13 New Healthy Habits That Changed My Life in 2018

Now that the New Year is almost here, New Years Resolutions are a common topic of conversation...and while I rarely make a strict resolution, I do love making small changes to my everyday routine that add up to a BIG impact. So I thought I’d join The Mighty’s #52SmallThings challenge and share 13 small healthy habits - in diet, exercise and just everyday life - that made my life a 1000% better this year.

13 New Healthy Habits That Changed My Life in 2018

Like always, I want to make it clear that I'm not a dietician, nutritionist or doctor. I'm just a girl with two chronic illnesses who likes sharing what lifestyle choices help me thrive, mentally and physically! So if you do want to make big changes in your life in 2019 (or even enact some of the bigger changes in diet, exercise, etc. that I mention in this post), I recommend talking to a medical professional first. But if you're looking for ideas of healthy New Years resolutions or small tweaks you can make in 2019 that could improve your whole life, keep reading to find inspiration in what habits worked for me!

1. Replacing half of my TV time with audiobooks.

My college roommates could attest to the fact that I used to be addicted to Netflix, Hulu and other streaming sites. I’m a natural multitasker, so I’d always have some show playing in the background as I blogged, did chores, cooked or surfed the web. And I still watch TV shows regularly (check out my list of awesome food-related documentaries on Netflix if you need new show recommendations!). However, I’d say I watch a quarter of what I used to...and that’s because I’ve started listening to audiobooks instead!

13 New Healthy Habits That Changed My Life in 2018

Not only does this let me read more books during the school year (when I rarely have time to physically “read” anything beyond my assigned books) but audiobooks have also been shown to improve critical listening, comprehension, vocabulary, pronunciation - whether you're a student or an adult reader. Plus, listening to audiobooks could also save you money in the long run if you stop paying for cable or pay for just one streaming service. I get all of my audiobooks from the library using OverDrive, so I’d highly recommend seeing if your library offers the same OverDrive resource.

2. Finding teas that I actually love to drink.

I actually have my sister to thank for starting this healthy habit since her Christmas gift to me last year was a big bundle of gluten free, decaffeinated tea. Before her gift, I always wanted to like tea but never drank it regularly. This past year, though, Bigelow's Lemon Ginger Herbal Tea + Probiotics and Orange & Spice Tea have become my favorite way to warm up on a very cold day in Minnesota. Plus, I’ve found that drinking a warm cup of tea is a great way to practice self-care on days when my stomach or digestion is acting up. So whether you’re trying to stop drinking coffee and want to get your caffeine from tea instead or just want the health benefits that can come from certain types of tea, drinking more tea is an easy New Years resolution or small, healthy habit to try.

13 New Healthy Habits That Changed My Life in 2018
PS - that glass straw is from Foods Alive, for whom I serve as an ambassador, and it is super awesome!

3. Being LESS strict with my diet.

I know that especially around the New Years, people are usually trying to eat healthier and cut out a lot of the treats they’ve been enjoying during the holidays. But I’ve been taking a different approach in 2018 - and it’s been working so well, I don’t plan on changing it in 2019: I’ve been eating a little bit of anything and everything (that’s gluten free).

Like I’ve written about before, I’ve experimented with a LOT of different diets since my celiac disease diagnosis. I’ve tried paleo. I’ve tried eating super clean with little to no processed foods. And for a lot of 2017 and 2018, I ate vegan. But in the latter half of last year, I continued loosening up on my diet. I ate meat when I felt like it and more ice cream in one semester than I probably ate in all 2017. I experimented with different gluten free foods, like hummus and freezer meals. And you know what? I’m happier. I’m at a healthier weight (more on that below). And it's been pretty freakin' delicious to eat ground turkey with my dinner or ice cream with my night snack.

13 New Healthy Habits That Changed My Life in 2018

This isn’t to say that you should go crazy on whatever foods (if any) you’ve been limiting lately. And obviously there are some foods that DON'T do well with people (like gluten for people with celiac disease), and it IS an act of self-care to avoid those triggers. However, I did want to share my experience to show that eating “perfectly” or eating a certain diet isn’t always better than just eating what your body craves and going with the flow.

