Picture 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 most health-related New Year’s resolutions are unsuccessful. We have a tendency to create resolutions that are too difficult or too complicated—all in the name of getting quick, drastic results.
But in place of trying for the quick fix, the new year is the chance to start lifestyle adjustments that are simple and effortless to sustain—so that with time they come to be habits, slowly but surely getting you nearer to optimum health.
Here are five straightforward resolutions you can put into action right now for a healthy 2016.
1. Establish a new health mindset
It’s a recognizable story: you begin the most recent fad diet and you’re feeling pretty good. Then, a few weeks into the program, and you have a birthday party to attend. You arrive resolved to be responsible, but you can’t refrain from the cake and ice cream. Diet over.
Quiting in this fashion is a sign of an all-or-nothing approach to diet and health. Rather than surrendering when you cheat on your diet, view your current level of health as resting someplace along a continuum. Every choice you make moves you closer 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 imply you have to advance in the same direction for the remainder of the day, week, or month. It’s fine to have that piece of cake once in a while, providing the majority of your decisions move you in the right direction.
Implementing 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 going forward.
2. Institute a moderate, balanced diet
Fad diets virtually never work. The reality is that they are unsustainable, meaning that even if they do work in the short-term, you’ll very likely just gain back the pounds.
Fad diets are all about deprivation of some kind. No carbs, no fats, only 1,000 calories a day. It’s as if I proposed that you’d be more productive at work if you didn’t check your email for a month. In the course of that month, you would most likely get a lot more work done.
But what would materialize at the end of the month? You’d spend the majority of your time reading through emails, making up ground, and losing all the efficiency you had gained.
The same phenomenon applies to deprivation diets. In fact, studies show that individuals often gain more weight back than they lose after the conclusion of a temporary fad diet.
So what’s the remedy?
Moderation. Remember the health continuum? It’s OK to have a candy bar or a cheeseburger once in awhile. Individual foods are not important—your overall diet is what’s important. So long as the majority of your decisions are healthy, you’re moving down the continuum in the right direction.
3. Include exercise into your daily routine
If you want to write a novel, and you pressure yourself to write the entire thing all at once, you’ll never make it to the end. However, if you dedicate yourself to writing one page daily, you’ll have 365 pages to work with at the end of the year.
Everyone knows they should be exercising. The problem is the same as with fad diets: the adoption of an all-or-nothing mindset. You purchase a gym membership and vow to commit to 7 days a week, three hours a day, for the rest of your life. Two weeks in, you skip a few days, deactivate your membership, and never return.
All or nothing. You’re focused 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 include physical activity at work and elsewhere throughout the day. Take the stairway in the place of the elevator, park your car farther away from the store entrance, do some pushups on your lunch break. All of these activities tip the balance to good health.
4. Limit stress
There are basically three ways to cope with stress:
- Eliminate the source of your stress, if possible
- Reframe the stress into something favorable
- Participate in relaxing activities more often
This will be unique for everybody, but here’s an example of a resolution incorporating all three strategies.
Eliminate – certain activities and commitments produce more stress relative to the benefits obtained. If you discover, for example, that you consume the majority of your time on social media, but the stress of updating your status provides little reward, you might think about ditching your accounts.
Reframe – Have you ever noticed that the same experience can be stressful for one person, yet exhilarating for another? For 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 defeat your fears.
Relax – What do you enjoy doing the most? What is most relaxing to you? Listening to music? Reading? Camping? Meditating? Whatever it is, find ways to open your schedule to do more of it and the stress will melt away.
5. Schedule routine hearing tests
Hearing loss has been linked to multiple serious medical conditions, such as depression, cognitive decline, and even dementia. Not to mention the continual struggle to hear as a significant source of stress.
Strengthening your hearing is a great way to reduce stress, reinforce relationships, and improve your overall health and well-being.