Day 1: 80 percent
Aim for that much of today’s food intake to be fresh, real and unprocessed. Avoid any canned, frozen, precooked, packaged or prepared fare. Instead try eggs for breakfast, a grilled-chicken salad for lunch and brown rice, fish and veggies for dinner.
Day 2: Schedule fun
Make a list for the upcoming weekend. Create two columns — one with “have to dos” and one with “want to dos.” Now plan your weekend to allow yourself to do at least one or two things from column two.
Day 3: Say thank you
Make a conscious effort to be grateful. In the morning, think of three things that you appreciate in your life. Starting a day from this place changes your mood and energy. In the evening, make a list of things, people or moments that you experienced during the day that were positive or made you feel good.
Day 4: Make friends with moderation
Don’t deny yourself any specific food today, but do practise portion control. If you go out for dinner and have a lot of food choices, just try a little of everything and don’t feel pressured to clean your plate. Sticking to small portions and listening to your body will allow you to enjoy all sorts of wonderful food without feeling guilty in the days to follow.
Day 5: Indulge in chocolate and red wine (yes, you read that correctly!)
Today is antioxidant day. Organic dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cocoa), red wine and green tea are great sources. So are colourful fruits and vegetables. Have at least one of these at each meal and snack: berries, oranges, kiwi, spinach, tomatoes, peppers or carrots. And don’t forget beets — a recent study suggests that a daily dose of this root veggie’s juice boosts blood flow to the brain.
Day 6: 30
Commit to this many minutes of movement today. If you can’t make it to the gym, climb the stairs, walk instead of drive or park farther away than usual. As a bonus challenge, book two more 30-minute sessions in your calendar for next week. Planning is half the battle.
Day 7: Live in the now
Pay attention to your thoughts. Whenever you catch yourself thinking about the past or future, pull yourself back into the present. Tip: A great way to do this is to focus on how you listen when others speak. Most of us actually don’t listen; we immediately start thinking about our own feelings or response. Today, do the opposite.
Day 8: Go on a (laughter) date
Reach out to someone who makes you laugh and arrange to get together with them. Go to a comedy club or see a funny movie. Watching and reading things that make you laugh will greatly increase your sense of well-being.
Day 9: Pick six
That’s the number of things you should have on your to-do list. When you start the day, look over all your goals for the day (both personal and professional) and identify the six most important things to accomplish. Place them on a coloured Post-it note on top of your usual list. Now organize your day so that those six things will get done — make it non-negotiable. Tip: Tackling them before midday is a good strategy.
Day 10: Meditate
Regular meditation is proven to improve everything from clarity to creativity. It can even help your immune system. For today, find a quiet moment and space. Sit cross-legged. You can rest your hands in your lap, palms facing up. If you are in a chair instead, sit with your back straight and both feet on the ground. Close your eyes and begin to breathe. With the first one or two breaths, just let yourself relax and get into it. Then take long and deep breaths, allowing some sound with the exhalation in the back of your throat. Let the sound ground you and help you to be present. Then begin to count as you breathe in and breathe out. Do this 10 times. Allow your mind to focus on your breathing. Its only job is to count and notice how relaxed your body feels.
Day 11: Be self-absorbed
Make today all about you! Be conscious of what you say yes and no to. In other words, set boundaries. Find 15 minutes of quiet time. Think about what you need—a date with your spouse? A mini-vacation or a spa day? A trip to the doctor for that long-overdue checkup? Tune in to your body to become aware of how you are feeling, and honour your needs.
Day 12: Connect the dots
Reach out to someone important in your life. Don’t wait for the next dinner party or coffee date. Send them a quick note to tell them how much you value them—you can send a quick email or Facebook message or perhaps write a letter or send a beautiful card. We often underestimate how much these small actions can mean to someone. It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort, and yet it can have a powerful effect on both you and your valued friend.
Day 13: Take it off
No matter how tired you are, wash your face before bed tonight. Leaving your makeup on causes sensitivity, breakouts and dehydration, which can lead to premature aging. If you already diligently do this, give yourself a mini-facial. Apply a mask or massage your moisturizer into your skin by lightly tapping your face all over with your fingertips to improve circulation.
Day 14: Carry less
Lugging your lunch, laptop and gym bag to and from work can make you feel like a Sherpa, but it also puts a strain on your shoulders and back. In the words of George Clooney’s character in Up in the Air, your mission is to empty your backpack, or at least lighten the load. Take only what you absolutely need, wherever your plans take you today.
Day 15: Stand up straight
Remember what your mother always said—pay attention to your posture today. You’ll feel better and (bonus!) look taller. Start by rolling your shoulders back. Then engage your core and ensure your head is in line with your spine. Don’t forget to maintain this form when sitting.
Day 16: Eat your veggies
You need five to eight servings of vegetables each day. Today, make a salad the main part of one meal. Include dark greens like spinach, kale or arugula. Add peppers, tomatoes, avocados, cucumbers and other items you like, such as olives, fresh figs or sprouts. Be sure to include a serving of protein (3 to 5 ounces of grilled chicken, salmon or tofu). Takeout tip: Many restaurants offer Greek, chopped or Cobb salads. With a few substitutions, these can be healthy too. Just skip the bacon, croutons and crispy toppings, ask for chicken instead of ham, and use oil and vinegar instead of the restaurant dressing.
