A new year always brings with it new hope for what’s to come, as evidenced by the very concept of New Year’s resolutions, and “new year, new start” challenges like Veganuary (going vegan for the first month of the year) and Dry January (cutting out alcohol for the month).
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Every new year brings its fair share of health trends, too, though not all of them are, in fact, healthy. For all its positive contributions to society, social media is a breeding ground for viral health habits that are harmless at best (see, for example, protein coffee, or “proffee”) and deadly at worst (like the incredibly unsafe “Benadryl Challenge”).
In anticipation of 2023, we asked healthcare providers which health and wellness practices they think deserve to trend in the new year. From diet and exercise to skin care and self-care, here are the 10 healthy habits we hope to see hit it big in the year to come.
1. Try a toner
While toners have been around for years — you might have seen a bottle on your grandma’s dresser — the popular skin care product has received a major upgrade. In the past, toners were used to remove makeup residue and dirt, but their harsh ingredients, like alcohol and witch hazel, left skin feeling irritated and dry.
Dermatologist Alok Vij, MD, says today’s toners are all about skin-loving ingredients like antioxidants, alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and niacinamide. Certain formulas can help to:
- Boost collagen.
- Gently exfoliate your skin.
- Regulate excess oil.
- Retain moisture.
“Different toners are available for different skin complaints,” Dr. Vij says. “There are toners that can help you with rosacea, acne or hyperpigmentation from sun damage.”
If you want to add a toner to your skin care routine, Dr. Vij says it’s best to use one after you’ve cleansed your face. And make sure to let your skin dry completely before layering on any serums or moisturizers.
2. Embrace ‘exercise snacks’
It can be hard to carve out time for movement, especially if you’re very busy and not used to working out. If you don’t already have a routine in place, it might seem impossible to meet the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week.
“If you’re just starting out, it can be intimidating to hear that you need to exercise for 30 minutes a day,” says endocrinologist Shirisha Avadhanula, MD. But as the old saying goes, a little bit goes a long way. In 2023, add what she calls “exercise snacks” to your daily routine.
“An ‘exercise snack’ is 15 minutes of exercise twice a day during the weekdays,” Dr. Avadhanula explains. “Say, for example, that you have a desk job and get an hour for lunch. You can take the last 15 minutes of your lunch break to do moderate-intensity exercise, then do the same thing again at the end of the workday.”
Doing 15 minutes of exercise twice a day for five days a week adds up to … you guessed it — that recommended 150 total minutes of weekly exercise.
But what is “moderate-intensity exercise,” anyway? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines it as any physical activity that raises your heart rate and makes you sweat. That could mean going for a brisk walk, riding your bike, getting in a quick cardio circuit or even pushing a lawn mower.
Regular and consistent movement has countless benefits for your health, including lowering your risk of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and more.
“Doing little bursts of physical activity throughout the day can make a big impact on your overall health,” Dr. Avadhanula says. Happy snacking!
3. Work with a health and wellness coach
Living healthier is a pretty common goal, but getting there can be a struggle. Maybe you just need your own personal health coach to serve as a guide on your wellness journey.
Exercise physiologist Katie Lawton, MEd, says that in 2023, she’d like to see more people tap into the expertise and energy that health coaches offer. “It’s not a new service,” Lawton notes, “but it’s one that deserves to be used more.”
What exactly is a health coach? Basically, it’s a healthcare professional who can help you set overall wellness goals and then offer support, advice and encouragement as you work toward them.
Health coaches typically work with you one-on-one while connecting via phone calls, emails, video chats or in person. Some health coach-led programs also involve small groups.
“Most of us are extremely successful when we are accountable to someone,” Lawton states. “Plus, your coach can answer questions as you go along and can offer support when you need a boost or some reassurance.”
Health coaches take somewhat of a behavioral science approach to assist you in getting healthier. Much of their coaching typically focuses on broad lifestyle issues, like:
- Increased activity and exercise.
- Making more nutritious meal choices.
- Finding ways to reduce stress.
- Getting enough sleep.
“If your goal is to improve your overall health, then a health coach is great,” Lawton encourages. “They can help you get moving in the right direction.”
If you think you might benefit from this kind of guidance, talk to a healthcare provider for a recommendation for a national board-certified health and wellness coach (NBC-HWC). Many corporate wellness programs also offer this service, too.
