Reading through website after website summarizing how to be happier or stronger in 2024, the answers are easy to dismiss. They’re so similar and simple. There’s no new brilliance to staying physically and mentally resilient. 

Two men walking in a park with water bottles, one with his arm around the other

But here’s the problem: Staying true to what we already know takes work. We get distracted by our fear and stress or tantalizing quick fixes, like another show, game, or purchase. Even in the midst of ongoing crises, our minds need rest, but vicious, vacuous politics and news curated to inflame immerse us in all that’s wrong 24-7. And then, our tech-driven world takes us from our best interests literally by design; our attention and personal data are their economy.

Good things and bad things endlessly cycle. Resilience relies on staying aware of our choices to influence what we can and then navigating all the rest as well as we’re able. A failing lifestyle contributes to the state of overwhelm for this generation, since reactionary, sedentary, and social media–driven ways do not work for anyone. The cutting-edge science of staying strong and happy still points back toward the wisdom of old-school, commonsense choices.

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Thus, the solution points to self-awareness and habit change: How can we recalibrate ourselves and get back to the basics of living well in 2024?

Now pause a moment and notice what you’re thinking. Notice any reflex to dismiss easy answers, I’ve read all this before. Notice any habitual inner voice that says, I’ve tried all this and never stick to it. Notice rationalization and discomfort triggered by thoughts of changing lifestyle, breaking habits, or overcoming inertia. Let go of those undermining mental reactions as best as you’re able. Then realign yourself with your own best intentions for the year. Here are some reminders for how to do that.

1. Connect with people who support you

Technology is just a tool to be used well or poorly. Bonding with someone you know directly, even online, keeps you strong. However, social media provide only a momentary buzz that can lead to jealousy, anxiety, and poor self-esteem. Quit apps when you can, and otherwise commit to time-limited check-ins with people you know. Put down your device often and focus on real people instead. 

2. Engage in real time with whatever sustains you

Paying attention to what’s going on while it’s happening correlates with happiness. Doomscrolling sucks our attention into reactivity and fear. Give full attention to positive moments, both because it’s enjoyable and because immersing yourself in them has intrinsic value. 

3. Exercise

Medically speaking, there is no healthy sedentary lifestyle. Our body requires exercise both physically and emotionally. No one should be judged for their body type, and yet everyone has to move. The idea that exercise is optional is a modern myth. 

4. Take care of your brain

Like a muscle, how you treat your brain changes it, based on a process called “neuroplasticity.” Spend all your time distracted, stressed, and fearful, and habits related to that lifestyle become hardwired. Setting aside time for beneficial activities—like sleeping enough, reading, offline hobbies, or practicing mindfulness—solidifies stronger tendencies instead. 

5. Let go of consumerism

The science of happiness shows clearly that acquiring stuff cannot keep us happy. It’s a false idol. Each purchase or shiny light on our phone instantly passes, leaving us craving more. Enjoy whatever you enjoy. But whenever you catch yourself craving quick fixes, use that moment of proactive awareness to realign yourself with what actually works.

6. Selfishly practice both kindness and gratitude

Even when life feels out of control, we only directly influence what we choose to say or do—or not say or do. Some options make situations better and some make them worse. Setting an intention to meet each moment with kindness and gratitude supports the people around us and has been shown to increase our happiness, too.

7. Understand the science of habit formation

If you’re changing a habit, whatever you’re moving toward isn’t yet habit by definition. These new patterns require effort and consistency to launch. Start with small, realistic steps, which stick better than grandiose plans. Then set reminders, and partner with someone if you can. Stay patient when you lose track of yourself and come back to your best intentions again. That’s how new habits hardwire.

To summarize: Spend time with real people, treat them well, put down your devices, and move your body. When you see a chance, do things that improve the world. And then, amid the onslaught of self-help guides, gurus, and glittery things to play with and buy, commit to the wisdom of the basics in 2024 instead.

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