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31 Day Happy Life Makeover

Want to get healthier, richer, more confident—more, well, everything? Done! Our easy guide guarantees success—and tons of fun, too!


By Erin Bried
10 min

Above Image | Mike Garten, prop styling by Cate Geiger

Year after year, you tackle a list of new-you resolutions that are usually too tough to stick to for long: Don’t eat carbs! Don’t drink wine! Don’t shop! This year will be different—truly! We’ve laid out an easy, tip-a-day plan that will help you build new habits you’ll want to keep up. “Habits stem from memories, and memory retrieval happens automatically in the brain,” says Art Markman, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. “You can’t develop a habit not to do things.” So forget the don’ts and follow our Do Diet to be happier, healthier…and maybe even trimmer in just one month.

Sun: Share beautiful things
Jot down nine delightful moments you notice today—three in nature (like sparkling snowflakes), three in people’s behavior (a friendly smile), three from pretty much anywhere (even an exquisitely plated meal). This quick exercise can boost happiness for a full month, a Swiss study showed. “Appreciating beauty provokes positive emotions and may also trigger awe,” says study author Sara Wellenzohn, Ph.D., of the University of Zurich. Use #powerofawe on Instagram to spread the joy.
Mon: Show your true colors
Wear shades that have emotional meaning for you, says Lyn Paolo, costume designer for Scandal. “I wear blue for my mum’s eyes, or green for my children’s,” she says. “On busy days, the colors make me feel strong and comforted.” Some bright ideas from our Fashion team:
Tue: Group Tasks to Get More Done
Crush it on your first day back to work after the holidays by catching up on emails or returning phone calls, but not by doing both at once. “When we multitask in the office, our productivity goes down by 40%,” says Karen Elizaga, an executive coach in New York City and author of Find Your Sweet Spot. A smarter option: Break up your tasks into chunks and do them in a sequential series. “You’ll not only produce better results, but you’ll also feel less overwhelmed,” says Elizaga.
Wed: Make tomorrow’s breakfast tonight
In a 16-oz. jar, mix 1/2 c. old-fashioned oats, 1 Tbsp. chia seeds, 1 Tbsp. honey and 2/3 c. milk or unsweetened plant-based milk. Add fruit or nuts. Cover and shake; pop it in the fridge overnight—then just wake up, grab it and go! “Raw oats contain prebiotic fiber, which helps stimulate the growth of the good bacteria in our bodies,” says Willow Jarosh, R.D., co-owner of C&J Nutrition in New York City. And prebiotic fiber helps curb belly bloat!
Thu: Have Fun With Your Passwords
Rather than using your usual string of words to unlock device screens (you know you always forget them anyway), have your passwords do double duty by making you both more secure and happier. “Choose mantra words like ‘serenity,’ ‘peace’ and ‘patience,’ ” suggests executive coach Karen Elizaga. “Every time you log in, you’ll get a little hit of inspiration.” Add numbers and characters and randomly capitalize letters for safety, suggests the GH Tech Lab.
Sat: Block bad vibes
You can’t totally avoid frenemies and other social undesirables, but you can neutralize their negative energy with this Wuji Qigong exercise: Gently curl your hands into fists, with your fingers wrapped around your thumbs. (Hands not free? Curl your toes instead.) “People who suck positive energy from us disrupt our bodies’ balance and harmony at the cellular level, weakening the immune system and leaving us susceptible to illness,” says Florence Comite, M.D., an endocrinologist and founder of the Comite Center for Precision Medicine in New York City. “This practice offers peaceful protection by heightening our awareness and control of our internal energy.”
Tue: Sip red wine at happy hour
You’ve made it through your first week back— woo-hoo! Revel in your success with a cabernet sauvignon from Chile or Argentina. “Grapes grown at higher altitudes have many times the polyphenols and proanthocyanidins of those grown in warmer climates, which means they’re healthier for your heart,” says Suzanne Steinbaum, D.O., director of women’s heart health at Northwell Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Sun: Let go of the past
Forget who you were in college and who you might like to be someday: Celebrate who you are right now. If your living space reflects the real you, you’ll be happier, says professional organizer Jeni Aron (cluttercowgirl.com). “Embrace your body by purging clothes that don’t fit. Embrace your career by tossing paperwork that no longer matters. Embrace your current relationship by getting rid of unwanted items from former relationships,” she says. “If something isn’t adding beauty to your life right now, you don’t need to keep it.”
Mon: Stare at kittens
It might be the secret to your next promotion: Seeing pictures of kittens or puppies boosts performance, finds a study in the journal PLOS One. “Looking at cute images narrows your focus, allowing you to perform tasks with greater care,” says study author Hiroshi Nittono, Ph.D., of Osaka University in Japan. But don’t overdo it: “Viewing too many is just a waste of time,” he says. Take a peek before a tough task, then get it done!
Tue: Lay Out This Week’s Workout Clothes
