It's all about the little things. A new year doesn't have to mean remaking every aspect of life. Sometimes, tapering the smaller things can lead to a stronger big picture. Honing in on individual facets of healthy living is the sure way to make 2012 the best year yet. Here are 12 easy ways to boost a healthier lifestyle and provide focus for a fresh new year.
1. Don't let the past get you down
The perfect motto for a new year, new you: Let go and move on.
"Visit the past so you can see how it may be coloring your current relationships with dark hues, but make sure to live in the present," says Dr. Frances Cohen Praver, a clinical psychologist and author of "How Understanding Your Brain's Wiring Can Help Rekindle Your Relationship" (Sourcebooks, 2011).
"If you stay in the past, you will become depressed," she says.
On the reverse, Cohen Praver also says to avoid thinking too far ahead, for fear of growing anxious or negative.
"The key is to live in the present," she says.
2. Clean up your relationships
"If love has faded from your relationship, now is the time to work hard to bring love and lust back," Cohen Praver says.
The New Year is a good excuse to try new things with your partner, in the name of new adventures.
"Remember that you and your partner are connected with mirror neurons, so that if you change yourself, your partner can't help but change himself or herself too," Cohen Praver says.
3. Maintain a well-balanced diet
Eating healthy is an obvious way to stay on track health-wise, but knowing what foods are best to incorporate into an overall eating scheme is key.
Lisa DeFazio, a registered dietitian and diet expert for Perez Hilton's celebrity health and fitness website, fitperez.com, says to go for variety. She suggests incorporating whole grains for fiber, such as oatmeal, oat bran and flax seeds. Proteins like nuts, fish, chicken and lean beef also are important, as are healthy fats from olive oil, avocados and nuts.
4. Sneak in your nutrients
Angela Pifer, a Seattle-based nutritionist, suggests stocking up on frozen vegetables like organic spinach and kale, both for their affordability and their ability to add a nutritious punch to traditional meals like scrambled eggs, soup, stew, stir-fry and casseroles. Busy people will be more likely to incorporate veggies if they are already chopped and ready to cook.
5. Eat your vitamins
Recent studies have begun to question the efficacy of daily vitamins. Instead, fill in your nutritional blanks by planning and buying snacks that are made with fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetable and plant extracts.
People should make it their goal to eat more fruit, period, dietitians say.
"It's one of the most important things we can do," says Alice Bender, a registered dietitian and nutrition communications manager, for the American Institute for Cancer Research in Washington, D.C.
Fruits are high in dietary fiber and water content, so you fill up without too many calories, Bender says.
In addition, fruits contain vitamins, such as A and C, the mineral potassium, as well as plant chemicals that may reduce a person's risk of chronic disease. People who consume more fruits may have a lower incidence of larynx, esophagus, stomach or lung cancer, according to Bender.
6. Replace junk with nutrition
Giving up salty and sweet snacks can be hard. Luckily, it's easy to find healthy replacements for junk-food favorites.
For those with a taste for salt, DeFazio suggests options like Popchips, low-fat microwave popcorn, pretzels and Chex mix. For the sweet-toothed folks, go for dried fruit, frozen juice bars, low-fat granola bars, graham crackers and low-fat pudding cups.
7. Try a new diet
If you're up for the task, several websites promote start-of-the-year diet challenges. Pifer runs a 28-Day Vegan Challenge, a vegan diet plan with a focus on detox, that begins Jan. 11, 2012. According to Pifer, more than 1,300 participated through her website, nutritionnorthwest.com, in the past year.
If going vegan is too extreme, try other diet challenges, like Meatless Mondays, a movement in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that aims to reduce an individual's meat consumption by 15 percent by forgoing meat products every Monday.
8. Get moving
Every movement counts. It's best to choose something that can be done consistently.
"The key is to pick one small thing to do every week," says Terri Walsh, a celebrity fitness trainer and star of the new DVD, "The A.R.T. Method By Terri Walsh" (A.R.T. Studio, 2011). "Once it becomes habit and you don't think about doing it, add the next small thing."
Walsh suggests activities like running, dancing and boot camp classes.
9. Get moving, gym or no gym
Gym prices and crowded environments might keep some from accomplishing their annual fitness goals, but Walsh says there's no need. She suggests finding an at-home program that caters to your interests, such as yoga, Pilates or dance.
"Sometimes starting at home on your own gives you time to digest what you learn and then get out into the world and try," Walsh says.
10. Live big or go home
Life is here, and life is good. As you go into the New Year, don't forget the most important things life has to offer.
"Live moment to moment with meaning, satisfaction, purpose and love," Cohen Praver says.