New Year’s Resolutions

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

While practically everyone aspires to better health, it’s not a secret that the majority of health-related New Year’s resolutions fail. We have a tendency to establish resolutions that are too challenging or too complicated—all in the name of attaining quick, drastic results.

But instead of trying for the rapid fix, the new year is the chance to start lifestyle modifications that are simple and easy to sustain—so that over time they become habits, gradually but surely bringing you nearer to optimal health.

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

1. Institute a new health mindset

It’s a common story: you get started on the most recent fad diet and you’re feeling pretty good. Then, a couple of weeks into the plan, 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.

Quiting in this manner is a sign of an all-or-nothing mindset to diet and health. Instead of giving up when you cheat on your diet, imagine your present level of health as sitting at one point along a continuum. Every choice you make pushes 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 need to move in the same direction for the rest of the day, week, or month. It’s OK to have that piece of cake once in a while, so long as the bulk of your decisions move you towards better health.

Establishing healthy habits calls for a short memory. You will slip-up every so often. What counts is your reaction, and how you’ll work toward making more healthy than unhealthy decisions moving forward.

2. Institute a moderate, well-balanced diet

Fad diets almost never work. The truth is that they are not sustainable, meaning that even if they do work in the short-term, you’ll likely just regain the pounds.

Fad diets are all about deprivation of some type. No sugar, no fats, only 1,000 calories each day. It’s as if I recommended that you’d be more productive on the job if you didn’t check your email for a month. In the course of that month, you would probably get a lot more work done.

But what would materialize at the end of the month? You’d dedicate 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 individuals tend to gain more weight back than they lose after the conclusion of a short-term fad diet.

So what’s the solution?

Moderation. Remember our health continuum? It’s okay to have a bag of chips or a cheeseburger on occasion. Individual foods are not important—your overall diet is what’s important. As long as most of your choices are healthy, you’re moving along the continuum in the proper direction.

3. Incorporate exercise into your daily routine

If you desire to write a novel, and you make yourself to write the whole thing all at once, you’ll never make it to the end. However, if you commit to writing one page per day, you’ll have 365 pages to work with at the end of the year.

Everyone knows they should be exercising. The problem is equivalent to fad diets: the adoption of an all-or-nothing mentality. You buy a gym membership and pledge 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, cancel your membership, and never go back.

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

You can likewise include physical activity at work and elsewhere during the day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park your car farther away from the store entrance, complete some pushups on your lunch break. Each one of these activities tip the balance to good health.

4. Minimize stress

There are primarily three ways to deal with stress:

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

This will be different for everybody, but here’s an example of a resolution making use of all three strategies.

Eliminate – Some activities and commitments generate more stress relative to the benefits achieved. If you find, for instance, that you consume most of your time on social media, but the stress of updating your status yields little benefit, you may consider ditching your accounts.

Reframe – Have you ever noticed that the same experience can be stressful for one person, yet stimulating for another? For example, some people hate 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 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 open 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 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 linked to multiple significant medical conditions, including depression, cognitive decline, and even dementia. Not to mention the continual struggle to hear as a significant source of stress.

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

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