Picture your life in 2016 with half the stress and double the energy. Who wouldn’t want that?
While nearly everyone aspires to better health, it’s no secret that the majority of health-related New Year’s resolutions fail. We have a tendency to set resolutions that are too challenging 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 chance to start lifestyle changes that are simple and easy to maintain—so that over time they become habits, slowly but surely bringing you nearer to optimal health.
Below are five simple resolutions you can implement right away for a healthy 2016.
1. Develop a new health outlook
It’s a familiar story: you start the most recent fad diet and you’re feeling really great. Then, a few weeks into the plan, and you have a birthday party to attend. You get there resolved to be accountable, but you can’t resist the cake and ice cream. Diet over.
Quiting in this manner is a manifestation of an all-or-nothing mindset to diet and health. Rather than surrendering when you cheat on your diet, imagine your present level of health as sitting someplace 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 OK to have that piece of cake every once in a while, so long as the bulk of your decisions move you in the right direction.
Establishing healthy habits demands a short memory. You will slip-up every now and then. What matters is your response, and how you’ll plan on making more healthy than unhealthy decisions moving forward.
2. Establish a moderate, balanced diet
Fad diets practically never work. The truth is that they are unsustainable, which means that even if they do work in the short-term, you’ll most likely just gain back the pounds.
Fad diets are all about deprivation of some type. No carbohydrates, no fats, only 1,000 calories each day. It’s as if I recommended that you’d be more productive at work if you didn’t check your email for a month. Throughout that month, you would probably get a lot more work done.
But what would happen at the close of the month? You’d spend the majority of your time reading through emails, catching up, and losing all the efficiency you just gained.
The same phenomenon applies to deprivation diets. In fact, studies show that people tend to 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 bag of chips or a cheeseburger every so often. Individual foods are not important—your overall diet is what’s important. As long as most of your decisions are healthy, you’re moving along the continuum in the right direction.
3. Incorporate exercise into your daily routine
If you desire to write a novel, and you force yourself to write the entire thing all at once, 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 recognizes they should be working out. The issue is equivalent to fad diets: the adoption of an all-or-nothing attitude. You purchase a gym membership and vow to commit to 7 days a week, two hours a day, for the rest of your life. Two weeks in, you skip a few days, cancel your membership, and never return.
All or nothing. You’re focused on the days you skip going to the gym when you should be focusing on the times you do go to the gym. Every gym trip pushes you closer on the continuum to good health.
You can likewise incorporate physical activity at work and elsewhere throughout the day. Take the stairway instead of the elevator, park your car 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. Reduce stress
There are basically 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 everybody, but here’s an example of a resolution incorporating all three strategies.
Eliminate – certain activities and responsibilities create more stress relative to the benefits achieved. If you discover, for instance, that you spend the majority of your day on social media, but the stress of updating your status provides little benefit, you might 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 despise 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 subdue 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 fade away.
5. Schedule routine hearing tests
And finally, consider booking a hearing test this year. While this may sound 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 multiple serious medical conditions, including depression, cognitive decline, and even dementia. Not to mention the constant struggle to hear as a significant source of stress.
Strengthening your hearing is a great way to reduce stress, strengthen personal relationships, and improve your general health and well-being.