4. Turn to CBT-I techniques for sleep
If you’ve ever experienced a bout of insomnia, you’ve probably (desperately) looked for an easy, quick fix to get you to sleep and to keep you asleep. From over-the-counter sleep aids like melatonin to prescription sleeping pills, medications have likely been your first line of defense.
But sleep specialist Marri Horvat, MD, MS, says it may be in your best interest to shift the tide. Cognitive behavior therapy specifically designed for insomnia (also referred to as CBT-I) has been shown to be the most effective way to tackle insomnia that lasts longer than three months. And unlike medications, CBT-I techniques can help get to the root cause of why you’re tossing and turning.
“Oftentimes, people with insomnia want medications right away,” Dr. Horvat says, “but that isn’t the first line of treatment. We often don’t even consider medication until after a medical evaluation.”
This evaluation gives your healthcare provider a chance to rule out any other sleep conditions. Then, CBT-I is the next step in understanding the cause of your insomnia. But how, exactly, can therapy help you while you’re asleep? These CBT-I techniques may improve your insomnia:
“It’s definitely something I’d like to see trending amongst patients and even physicians in the coming year,” Dr. Horvat adds.
5. Set healthy boundaries in your relationships
If you’re feeling taken advantage of, disrespected or as if your feelings don’t matter, make 2023 the year you establish healthy boundaries in your relationships, says psychologist Chivonna Childs, PhD.
“We need to set boundaries to protect our mental health first and foremost,” she says. “When we set boundaries, we teach people how to treat us.”
You may need to do this in relationships with your partner, a family member or a friend. But what does that look like? Here’s what Dr. Childs recommends:
- Learn to say “no.” Remember that you have the right to say “no” to anything that goes against your values or makes you uncomfortable — and depending on the relationship, you don’t always have to provide an explanation. “‘No’ is a complete sentence,” Dr. Childs asserts.
- Recognize manipulation. Gaslighting is when someone tries to make you think your feelings aren’t valid or that something didn’t happen the way you think it did.
- Don’t allow disrespect. If you don’t like the way someone is treating you, walk away from the situation. Let them know that you refuse to be spoken to in a disrespectful manner.
- Prioritize your privacy. You have the right to privacy when and where you want it, even if you’re in a relationship. “We all need alone time,” Dr. Childs says. “It’s a part of self-care.”
And in any relationship, don’t be afraid to voice what you do and don’t like and how you want to be treated. “Be honest with each other about your values,” Dr. Childs advises. “Have discussions about what you need from each other, what’s working and what’s not.”
She also warns that setting boundaries can be tough — not only for you, but also for the other person in the relationship. “When we set boundaries, some people won’t like it because they can no longer walk all over us,” she says. “And that’s the point.”
6. Embrace inclusive beauty products
You’ve probably heard of K-beauty — skin care and cosmetics that hail from Korea and tout natural ingredients. In the new year, expect to see more skin care and makeup companies embrace ingredients, products and strategies from across the globe, says dermatologist Alok Vij, MD.
“There’s going to be a lot more globally sourced ingredients, where we’re not relying on synthetic ingredients,” Dr. Vij says. “We’re looking more for natural things from across the globe to take care of people with all skin tones and all skin types.”
The goal is products that appeal to everyone, regardless of sex, age, skin tone or skin type. Examples of these ingredients and products include:
- Fermented rice water.
- Bamboo extract.
- African black soap.
“When we recognize that people have different skin, different skin tones and different skin complaints, we can find solutions that fit for everyone, rather than focusing only on people who have historically been targeted by companies,” Dr. Vij states.
7. Clean up your social media feed
From the recent Twitter exodus to the pandemic-popularized concept of doomscrolling, we’re all familiar with toxic social media use. But behavioral health specialist Michael Manos, PhD, says you can improve your relationship with social media now — before you have a(nother) terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad year online.
“Ask yourself, ‘What is this content contributing to my experience?’ Is it solely to keep you entertained? Is it teaching you new skills? Is it enhancing your mental health?” Dr. Manos advises. “If it’s not adding something that contributes to your daily life, or you’re finding it difficult to contribute to online conversation in positive ways, it might be better to move on from it.”
Quitting social media can be hard because it’s so ingrained in our culture that it can be addictive. Even if you’re not ready to break free entirely, you can improve your social media experience by curating who you follow and improving your newsfeed.
Those influencers that make you feel bad about yourself? Replace them with more positive folks. And instead of following people who buy into harmful and unhealthy TikTok trends, hit “unfollow” and instead tune in to people whose ideologies and values are similar to yours.
