Imagine your life in 2016 with half the stress and double the energy. Who wouldn’t want that?
While virtually everyone aspires to better health, it’s no secret that most health-related New Year’s resolutions are unsuccessful. We have the tendency to set resolutions that are too difficult or too complex—all in the name of acquiring fast, extreme results.
But rather than trying for the rapid fix, the new year is the opportunity to establish lifestyle changes that are simple and effortless to sustain—so that after some time they become habits, slowly but surely getting you closer to optimum health.
Below are five simple resolutions you can implement right away for a healthy 2016.
1. Establish a new health mindset
It’s a common story: you get started on the most recent fad diet and you’re feeling pretty great. Then, a few weeks into the program, and you have a birthday party to go to. You show up determined to be accountable, but you can’t refrain from the cake and ice cream. Diet over.
Quiting in this manner is a manifestation of an all-or-nothing approach to diet and health. In the place of giving up when you cheat on your diet, view your current level of health as resting at one point 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 indicate that you have to move in the same direction for the remainder 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 in the right direction.
Implementing healthy habits demands a short memory. You will slip-up every so often. What counts is your reaction, and how you’ll plan on making more healthy than unhealthy decisions moving forward.
2. Establish a moderate, balanced diet
Fad diets almost never work. The reality is that they are not sustainable, which means that even if they do work in the short-term, you’ll likely just regain the weight.
Fad diets are all about deprivation of some type. No carbs, no fats, only 1,000 calories per day. It’s as 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 happen at the close of the month? You’d devote the majority of your time reading through emails, making up ground, and losing all the efficiency you just achieved.
The same phenomenon applies to deprivation diets. In fact, studies show that people tend to gain more weight back than they lose after the completion of a short-term fad diet.
So what’s the remedy?
Moderation. Remember our health continuum? It’s OK to have a bag of chips or a cheeseburger once in awhile. Individual foods are not important—your overall diet is what’s important. As long as the majority of your decisions are healthy, you’re moving down the continuum in the right direction.
3. Integrate exercise into your daily routine
If you want to write a novel, and you force 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 per day, you’ll have 365 pages to work with at the end of the year.
Everyone understands they should be working out. The issue is the same as with fad diets: the adoption of an all-or-nothing outlook. You invest in a gym membership and vow to commit to 7 days a week, three hours a day, for the remainder of your life. Two weeks in, you skip a few days, deactivate your membership, and never go back.
All or nothing. You’re focusing on the days you skip 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 toward good health.
You can likewise include physical exercise at work and elsewhere during the day. Choose the stairs in the place of the elevator, park farther away from the store entrance, do some pushups on your meal break. All of these activities tip the balance to good health.
4. Lessen stress
There are in essence 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 unique for everyone, but here’s an example of a resolution making use of all three methods.
Eliminate – Some activities and commitments produce more stress relative to the benefits gained. If you notice, for example, that you spend most of your day on social media, but the stress of updating your status produces little benefit, you may consider ditching your accounts.
Reframe – Have you ever noticed that the same experience can be stressful for one person, yet exhilarating for another? For instance, some people dread public speaking while others cherish 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 enjoy doing the most? What is most relaxing to you? Listening to music? Reading? Hiking? Meditating? Whichever 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, consider scheduling a hearing exam this year. While this may seem trivial, 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 is linked to multiple significant medical conditions, such as depression, cognitive decline, and even dementia. Not to mention the continuous struggle to hear as a significant source of stress.
Enhancing your hearing is a great way to reduce stress, strengthen relationships, and improve your general health and well-being.