Decide how many times you’ll exercise this week, then stack up the same number of sets of gear—the fewer decisions you have to make about exercising, the more likely you are to do it. “Your goal is to get each outfit sweaty and in the hamper by the end of the week,” says Daily Burn365 trainer Cheri Paige Fogleman. We’ll make it even easier: Slip into C9 Champion leggings (a top pick by the GH Institute), then do our exclusive Daily Burn workout
Wed: Dream sweeter
Get a better night’s rest with this simple trick: Dab a lavender essential oil blend on pulse points and under your nose right before bed. Research shows that inhaling the scent increases people’s percentage of deep sleep and even boosts energy the next morning. Try Luxe Apothecary Good Night Essential Oil Roll-On ($18, luxeapothecary.co), suggests GH Beauty Director April Franzino. It’s handmade with just three oils: lavender, chamomile and sweet almond.
Thu: Spend on What You Love
Save more—without sacrificing quality of life—by tracking your expenditures for one week, highlighting every one that didn’t bring you pure joy. “Maybe it was food that made you feel bloated, drinks with people you don’t really like or a membership you never use,” says Manisha Thakor, director of wealth strategies for women at financial-planning company Buckingham and the BAM Alliance. “You’ll be surprised how much you can cut without impacting your happiness.”
Fri: Eat dinner 15 min. later
Instead of rushing home to eat right away, sneak in a quickie sweat session after work. A study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that people who did just 15 minutes of interval training after a mentally demanding chore burned 75 more calories than their sedentary counterparts and ate less afterward, too. “The brain seeks energy after a tough mental task,” says study author William Neumeier, Ph.D. “It could find it through food, but our research shows it may also use glucose and lactate produced by exercise.”
Sat: Breathe happiness
Pay attention to your breath today, allowing it to slow you down so you can better focus on conversations you’re having, meals you’re eating, and the way you’re moving throughout your day rather than racing through the hours on autopilot. “When you’re able to consider what’s really important to you, you can see how much time you spend worrying about unimportant things,” says Maryanna Klatt, Ph.D., clinical professor in family medicine at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center.
Sun: Look airbrushed
Like spackle for skin, “blur” creams use silicones and light-reflecting minerals to minimize lines, pores and uneven texture. Smooth on bare skin before makeup, or dab on problem zones like frown lines and the nose. In our Beauty Lab test, Lancôme Visionnaire 1 Minute Blur ($57) scored high for temporarily softening fine lines, while Lumene Bright Now Blur Line & Pore Minimizer ($20) reduced the look of pores by 18%.
Mon: It’s Makeover monday!
By now, 29% of us have blown our resolutions, research suggests. Don’t despair! Hit restart by launching a new goal on any old Monday— ahem, like today—to get a fresh-start effect that can put you right back on track. “Days that feel like a beginning may make us feel more confident in our ability to change and pursue goals, because they allow us to feel separated from past imperfections,” says Hengchen Dai, Ph.D., assistant professor of organizational behavior at Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis. Yesterday was the old you. Today, you’re smarter and stronger—and you’ve totally got this.
Tues: Try Something Wacky
If you’ve got a speech to memorize or a skill to master, doing something novel and engaging (e.g., silly dancing, working on a puzzle) immediately before or after it will help etch that fresh info into your memory, shows a recent study. “Attention-grabbing activities release dopamine, which signals your neurons to consolidate memories for better recall,” says Robert Greene, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. The ideal excuse to plug in Guitar Hero at work!
Wed: Play hooky
Taking today off might help give you a longer, healthier life. Research shows that women who work 41 to 50 hours a week are 1.6 times as likely to develop heart disease and 1.5 times as likely to get cancer compared to those who work 30 to 40 hours per week (averaged over a 32-year period). The more hours you toil, the higher your risk. “Women perform dual roles, working long hours at work and at home,” says Allard Dembe, Sc.D., a professor of public health at Ohio State University. “That added stress may set the stage for disease.” But taking a midweek break from work every now and then—to see a movie, get your nails done or just to snooze—could help counter that.
Thu: Wear your pajamas to the spa
After the evening marathon of dinner-bath-storytime and tuck-ins, take off your makeup, put on your PJs and sneak out for a massage. When you get home, extend the bliss by going straight to bed. Regular rubdowns can help reduce back and neck pain and headaches, according to a study from the Symposium on Pain Medicine. Another study found that 10 once-a-week massages improved or erased back pain in more than a third of cases. Tonight, turn “ow” into “ahhh.”
Fri: Go to a concert