Day 17: Stretch it out
What is the first thing cats and dogs do when they wake up from a nap? Stretch. Take a cue from your pet and find a few minutes to stretch as soon as you get out of bed. It lengthens your muscles, relaxes your body, improves posture and promotes flexibility, which prevents injuries.
Day 18: Take at least three breathing breaks today
Whether it’s in the shower, driving to work, at your computer or in the middle of a meeting, quietly notice your breath and begin to take longer and deeper breaths — aim for five each time. Practise this all week and you will notice that it gets easier to remember your breathing. It delivers oxygen to our bodies, calms our minds, relaxes our muscles and tones our internal organs.
Day 19: Hit the spa
Massage, acupuncture, reflexology and sauna time aren’t just “feel-good” indulgences, they really are good for you. How long has it been since you’ve had a massage? Have you always wanted to try acupuncture? Book an appointment today. Something that’s good for us doesn’t have to be hard work. Taking care of yourself in a gentle, relaxing manner is just as beneficial and important as working out and going for medical checkups.
Day 20: Have a green drink
Add a green supplement to your morning routine. (Look for Progressive VegeGreens or Greens+ by Genuine Health.) Green supplements contain an incredible list of nutrients, herbal extracts and superfoods that increase energy and vitality and boost immune function. Just one serving a day can be equivalent to six servings of organic salad! Buy small sizes and experiment with flavours, adding some juice until you find what works for you. If you prefer to make your own at home, add dark, leafy greens like kale and spinach to your morning smoothie, and perhaps a superfood like spirulina to maximize the nutrients and health benefits.
Day 21: Veg out
Go meat-free today. If you’re not used to this, you may consider simply eliminating all land animals (sticking to fish, dairy and eggs for protein). If you’d like to go further, eliminate fish, dairy and eggs — just for one day. Instead, try oatmeal, a protein smoothie or toast with nut butter for breakfast, a veggie burger, soup or stew for lunch (many restaurants offer several non-meat options) and perhaps brown-rice pasta with veggies and tofu or a fish entree like sushi for dinner. Have fun with it today. Even if two out of three meals are vegetarian, that’s amazing. The less you create strict rules for yourself, the more likely you are to make gradual and consistent changes.
Day 22: Make face time, not Facebook time
Hanging out with friends and family is important to our overall health and well-being, so book a date with someone you’ve been meaning to see for a while — email or call them today. Organize a brunch with a few girlfriends, or start a book club. Set up a quarterly get-together that everyone puts into their calendars. Bonus points if you incorporate a wellness theme into your meeting. Try a new healthy restaurant you’ve been meaning to check out, or schedule a fitness-related activity to do together. Notice how much better you feel once you’re in the habit of seeing people regularly.
Day 23: Eavesdrop (on yourself)
Today’s challenge is simple: Pay attention to your self-talk. Become aware of the tape player in your head and the often negative statements you repeat to yourself about yourself. For the things you say or think most frequently, think of a statement that expresses the exact opposite sentiment. Every time you catch yourself saying something negative, stop and repeat the opposite statement in your head. Through this simple awareness exercise, you will begin to create a more positive and healthy internal dialogue.
Day 24: Put your feet first
Ditch your high heels — especially if you are putting them on for a big night out. In an ongoing study on attraction signals, researchers at Northumbria University in the U.K. have found that men cannot tell whether women are wearing high heels when they walk or dance. Regardless of your reasons for wearing your favourite patent-leather pumps, give your feet a rest today and try a comfortable, supportive shoe. Your feet will thank you.
Day 25: Cut out caffeine and kick the (pop) can
Skip pop and caffeinated drinks today. Caffeine can temporarily raise blood pressure, and studies suggest unfiltered coffee may also increase cholesterol. And research out of the University of Minnesota linked drinking two or more soft drinks a week to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. Replace your latte with a decaf herbal tea and swap your soda for sparkling water sweetened with juice.
Day 26: Have an “action” plan
Brainstorm different ways to get moving. If you already have activities that you do regularly, go do them today. If you’re not sure where to start, make a list of the things you like (cycling, swimming, scuba diving) and then a list of where those activities are available so that you can plan to try them. The goal here is to take action and close the gap between thinking about it and doing it.
Day 27: Gain an hour
Go to bed one hour earlier tonight. If you allow yourself more sleep, in just a few days you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel and function.
Day 28: Live guilt-free (and indulge in chocolate — again!)
Banish the sweet-tooth guilt today. Nibbling on a square of organic dark chocolate is a great way to get your sugar fix and is proven to improve your sex drive. Whenever you would typically crave something sweet (like after lunch or dinner or in the afternoon), have a piece of dark chocolate rather than banning sweets altogether. Notice whether giving yourself permission to enjoy small indulgences changes the amount you need to feel satisfied.
Day 29: Pursue your passion
Set aside 20 minutes for something that brings you joy and makes you feel alive and excited. Incorporating small increments of time throughout your week will completely change the way you feel, creating a momentum of positivity that spreads to all areas of your life.
Day 30: Choose you
You made it! Your last challenge? Consciously choose what is good for you all day today. There are so many ways to make a “good-for-you” choice — think a healthier food item, moving your body, laughing out loud, treating yourself to something decadent, making time for what you love, resting, extending your lunch hour or spending time with friends. When you start from a place where you want to be good to yourself, it becomes easier to make choices that are aligned with overall health and wellness.