6 Ways to Start 2021 Mentally and Physically Strong

Yes, New Year's resolutions are a cliché -- but they can be effective. Here are six things to do this January to start 2021 on the right foot.
6 Ways to Start 2021 Mentally and Physically Strong
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6 min read

It goes without saying that expectations for 2021 are high. After the events of last year, people are holding onto any shred of hope that the world might turn right side up again in the next 12 months. If you’re the type of person who goes into a new year with boundless energy, use some of that motivation to start the year off on the healthiest possible foot. Here are six ways to do that. 

Get outside

In season four of Netflix series The Crown, Queen Elizabeth (played by Olivia Colman) frequently tells her children, sister and other advice-seekers to get outside and go for a walk when things aren’t going their way. Her well-intentioned advice is usually met with chagrin from those she directs it towards, who feel their problems can’t be solved simply with fresh air and exercise. But Colman’s character is more right than you’d think. 

The series dramatizes the story of the British royal family, but it is true that the Queen is an avid outdoorswoman who’s said to be happiest at her 50,000-acre Scottish estate Balmoral. But those of us who don’t have a massive property in the Highlands to social distance can still take the advice to heart. As winter wears on and working from home, virtual school and Zoom gatherings continue, do the Queen’s bidding: Get outside. Bundle up, mask up and try to get some fresh air every day — even if it just means spending a few minutes in your backyard or on your porch. This is important for adults and even more important for children. Instead of spending your lunch break in front of your computer or scrolling on social media, put the phone down and go for a quick walk around the block. You’ll be surprised what it does for your mental (and physical) health. 

Sleep with your phone in another room

This likely isn’t the first time you’ve read this advice, and it likely won’t be the last. Experts and sleep advocates like Arianna Huffington have recommended sleeping with your phone in another room for years. Huffington even took it literally when she launched the Thrive Global Phone Bed, a $100 tiny bed with silk sheets designed to hold your phone at night — and keep it out of arm’s reach. 

Luckily, you don’t need a $100 accessory to try this out. Buy an inexpensive alarm clock (or do what I do and use your smart home device to wake you up), and move your phone to another room, or at least far enough that you would have to get out of bed to retrieve it. It’s a little thing that can make a big difference in your sleep quality. 

Related: 8 Ways to Improve Sleep by Enhancing Your Dreams

If you want to diet, add — don’t subtract

This time of year means everyone you know is usually talking about a new diet — keto, Whole 30, dry January, you name it. And after many people turned to comfort food and Netflix to get through 2020, the pull of “new year, new me” rhetoric might be stronger than ever. 

But if you want to make sustainable changes, it’s easier to add healthful foods to your diet rather than subtracting whole food groups. It’s something dietitians have recommended for years, but it’s a good reminder when you’re tempted to join your friends in a Whole 30 challenge. Focus on adding more vegetables and water to your diet to start. 

Related: WTF Do I Eat While I WFH?

Take your meditation to the next level

Scores of people turned to meditation to help them cope with the stress of 2020. Apps like Calm and Headspace saw a surge in users starting in April, and Headspace even began offering free content and complimentary subscriptions for educators. 

Using an app is a good place to start, but if you’re already a meditation devotee, consider taking your training to the next level. If it’s something you’d previously considered, but you didn’t have the time to do an in-person course, now is a better time than ever to sign up, because most programs are virtual. Unplug will offer a six-week virtual teacher training in April, or consider the famed Esalen Institute’s 200-hour virtual training, which launches later this month. The iconic California retreat is where Don Draper goes to start a new life at the end of Mad Men — and now you can learn from its teachers without leaving your home. 

Related: Headspace's COO Was Just Promoted To CEO After Only 6 Months At the Company. Here's How She Did It

Consider changing your WFH scenery for a few days

Dallas video tech company OneDay boosted employee morale in an out-of-the-box way last year. Its CEO Clint Lee worked remotely from an Airbnb in Colorado for a couple weeks and realized how much a change of scenery helped his productivity. So he started a “New Digs” program to give employees a chance to experience the same thing. Each employee got to pick an Airbnb wherever they wanted to work for a few days. The change in employee morale was striking. 

Related: To Combat WFH Burnout, This Company Sent Employees to Work From Lakeside, Beachfront and Mountaintop Airbnbs

Every person has different levels of comfort when it comes to traveling right now, but taking a road trip to an Airbnb or hotel a few hours away (or even in your town) for some fresh scenery can do wonders for your mental health. It’s something hotel chains are tapping into, too: Hyatt launched its Work From Hyatt program last summer, which offers discounted rates, waived resort fees and other perks when you book a room at one of its 90 participating hotels for a stay more than 5 nights. Rates start at $139 per night. Those who don’t want to stay that long (or want to stay even longer), can take advantage of day rates and extended stays. If you have credit card points burning a hole in your proverbial pocket, this primer from The Points Guy goes into how to redeem points for Work From Hyatt stays. 

Plan a vacation (even if it’s in 2023)

Maybe traveling isn’t in the cards for you right now, so try another tactic. Plan a vacation, even if you have no intention of traveling until at least 2022 or 2023. Take advantage of discounted flights and hotel stays (and their generous cancellation policies), and give yourself something to look forward to. A 2014 Cornell University study found that the act of planning an experience, and the anticipation of doing it, was better for mental health than buying a new product. This piece from National Geographic delves into more specifics, but the findings are clear: Your future self will thank you.

Related: 3 Ways Tourism Hotspots Will Evolve After Lockdown

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