4. Establishing a regular weight-lifting routine.

One of the other biggest reasons I think I gained some curves and muscle in 2018? I started lifting weights on a regular basis...and progressively lifting heavier.

I’ve flirted with the weight room since junior year of college, but I always did more cardio than weight lifting. And I still do a good amount of cardio (this gal loves a stair stepper workout!), but leg injuries forced me to dive deeper into the realm of weight lifting, and I’m really glad they did! I’m certainly no pro at lifting weights and still don’t lift very heavy compared to many people, but I love how strong I feel now and getting to challenge myself by slowly racking up the weight.

13 New Healthy Habits That Changed My Life in 2018

Nowadays, it seems a LOT more socially acceptable for women to lift weights and use the weight room at gyms. However, it definitely can feel intimidating to walk into a weight room full of huge dudes who all seem to know exactly what they’re doing. Just know that getting to see and feel yourself getting stronger is so worth that initial discomfort or the days it takes you to figure out weight lifting equipment and proper form. Gaining some extra curves along the way has just been a bonus!

5. Listening to podcasts when I'm working out or doing chores.

This year also marked the start of my love for podcasts. While I listened to them every so often before, now I go through a handful of episodes each week, and it’s definitely given me some new topics to bring up in conversations. Plus, depending on the podcast I listen to, I often feel less alone about certain struggles I’m going through (like the general chaos of life in your 20s) and learn new skills related to mindfulness, meditation, gratitude, etc.

13 New Healthy Habits That Changed My Life in 2018

Of course, it is important to give yourself a break and not be listening to something every single minute of your day. But if you want to replace some of your TV with informative or entertaining podcasts, or just want to learn some new facts in your spare time, some of my fave podcasts right now are:
  • Trader Joe’s (Inside) - all about Trader Joe’s, as told from various employees on the inside 
  • How I Built This - each episode features an interview with a new entrepreneur about how they succeeded at building their company or brand 
  • Freakonomics Radio - in-depth conversations with various experts on interesting topics ranging from the obesity crisis to the connection between religion and happiness 
  • Oprah’s Supersoul Conversations - it’s Oprah and she’s interviewing a bunch of crazy cool people about deep takeaways they’ve gotten from life 
  • That's So Maven - I only just discovered that The Healthy Maven (an awesome blog) has its own, equally awesome podcast all about health, wellness and everyday life.

6. Saying "yes" to social events I initially felt on the fence about going to.

To be completely honest...I’m a homebody. 9/10 Friday nights, I’m chilling in my apartment with Netflix and homemade granola. But in 2018, I tried to say “yes” to more invitations, even if they were out of my comfort zone. And as a result, I...

...stayed up until 2 AM dancing at a club in downtown Minneapolis.

...went to a concert held by one of my professors and discovered that tipsy people really like my fuzzy black scarf.

13 New Healthy Habits That Changed My Life in 2018

...almost froze seeing Christmas lights in Mankato but also managed to see some real-live reindeer!

...am visiting a special someone in San Diego for part of my Christmas break. (And if you notice that I'm a bit quiet on the blog/social media next week, this visit is why!)

I wouldn’t say that everything I said “yes” to in 2018 was a complete success. But I’m going to start 2019 with a heck of a lot of good memories that I wouldn’t have made if I’d said “no” to everything that was a little out of my comfort zone.

7. Saying "no" to things I felt like I SHOULD do...but actually didn't want or need.

At the same time, though, healthy living for me involves saying “no” to a good amount of social or work invitations. The truth is, grad school is exhausting...especially when you’re also working several jobs and have two chronic illnesses. So a lot of the time, I can’t do all the things I want to. I still feel guilty sometimes for not being a “good enough” MFA student since I miss so many department-related events. And a big part of me wishes I could live off of 4 or 6 hours of sleep like other college students and dedicate those extra hours to blogging more or doing more freelance work or spending more time with friends.

