Imagine your life in 2016 with half the stress and double the energy. Who wouldn’t want that?
Although virtually everyone aims for better health, it’s not a secret that the majority of health-related New Year’s resolutions are unsuccessful. We tend to set resolutions that are too difficult or too complicated—all in the name of attaining quick, extreme results.
But instead of striving for the quick fix, the new year is the chance to establish lifestyle changes that are simple and easy to maintain—so that over time they become habits, gradually but surely bringing you closer to optimum health.
Here are five straightforward resolutions you can implement right now for a healthy 2016.
1. Institute a new health outlook
It’s a recognizable story: you begin the latest fad diet and you’re feeling pretty great. Then, a couple of weeks into the program, and you have a birthday party to go to. You get there determined to be responsible, but you can’t refrain from the cake and ice cream. Diet over.
Giving up in this manner is a sign of an all-or-nothing mindset to diet and health. Rather than quiting when you cheat on your diet, view your current level of health as sitting at one point along a continuum. Every decision you make moves you nearer to one end (good health) or the other end (poor health).
The cake and ice cream pushed you to the wrong end of the continuum, but that doesn’t mean you need to move in the same direction for the rest of the day, week, or month. It’s OK to have that piece of cake from time to time, provided that the majority of your decisions move you towards better health.
Establishing healthy habits demands a short memory. You will slip-up every now and then. What matters is your reaction, and how you’ll plan on making more healthy than unhealthy decisions moving forward.
2. Institute a moderate, balanced diet
Fad diets practically never succeed. The fact is that they are unsustainable, which means that even if they do work in the short-term, you’ll likely just gain back the pounds.
Fad diets are all about deprivation of some kind. No carbohydrates, no fats, only 1,000 calories each day. It’s like if I suggested that you’d be more productive at work if you didn’t check your email for a month. Throughout that month, you would most likely get a lot more work done.
But what would materialize at the end of the month? You’d invest most of your time reading through emails, making up ground, and losing all the efficiency you just gained.
The same phenomenon pertains to deprivation diets. In fact, studies show that individuals tend to gain more weight back than they shed after the completion of a short-term fad diet.
So what’s the solution?
Moderation. Remember the health continuum? It’s OK to have a bag of chips or a cheeseburger on occasion. Individual foods are not as important as your overall diet. As long as most of your choices are healthy, you’re moving down the continuum in the right direction.
3. Combine exercise into your daily routine
If you desire to write a novel, and you make yourself to write the entire thing in one sitting, you’ll never make it to the end. But, if you dedicate yourself to writing one page per day, you’ll have 365 pages to work with at the end of the year.
Everyone understands they should be exercising. The issue is the same as with fad diets: the adoption of an all-or-nothing mentality. You buy a gym membership and pledge to commit to 7 days a week, two hours a day, for the remainder of your life. Two weeks in, you miss a few days, deactivate your membership, and never return.
All or nothing. You’re focusing on the days you miss going to the gym when you should be focusing on the times you do go to the gym. Each gym trip pushes you closer on the continuum to good health.
You can also integrate physical activity at work and elsewhere during the day. Choose the stairs in the place of the elevator, park your car farther away from the store entrance, complete some pushups on your meal break. All of these activities tip the balance to good health.
4. Reduce stress
There are fundamentally three ways to cope with stress:
- Eliminate the source of your stress, if possible
- Reframe the stress into something positive
- Engage in relaxing activities more frequently
This will be different for everyone, but here’s an example of a resolution incorporating all three strategies.
Eliminate – certain activities and commitments create more stress relative to the benefits obtained. If you find, for example, that you spend most of your time on social media, but the stress of updating your status provides little reward, you may consider ditching your accounts.
Reframe – Have you ever noticed that the same experience can be stressful for one person, yet exciting for another? As an example, some people loathe public speaking while others love it. It is possible, but not easy, to reframe your feelings of anxiety into positive energy you can use to master your fears.
Relax – What do you love doing the most? What is most relaxing to you? Listening to music? Reading? Hiking? Meditating? Whatever it is, find ways to clear your schedule to do more of it and the stress will disappear.
5. Schedule regular hearing tests
And finally, think about booking a hearing exam this year. While this may seem insignificant, it’s not—one out of 5 people in the US suffers from some amount of hearing loss and most do nothing about it.
Hearing loss has been linked to several significant medical conditions, including depression, cognitive decline, and even dementia. Not to mention the continual struggle to hear as a major source of stress.
Improving your hearing is a great way to reduce stress, strengthen personal relationships, and enhance your all-around health and well-being.