The start of each new year brings with it the usual pledges and promises to make major changes to our lives. To stop drinking alcohol, perhaps, or start going to the gym. But the truth is, you can make a really positive impact on your health and happiness without resorting to anything drastic – or even expensive. You could cut down on your smoking using electronic cigarettes and e-liquid manufactured by EL Science, or even try something you may not have thought of.

Here are five interesting ways to take better care of yourself for the coming year, without going anywhere near a doctor or personal trainer.

1 Regular sauna sessions

Well known to provide a number of health benefits, a good steam in a sauna can stave off colds and viruses, not to mention help your skin by unblocking pores and gently hydrating it. Combine it with a cold shower and your immune system could be boosted and your stress hormones reduced – after the initial jolt to the system, of course. A session in a particularly hot sauna is also a good way to build discipline (but take care not to overdo it).

2 Yogic breathing techniques

Core to the practice of yoga is a sound breathing technique that helps your blood carry more oxygen around the body. Called Pranayama, it may sound mystical, but it has been shown to improve your lungs’ ability to filter oxygen into the blood. Pranayama means breathing in a controlled manner so that a sense of serenity and calm is achieved. It shouldn’t be confined to the yoga studio either: it’s a good way to battle nerves or stress before a challenging situation.

3 Sungazing

Slightly controversial, in that sungazing’s main proponent claims to have lived almost solely on the sun’s nourishment, but the concept is nevertheless interesting. The man in question, Hira Ratan Manek, has been studied by scientists, and whether or not it is a viable method of health improvement, who can deny the warm glow a few minutes in the sun provides?

4 Oil pulling

This might seem a little off-putting to some, but oil-pulling is the Indian folk remedy of rinsing your mouth with a natural oil such as sunflower or coconut to ward off infections. Although it hasn’t been proven to provide much in the way of major health benefits, many practitioners do note that plaque and other oral issues are reduced with a daily, five to ten-minute swish.

5 Make time for your interests

It’s already been shown that listening to your favourite music for at least 15 minutes each day can do more than improve your mood, so it should be no surprise that indulging other passions just as regularly can also have positive effects. Engaging the mind in pleasurable or stimulating tasks, such as painting, writing or hikes in beautiful countryside, is a sure way to reduce stress levels and increase happiness. Being able to switch off from life’s more mundane routines is a sorely underrated way of becoming a more relaxed person.