“If you walk away from any engagement with social media thinking, ‘I’m not good enough’ or, ‘Something is wrong with me,’ those thoughts are going to perpetuate themselves,” Dr. Manos explains. “The more frequently you engage in those conversations, the more intrusive your negative thoughts will be. Instead of engaging with negative self-perceptions, try engaging in things that allow you to see your own contribution to the world around you.”
And any time you can limit your social media use, the better. Carve out time at the dinner table or before bed to turn off your phone and focus on what’s in front of you.
8. Eat your adaptogens
You already know that different kinds of foods and nutrients can affect your energy and well-being. Eating dark chocolate, for example, can improve your mood. (It’s science!) In the new year, capitalize on this information by incorporating ingredients that can positively impact your body’s response to stressors.
Say hello to adaptogens, active ingredients in plants and mushrooms that may affect how your body deals with stress, anxiety and fatigue.
“By adding adaptogens to other foods, the thought is that we can, in a sense, boost the health benefits of those foods,” says dietitian Devon Peart, RD, MHSc, BASc.
You might try adding some turmeric to a smoothie or soup because of the spice’s potential to reduce inflammation. Another example is ashwagandha, otherwise known as Indian winter cherry or Indian ginseng, which is becoming popular for its potential calming effect on how your brain responds to stress.
And don’t forget about mushroom coffee, which blends mushroom extract and ground coffee beans to help reduce stress and inflammation (among other potential benefits).
“If you’re having coffee anyway,” Peart says, “why not try it with adaptogens?”
9. Focus on lifestyle and health, not rules and scales
It can be overwhelming to adopt a new diet or look at ways to be healthier. If your eating habits aren’t perfect, you might get discouraged, or you might be so focused on a particular eating style, like going plant-based or keto, that any deviations from it make you feel like a failure.
In the new year, dietitian Devon Peart, MHSc, BASc, RD, encourages you to place less emphasis on labeling yourself as a certain type of eater. “When you aren’t flexible in your eating style, it can lead to shame or feeling like you’re not good enough,” she says, “like, ‘I didn’t do it well,’ or ‘I couldn’t stick to it.’”
If you identify as a vegetarian, for example, it’s OK to eat fish once in a while. And even if you’re trying to follow the keto diet, don’t worry if you occasionally consume something high-carb.
This more flexible approach is also a part of focusing on overall health rather than reaching a specific weight — which is a good thing. “To a certain extent, I think that’s happening with the body positivity movement and having more self-acceptance,” Peart notes.
As you’re setting goals in the new year, try to be realistic in your approach. Instead of aiming for a specific number on the scale, vow to add more vegetables to your diet, to eat fewer desserts or to start walking 10 minutes a day.
Make your goals manageable and achievable — and, above all, be kind to yourself if you slip up. As Peart says: “Progress over perfection!”
10. When it comes to self-care, embrace ‘sprinkles of joy’
Theoretically, most of us agree that self-care is important, but sometimes, the concept feels less like wellness and more like work. Psychologist Grace Tworek, PsyD, thinks that as self-care has become a cultural buzzword, it’s also become more intimidating.
“Sometimes, we build these things up to be really big concepts,” Dr. Tworek says. “We start to feel like getting to the place where we’re happy and satisfied in life is almost impossible — like we don’t have the tools we need to climb the mountain that is happiness.”
But happiness isn’t a destination, and self-care isn’t a chore. While prioritizing yourself is an admirable goal for 2023, Dr. Tworek urges you to think about happiness and self-care in a more manageable way — an approach she calls “sprinkles of joy.”
Do you find yourself anticipating big opportunities for self-care, like an upcoming vacation, a day off work or some other planned event? When you make self-care into a time-consuming activity that requires energy and focus, you’re missing the point. Instead, Dr. Tworek encourages you to start breaking down the concept of happiness into smaller, bite-sized pieces … like, sprinkles.
Just as we put sprinkles on cupcakes and cakes — things we eat when we’re celebrating — so, too, can you celebrate everyday moments of joy sprinkled throughout your life.
“We think we have to do these big things to bring ourselves joy or a sense of relief, but there’s no reason that we can’t celebrate ourselves and the little accomplishments we make every day,” Dr. Tworek encourages.
“It may be as simple as buying the pens you really like for work because you love the way they feel on the paper, or wearing your favorite outfit.”
Remember: Small steps make big progress, and a little joy can go a long way.