13 New Healthy Habits That Changed My Life in 2018

But my body doesn’t work like that. And if you have your own health struggles or just have the tendency to say “yes” to things out of obligation instead of actual enjoyment...maybe the best New Years resolution is saying “no” more. Staying in on a Saturday night if that’s what your mind or body needs. Making friends with people who understand when you need some alone time. And, at the most basic level, saying “yes” to your own needs BEFORE saying “yes” to anything else.

Personally, I know that’s one “goal” I’m always going to be working on, including in 2019!

8. Starting each morning with a solo dance party.

This year of grad school, I’m teaching an 8 AM Intro to English Composition class. And I’m not gonna lie. Sometimes it’s hard to get myself out of bed, across campus and excited to teach that early in the morning. This last semester, though, I’ve started playing even just a few minutes of my favorite songs when I wake up, and I think it’s definitely helped make me a little more motivated to head off to class. Research even reports that listening to music that you like triggers the release of dopamine, or the “happy hormone” in the brain. So the next time you have an early morning you’re not looking forward to or just need a pick-me-up anytime in the day, groovin’ to some of your favorite tunes might help!

13 New Healthy Habits That Changed My Life in 2018

9. Foam rolling after every single workout.

I don’t really have much to say about this except do it. 2018 was the first year that I actually committed to foam rolling any time I do a leg workout, and it has seriously done wonders for my soreness and healing from my leg injuries.

10. Eating more plant-based protein...but not restricting myself from meat.

I already mentioned this a little bit earlier on in the post, but it was a big enough change to deserve its own bullet. If you follow me on Instagram, you probably noticed that over the past year and a half, I’ve been eating more hummus and beans than my old favorite of sweet potato salmon sliders. During that time, I love that I was able to slowly increase my stomach’s tolerance for legumes (by eating a verrrrry small amount of beans and then working up) and I’ve really enjoyed experimenting with new plant-based foods like pulled BBQ jackfruit or homemade hummus.

13 New Healthy Habits That Changed My Life in 2018

But over the last few months, I’ve added meat back into my diet. And you know what? I’ve found that’s what works best for me.

Now I'm not saying that a vegan diet can't work for people or isn't a good idea. If you don't want to eat meat or eggs or dairy and that works for you, great! And I can honestly say that a vegan and gluten free diet can still be super delicious. But if 2018 taught me anything, it's that every body thrives on a different diet. And I just hope that anyone who wants to experiment with a new diet in 2019 or make a healthy eating New Year's resolution remembers that!

11. Sharing regular phone calls with old friends.

I was warned about how hard it would be to stay in contact with college friends after graduation, and that’s definitely true. Last year, though, I tried to make it more of a priority to catch up with old friends and it felt super rewarding. As anyone who’s ever been (or is presently) in their 20s knows, it’s a really weird time. People are doing everything from still living at home with their parents to getting married and having kids to starting their career to being in school like me. And during weeks when I feel really unsure about what the heck I was doing with life, it helps a lot to have someone to talk to who knows me but is now doing something totally different than I am.

13 New Healthy Habits That Changed My Life in 2018

12. Turning off push notifications for my social media apps.

I’m not gonna lie. I spend a loooot of time on my phone. But one step that did help in 2018 was turning off push notifications for social media apps. A 2015 study actually tested the effects of saying "no" to push notifications and found that people were more productive and less distracted in the first 24 hours. And when researchers checked in with study participants one year later, two-thirds had chosen to keep their notifications off, increasing their long-term chances of being less stress and more focused.

Now, I wouldn’t say that muting notifications has turned me into a super productive superwoman. But I think it does help keep me from getting distracted by every Facebook comment or Instagram direct message when they happen - and, at the very least, no harm was done by turning my push notifications off!

