During nearly 20 years writing about health, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of top medical experts about how to live well. What I’ve learned from all of them can be summed up in four simple words.
Move. Nourish. Refresh. Connect.
The science is clear. If you move your body a little each day, you will be far better off than if you are sedentary.
If you nourish your body with real food (the kind that doesn’t come in packages loaded with sugar or via a drive-through window) you will be healthier than if you eat junk food.
If you allow your mind to take a break and refresh from time to time, you will feel better. And if you regularly connect with loved ones and friends, old and new, you will be both happier and healthier.
These four words — move, nourish, refresh, connect — are the guiding principles behind the 30-Day Well Challenge, a first-of-its-kind program from The New York Times to help you build healthy habits for your body, mind and spirit, one daily challenge at a time.
Each task is based on science, and over time, each new habit can add up to meaningful changes in your life.
Each challenge takes just minutes to complete. We’ve created new six-minute move workout videos to show you that you really do have time to exercise.
We’ve included refresh challenges to give your mind the rest it needs. You’ll find delicious nourish challenges to nourish your body with more food, not less.
And because the health of your relationships affects the health of your body, we’ve included connect challenges to help you get closer to those you love. Here are a few examples of what to expect:
— A MINDFUL CHOCOLATE CHALLENGE: Nourish both your body and your mind with this task. Pick a piece of quality, delicious chocolate (yes, I said chocolate!). If you don’t like chocolate pick a piece of fruit or a bite-size savoury treat. Then do this mindful meditation from Dr Michelle May, founder of AmIHungry, which teaches mindful eating. Sit down where you won’t be distracted.
“As you unwrap the chocolate, listen to the sounds and notice the aroma. Take a small bite, then pause. Become aware of the textures and flavours on your tongue. As you begin to chew, notice how the flavours, textures and aromas change. Notice pleasure. When you have fully experienced your bite, swallow, then pause to notice how long the flavour lingers. Slowly repeat until your treat is finished.”
Why are you doing this? Because studies show that mindfulness encourages more healthful eating.
— THE ONE-MINUTE TASK CHALLENGE: Declutter your mind and your home with this simple refresh challenge, which can be completed any time of day. Your goal will be to complete as many one-minute or less tasks as you can find over the next five minutes. Use your phone or watch as a timer, and no cheating. You are going for one-minute tasks only. Here are some suggestions:
— Make the bed.
— Pick up laundry and put it in a hamper.
— Throw away junk mail left on a table.
— Wipe off a counter.
— Put the remotes next to the TV.
— Hang up your coat.
— Make a quick to-do list for later.
— Tidy the bathroom vanity.
Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, calls this her one-minute rule. “Keeping all those small nagging tasks under control makes me more serene, less overwhelmed.”
The How Are We Doing Challenge? It’s easy to let our closest relationships hum along when there are no obvious problems. Use this Connect challenge from Philip and Carolyn Cowan, two University of California, Berkeley professors who have spent their careers studying children and families.
To complete this challenge, take a quiet moment with your partner in the morning or evening, when you won’t be distracted.
Ask each other the simple question, “How are we doing?” Take a moment to think about what in the relationship has made you feel happy recently.
Are there special memories you want to talk about together? Were there moments, happy or sad, where you wish you had spoken up, asked for help or shared your feelings? It will provoke a thoughtful exploration of your relationship, what’s working and where you can do better. Try it!
The goal of each challenge is to distill the science of healthful living into one simple task. To discover 30 all-new daily challenges like these, sign up for the Well Challenge now and skip those impossible New Year’s resolutions (“I’m going to lose weight!” “I’m going to exercise an hour a day!”) that you impose on yourself each year. (Research shows that most resolutions don’t work.) Instead, join us on the Well Challenge, starting Monday, Jan. 7, for the next 30 days and take a small step every day to live well. (If you can’t start right away, you can start any Monday of the year, so don’t fear missing out on a chance to take small strides to a healthier life.)