New Year’s Resolutions

Imagine your life in 2016 with half the stress and double the energy. Who wouldn’t want to have that?

Even though practically everyone aims for improved health, it’s no secret that most health-related New Year’s resolutions fail. We have the tendency to create resolutions that are too difficult or too complex—all in the name of achieving fast, drastic results.

But in place of trying for the quick fix, the new year is the chance to institute lifestyle adjustments that are simple and easy to maintain—so that after a while they come to be habits, gradually but surely getting you nearer to optimum health.

Here are five simple resolutions you can put into practice right now for a healthy 2016.

1. Establish a new health outlook

It’s a common story: you start the most recent fad diet and you’re feeling pretty great. Then, a few weeks into the plan, and you have a birthday party to attend. You get there determined to be accountable, but you can’t resist the cake and ice cream. Diet over.

Giving up in this fashion is a sign of an all-or-nothing attitude 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 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 indicate that you have to move in the same direction for the remainder of the day, week, or month. It’s okay to have that piece of cake every so often, provided that the majority of your decisions move you towards better health.

Establishing healthy habits requires 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 going forward.

2. Institute a moderate, well-balanced diet

Fad diets practically never succeed. The reality 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 sort. No carbohydrates, no fats, only 1,000 calories per day. It’s like if I proposed that you’d be more productive at the office if you didn’t check your email for a month. During that month, you would most likely get a lot more work accomplished.

But what would materialize at the close of the month? You’d invest most of your time reading through emails, catching up, and losing all the efficiency you just achieved.

The same phenomenon pertains to deprivation diets. In fact, studies show that individuals tend to gain more weight back than they lose after the completion of a temporary fad diet.

So what’s the solution?

Moderation. Remember our 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 most of your choices are healthy, you’re moving down the continuum in the proper direction.

3. Integrate exercise into your daily routine

If you intend 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 commit to writing one page daily, you’ll have 365 pages to work with at the end of the year.

Everyone knows they should be working out. The problem is the same as with fad diets: the adoption of an all-or-nothing mindset. You buy a gym membership and promise to devote 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 return.

All or nothing. You’re focusing on the days you miss going to the gym when you should be focused on the times you do go to the gym. Every gym trip pushes you closer on the continuum to good health.

You can additionally incorporate physical activity at work and elsewhere during the day. Take the stairs in the place of the elevator, park your car farther away from the store entrance, complete some pushups on your lunch break. All of these activities tip the balance to good health.

4. Minimize stress

There are essentially three ways to deal with stress:

  1. Eliminate the source of your stress, if possible
  2. Reframe the stress into something favorable
  3. Engage in relaxing activities more often

This will be unique for everyone, but here’s an example of a resolution incorporating all three strategies.

Eliminate – Some activities and responsibilities generate more stress relative to the benefits obtained. If you find, for instance, that you spend the majority of your time on social media, but the stress of updating your status yields little benefit, you may think about ditching your accounts.

Reframe – Have you ever noticed that the same experience can be stressful for one person, yet thrilling for another? For 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 conquer your fears.

Relax – What do you love 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 regular hearing tests

And finally, think about scheduling a hearing test this year. While this may sound 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 has been connected to several serious medical conditions, including depression, cognitive decline, and even dementia. Not to mention the continuous struggle to hear as a major source of stress.

Enhancing your hearing is a great way to reduce stress, reinforce relationships, and improve your all-around health and well-being.

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