…or just host a dinner party at home, but be sure to put on some tunes. Listening to music with other people, especially friends, reduces stress, according to a study in Psychoneuroendocrinology. One possible reason: Group toe-tapping, head-bobbing and singing, all of which happen spontaneously and involuntarily, lead to feelings of togetherness and community, which contribute to greater feelings of happiness.
Sat: Feel Fitter in 10 Min.
“Thinking you have to go to the gym for an hour a day is overwhelming, and it’s a quick way to burn out,” says Nora Minno, a Daily Burn 365 trainer. In fact, doing micro sessions— 10 squats in the morning, a 10-minute walk at lunch—might be more effective than attempting marathon ones, because you’re more likely to follow through. “Little workouts can really add up,” Minno says. Need inspiration?
Sun: Give peas a chance
Toss a can of rinsed and dried chickpeas with olive oil and salt and roast at 400°F for 30 min. Like lentils, peas and navy beans, chickpeas are pulses (edible seeds in legumes), and research shows that eating them cuts your risk of cancer, heart disease and weight gain. “They increase feelings of fullness by 31%,” says Russell de Souza, Sc.D., assistant professor of clinical epidemiology at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada.
Mon: Stand in line at the Bank
Yep, you read that right. When you’re getting your walking-around money for the week, ask the teller for brand-new bills. People spend dirty-looking money faster than crisp cash, just to separate themselves from the grime, according to a study in the Journal of Consumer Research. Sure, it’ll take you an extra minute to go to a human instead of a machine, but you’ll be richer in the long run. Plus, two words: free lollipops.
Wed: Feed your brain more chocolate
Break into a bar of chocolate, then take over the world. A nip of it boosts your short-term productivity by 12%, according to a study in the Journal of Labor Economics. “Chocolate makes people happier, and happy people may be less distracted by worry, so they get more done,” theorizes lead researcher Andrew Oswald, Ph.D., professor of economics and behavioral science at the University of Warwick in England. Can’t talk! Godiva!
Wed: Fidget Off Extra Inches
Tap your toes, bounce your knees, pace…and always take the stairs. These simple, minor movements, also known as nonexercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), can burn more than 350 calories a day, allowing for up to three pounds of weight loss in a month, according to a recent study. “People who engage in NEAT also have better levels of cholesterol, glucose and inflammatory markers,” says researcher Pedro Villablanca, M.D., a cardiologist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. That is neat!
Thu: Eat far from the stove
Dining away from your kitchen  could help you avoid the average annual weight gain of 1 to 2 pounds a year (or more). A study in Environment and Behavior found that people who ate within sight of where their food was served consumed an average of 36 more calories per meal. “If food is visible and accessible, we tend to eat more of it,” says Kim Rollings, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Notre Dame.
Fri: Float your stress away
TGIF! Get into a weekend mindset with this easy de-stresser from New York City certified midwife Casey Selzer: “Picture each stressful thought as a bubble on a river and watch it float downstream.” If it helps women get through labor, surely it can help you get through today.
Sat: Laugh More, Look Younger
Before bed, think of three funny things that happened to you today, and repeat this exercise for seven nights in a row. Doing this can boost your happiness for up to six months, found a study in the Journal of Positive Psychology. “The exercise may help you focus less on what went wrong and shift your attention to the positive,” says study author Sara Wellenzohn, Ph.D., of the University of Zurich.
Sun: Conjure up an extra hour
One-third of Americans spend at least an hour every week looking for misplaced items. Reclaim that hour with Tile (thetileapp.com, from $25), a Bluetooth-enabled tracker tested by the GH Institute that can be tucked into a wallet or attached to a set of keys or your laptop. Use your phone to make your AWOL item ring. If it’s your phone that you’ve misplaced, use any of your trackers to make that ring—it works even if the phone’s on Silent and under the couch cushions (which, of course, is probably the case).
Mon: wake up prettier
Research shows that turmeric, the bright spice derived from the underground stems of a South Asian plant, may help heal common skin ailments like acne and psoriasis. Use a skincare product made with the spice and wake up glowier every day! Beauty Lab picks: Juara Clove Flower and Turmeric Anti-Aging Serum, $65, and Perricone MD Pre:Empt Series Brightening Eye Cream, $65. Brighten up from the inside out, too, by blending turmeric into soups and rice dishes.
Tue: Grow good feelings
A nice desk plant, a small bouquet and even a woodsy screen saver all may have the power to improve mood and blunt the effects of stress, according to a new study. “Exposure to nature involves fascination, which restores the mind and counters fatigue,” says Stephen Colarelli, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Central Michigan University. For a plant that’s hard to kill, try a mother- in-law’s tongue (it’s prettier than it sounds!).