Picture your life in 2016 with half the stress and double the energy. Who wouldn’t want that?
While almost everyone aspires to improved health, it’s not a secret that most health-related New Year’s resolutions fail. We are inclined to create resolutions that are too challenging or too complex—all in the name of acquiring quick, extreme results.
But rather than striving for the quick fix, the new year is the chance to establish lifestyle modifications that are simple and easy to sustain—so that with time they become habits, gradually but surely getting you closer to optimal health.
The following 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 start the most recent fad diet and you’re feeling really good. Then, a few weeks into the program, and you have a birthday party to go to. You arrive determined to be accountable, but you can’t resist the cake and ice cream. Diet over.
Giving up in this manner is a symptom of an all-or-nothing mindset to diet and health. Instead of surrendering 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 closer to one end (good health) or the other end (poor health).
The cake and ice cream moved you to the wrong end of the continuum, but that doesn’t indicate that you have to advance in the same direction for the rest of the day, week, or month. It’s fine to have that piece of cake every once in a while, providing the majority of your decisions move you towards better health.
Creating healthy habits calls for a short memory. You will slip-up every so often. What matters is your response, and how you’ll plan on making more healthy than unhealthy decisions going forward.
2. Institute a moderate, balanced diet
Fad diets almost never work. The fact is that they are unsustainable, meaning that even if they do work in the short-term, you’ll very likely just gain back the weight.
Fad diets are focused on deprivation of some type. No carbs, no fats, only 1,000 calories per 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. During that month, you would probably 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, catching up, and losing all the productivity you had gained.
The same phenomenon pertains to deprivation diets. In fact, studies show that people often gain more weight back than they shed after the completion of a short-term fad diet.
So what’s the remedy?
Moderation. Remember the health continuum? It’s perfectly okay 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 force yourself to write the whole thing all at once, you’ll never make it to the end. But, if you dedicate yourself to writing one page daily, you’ll have 365 pages to work with at the end of the year.
Everyone recognizes they should be exercising. The problem is equivalent to fad diets: the adoption of an all-or-nothing mentality. You invest in a gym membership and vow to devote to 7 days a week, two hours a day, for the rest 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 skip going to the gym when you should be focusing on the days you do go to the gym. Every gym trip pushes you closer on the continuum toward good health.
You can likewise incorporate physical activity at work and elsewhere throughout the day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park farther away from the store entrance, do some pushups on your lunch break. Each one of these activities tip the balance to good health.
4. Limit stress
There are essentially three ways to deal 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 different for everybody, but here’s an example of a resolution incorporating all three methods.
Eliminate – certain activities and obligations generate more stress relative to the benefits acquired. If you notice, for instance, that you spend 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? As an example, some people hate public speaking while others love it. It is possible, but not easy, to reframe your thoughts of anxiety into positive energy you can use to conquer your fears.
Relax – What do you enjoy doing the most? What is most relaxing to you? Listening to music? Reading? Hiking? Meditating? Whatever it is, find ways to open your schedule to do more of it and the stress will fade away.
5. Schedule regular hearing tests
And finally, think about committing to a hearing test this year. While this may sound insignificant, it’s not—one out of 5 people in the US suffers from some degree of hearing loss and most do nothing about it.
Hearing loss has been connected to several serious medical conditions, such as depression, cognitive decline, and even dementia. Not to mention the consistent struggle to hear as a major source of stress.
Enhancing your hearing is an excellent way to reduce stress, reinforce personal relationships, and improve your all-around health and well-being.