5 healthy habits to start in 2017

Not everyone can live a perfectly healthy lifestyle all the time, but it becomes a problem when people make unhealthy choices more often than not.

That's not to say you can't slip up or indulge once in a while, but it's important to develop healthy patterns that turn into habits over time. Here are five healthy habits to try for a better year than the last:

1. Eat a balanced diet

Balance means different things to different people, but one thing is certain: a diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables along with lean proteins and healthy fats is good for your heart and your long term health.

If the holidays got the better of your belly, focus on portion control, and then introduce healthier food options and recipes into your diet. Small yet simple changes can increase your body's metabolism, while keeping major organs healthy and strong. Heart health is especially important, as heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When in doubt, consult your doctor or a certified nutritionist for ways to make healthy eating a no-brainer.

2. Drink more water

For many, it's not a lack of thirst that prevents them from drinking enough water. All too many people find themselves enjoying cup after cup of soda, which does little to hydrate you. Get all the hydration you need for proper bodily functions without any extra calories by increasing your water intake.

Suggested intake varies, so start with eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, and adjust to your needs.

3. Get outside

You might think you're not the outdoorsy type, but it may be that you need to find an outdoor activity you like. A study conducted by The University of Exeter in the UK showed those who exercise outdoors are more likely to keep at it than those who are active only in a gym environment. Enjoying fresh air and sights can't hurt either.

Wherever you live, find easy activities to do with friends. Go on a hike, or meet friends at a park for a picnic. Whatever you choose, there's an outdoor activity that fits every lifestyle and personality type.

4. Give your time

Volunteering with a community organization is one of the best ways to look outside yourself and meet new people. Whether you're tutoring students once a month in English or helping at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, there are countless ways to make the world a better place.

Those with busy schedules can still contribute and start this healthy habit through various online resources. Volunteermatch.org is one way to find custom volunteer opportunities based off your schedule. Whether it's every week or once a month, you can make a difference in someone's life and your own, too.

5. Be mindful

The buzz about meditation and mindfulness isn't going away and for good reason. Aside from helping you have a moment of "me" time, meditation has effects ranging from stress reduction to increased working memory and focus, according to the American Psychological Association. Take some time, find a spot, and open your mind to new forms of relaxation and mindfulness. You might be surprised how enjoyable it is, even as it boosts your physical and mental health.

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