13. Celebrating the moments when I walk by the mirror and think, "Dang girl, you're lookin' good!"

Body image with celiac disease is always a complicated topic, and I definitely haven't discovered the secret to self-love with chronic illness. BUT in 2018, I did get a lot better at celebrating the moments when I do feel at home in my body, no matter what surprises it throws my way. And here's the biggest thing about self-love and self-care I learned in 2018: it doesn't have to be complicated! It doesn't require fancy face masks or a morning ritual of staring at the mirror and saying everything you love about your body. It can be as simple as taking a selfie or taking an extra moment to smile in the mirror on days you're feeling really good.

13 New Healthy Habits That Changed My Life in 2018

If you want to step up your whole self-love and self-care routine, check out my posts (here and here) on some simple and quick self-love activities you can try. But don't forget to get the most out of the little moments, too, when you feel awesome and can celebrate that vibe!

My Biggest Goal for 2019

Even as I'm finishing up this post on Christmas Day, it blows my mind that 2018 is almost over. It was not a perfect year (is there even such a thing?!?) but it was a year full of growth and laughter and adventures and challenges and successes...and new healthy habits that I'm definitely going to keep up in the New Year!

Like I said earlier in this post, I rarely make New Year's resolutions, and that isn't changing in 2019. But I do like picking a word to focus on...and in 2019, my word is going to be "open."

Open to new opportunities, even if they scare me or aren't what I was planning or expecting.

Open to changes in my routine, even if routine is what I'm most comfortable with.

13 New Healthy Habits That Changed My Life in 2018

And, of course, open to discovering more habits that will help me live a happy, healthy life!

What's one healthy habit that's changed your life? Tell me in the comments!


  1. Thanks for this, Casey. There's always food for thought (and food!) in your blog.

  2. I love theee !!! I want to do some this coming year

  3. Love this list! I'm definitely going to check out those podcasts; and I keep my social media notifications off too -- such a relief to not have them popping up all the time!

    1. For sure! It's amazing how many notifications we get, but I didn't realize until I muted them!

  4. I love how you are growing and learning and ENJOYING life more, not acting so much like a Type A personality, and that you are socializing more this year Casey. You are such an amazing young lady, and I hope you keep working on your whole self-love and self-care routine too! I really do love you my sweet, smart, and thoughtful granddaughter..............I'm trying to learn things from you too.

  5. These are fantastic ideas, and ones that I'd love to focus on in 2019. Podcasts are my new thing, and can be so helpful!

  6. I love these simply but effective ideas to improve life. I am going to check out the challenge that you mentioned in the beginning. I think most of what you mentioned here is very doable. Thank you.

  7. I really enjoyed reading your post, and felt as though I could relate a lot to it! Thanks for sharing. I definitely need to establish some better habits :)

  8. I like the part about saying yes to social events that you initially are unsure about. I am a total homebody, so I get tired and don't want to go do things. I miss out on a lot of things doing that. I think this is an excellent thing to start changing in 2019 <3

  9. I need to start listening to podcasts. My kids tell me all of the time about how awesome they are, but I have never jumped in. I must in 2019!

  10. I love that all of your changes are ENJOYABLE! That's such a great way to make them stick!

  11. Great changes, I like the one about listening to podcasts because I am getting into them too. thanks for sharing this

  12. I love hearing from you in my inbox. This time is no exception. What a great blog post! And you also touched on some of my favorite things like weight lifting (as a woman) and tea, glorious tea! I went to a Polish ethnic food store recently and much of it I couldn't eat. But they had the most amazing tea section with hibiscus flowers (dried, whole!) and rosehips that when you open the box.. it smelled like heavenly roses! Blessings to you this new year!

    1. Thank you for your very kind words, Angelica. Those sound like some amazing teas! Happy new year!

  13. Will try to adopt these habits too.

  14. Another podcast you might like is one with a title that's almost longer than the podcasts themselves: "The Nutrition Diva's Quick and Dirty Tips for Eating Well and Feeling Fabulous". Casts run generally in the 10-15 minute range, and cover a wide variety of nutrition topics.

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