Hopes are high, champagne's bubbling, the clock strikes 12, and it’s confetti and kisses all around. There’s so much excitement in this moment that tomorrow, let alone the whole year ahead, is kind of an afterthought.
January 1 can easily become a recovery day from the night before. A word to the wise: Don’t drink too much on New Year’s Eve. Maybe not such a popular sentiment, so if you’re committed to the festive feeling of being a little tipsy at midnight and beyond, drink smartly, and gulp down a big glass of water right before bed.
Now comes the real challenge: Want to make the most of New Year’s Day and set yourself up for health and happiness all year? Here's the game plan.
Yup, go for it. Get the full recommended eight hours of snooze time. Sleep deprivation can increase hunger, stunt your workout game, and age skin more quickly, so make sleep a priority for the new year.
If you have the luxury (read: the day off), feel free to wake up when your body naturally does so—not at the sound of an alarm. When the urge to wake up happens, try to remember to keep eyes closed and meditate on the experience of waking up. Pay attention to your breath and your body parts coming to life. Notice the sensation of the sunlight and the sound of the birds outside. As soon as you feel ready to get up, do it, and drink a glass of water before anything else to stimulate your metabolism, get that first jolt of energy, and replenish your brain.
Yawn and stretch
Continue your morning meditation with a quick stretch. Even just a couple of minutes of yoga can enhance production of neurotransmitters and hormones for a positive, upbeat mood that can set the tone for the day, and hopefully the entire year. For a deeper practice, try these hip and heart openers, especially if you want to focus on emotional health for the new year.
Make the breakfast of champions
It’s a common ritual to go to brunch the morning after New Year’s Eve—shades on, recounting last night’s party over a stack of chocolate chip pancakes. For a healthier start, whip up your best healthy breakfast at home instead, and eat at the kitchen table with loved ones or a good book. Whether you crave a protein-rich sweet potato omelet or eggs benedict or feel more like an Instagram-worthy smoothie bowl, start making healthy food choices right here, right now.
Put it on paper
If you’re having a solo breakfast, it's the perfect time to start journaling about what your intentions and goals are for the new year. Pour some liver detox tea with milk thistle (to help cleanse toxins from the night before) and put pen to paper. Think positively and realistically about what you’d like to achieve, and what you can do today to put these thoughts into action. Writing is good for physical health, too! University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker says the act of journaling can strengthen immune cells.
Remember number one
The number one (and two) New Year’s resolution for Americans isn’t a big secret. This year’s Nielsen poll on the topic found that 37 percent of Americans resolved to stay fit and healthy and 32 percent wanted to lose weight in the new year.
It’s kind of a no-brainer, but start off strong and don’t waste a single day of your health and fitness journey ahead. Work. It. Out. But to keep exercise from feeling like a chore, and to ensure you won’t fall off the wagon, choose workouts you actually enjoy. Hit the hiking (or biking) trails for an invigorating sweat session that gets you outdoors and in touch with nature; spending plenty of time outside can improve mental outlook and relieve anxiety.
Pick up a new sport—tennis anyone? If you live in a winter wonderland, get out on the slopes; or start an indoor basketball league with like-minded pals, which is also a great way to foster healthy relationships in the new year.
Consider the most important meal of the year
New Year's Day dinner is crucial for reflecting what your health goals really are going forward. Again, cooking at home is the best way to ensure you’re getting the healthiest meals possible. Want a foolproof nutritious dinner that doesn’t feel like deprivation? Try chicken and kale stir-fry, honey mustard salmon with root vegetables, roasted eggplant curry, low carb kelp noodles, or beef and broccolini stir-fry.
Got some extra time before bed? Reward yourself with an easy at-home spa evening. First, steam your skin to help cleanse impurities from the pores. Slather on this simple turmeric glow mask, then coat your hair in coconut oil for a deep conditioning treatment. After 10 minutes, rinse off the face and hair masks, draw an Epsom salt bath, and slip into bliss. You’ll sleep like a log, and in the morning you’ll be right and ready to face the rest of the year.
Photo credit: Alicia Cho