as possible.
16. Waste less food
It’s estimated Canadians throw out one in every four bags of groceries they bring home, and according to Second Harvest, the average Canadian household spends almost $5 a day on food they will throw out. Some tips to cut down on waste:
- Before you grocery shop, check your fridge and pantry. Bring the older food to the front, and store it in clear bags or containers.
- Don’t confuse best-before dates with expiry dates. A best-before date only reflects when the product is going to have its peak flavour, texture and nutrient value.
- Meal plan, then buy only what you need. Skip supersized containers: Just because a giant container of baby spinach is on sale doesn’t mean it’s a smart buy. If you end up throwing half of it out, the price effectively doubles.
- Learn the tricks for storing food, which can extend its life from days to months.
The best way to start decluttering is to start decluttering. Pick one drawer, one closet or the catch-all room.
- If you’re decluttering a family member’s home, start with the superficial items, such as appliances, before wrestling with more sentimental pieces.
- If you live far away or the house is too full, home organizers and junk-removal companies (which typically charge by the truckload) can assist with sorting, moving, recycling and consignment sales.
Find ways to savour memories: Make a photo album. A selfie with the ugly art your parents bought before you were born is a great way to preserve memories, while letting go of junk.
18. Read more books
If your list includes a goal to read more books – or read more consistently – having a tall stack on your to-be-read books is a great place to start. And the good news is, The Globe 100 has more excellent contenders – from fiction to thrillers to graphic novels and biographies – to choose from.
Forming habits that stick starts small, with a goal you can actually achieve. Instead of 52 books in a year, consider aiming for a daily reading habit – anything from five minutes to a full hour per day. Identify when you’re most likely to read, then commit to it.
19. Start working out again
If an unplanned interruption derailed your routine, here’s how to start working out again.
- Assess the situation: Treat your return as a long warm-up, one in which you’re paying attention to physical cues. Assess your body’s readiness, as well as that fabled mind-muscle connection.
- Work your strengths: Now’s not the time to tackle a new goal or practise an unfamiliar skill. Which exercises are you good at? Those activities are your entry point.
- Take it slow: A handful of short, successful sessions over the course of a week or two is the most productive approach. If this seems easy, well, that’s the idea.
20. Learn to be less sensitive
Being sensitive can be great: You connect with others’ emotional experiences, are attuned to changes in others’ moods and have a strong ability to empathize. However, you’re also more likely to personalize things, interpret things negatively or overreact.
Identify the thoughts that come up for you in situations where you react to others’ comments, then ask yourself some questions: Is the thought realistic and accurate? What is the evidence that it’s not true? What alternative explanations could there be for what was said?
Reviewing all of the evidence can help you actively work on replacing automatic negative thoughts.
21. Learn to keep your ego in check
Ego gets in the way of empathy and listening. If reining in your ego is on your list of resolutions, here’s a to-do list:
- Don’t interrupt others.
- Focus on understanding the other person.
- Suspend judgement.
- Don’t think about your response while the other person is still talking.
- Ask whether you can paraphrase what the other person said to make sure you heard them correctly.
- Try to understand the reasons the other person believes what they believe.
At the end of each day, evaluate how you fared. By reviewing and reflecting on your ego, you might notice a difference in your humility.
22. Survive a visit from difficult relatives
Here’s are some tips to cope with family members at gatherings and over holidays:
- Set time limits.
- Invite more friends to come to help diffuse a difficult relationship.
- Avoid confronting relatives in the middle of a family event.
- Set boundaries by using “I” statements, and speak calmly, keeping your tone even and voice low.
- Respect that others may have family traditions and cultural norms you may not fully understand.
23. Reach your goals – and know when to give up
Every January without fail, many of us will set out with ambitious resolutions. But not every plan is attainable. So how do you know when to stick at a goal and when to walk away?
- Is your goal frozen? Clinging to it can harm mental well-being, and has been linked to stress, depression and anxiety, harming your physical and mental health.
- Is reaching your goal possible? Convincing yourself that your unattainable goals are possible is neither healthy nor helpful. Listen to others, as family and close friends may already have other ideas if your goal simply isn’t realistic.
- Is your goal making you sad or potentially regretful? Read your internal signals. If your goals negatively impact your emotional well-being, it might be time to switch to a new goal.
Giving up on a goal isn’t always about failure. Sometimes, walking away from or pausing a New Year’s resolution can protect your mental well-being, or give you time to pursue other priorities.