New Year’s Resolutions

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

Although nearly everyone aims for improved health, it’s no secret that the majority of health-related New Year’s resolutions fail. We have the tendency to create resolutions that are too challenging or too complicated—all in the name of acquiring rapid, drastic results.

But instead of trying for the rapid fix, the new year is an opportunity to institute lifestyle modifications that are simple and effortless to sustain—so that after some time they come to be habits, slowly but surely bringing you closer to optimal health.

Here are five straightforward resolutions you can employ right now for a healthy 2016.

1. Institute a new health mindset

It’s a familiar story: you get started on the most recent fad diet and you’re feeling pretty good. Then, a few weeks into the program, and you have a birthday party to attend. You get there determined to be responsible, 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 approach to diet and health. Rather than quiting when you cheat on your diet, imagine your current level of health as sitting somewhere 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 imply you have to move in the same direction for the rest of the day, week, or month. It’s fine to have that piece of cake every so often, provided that the majority of your decisions move you towards better health.

Establishing 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 going forward.

2. Institute a moderate, well-balanced diet

Fad diets almost never work. The fact 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 kind. No sugar, 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 most likely get a lot more work accomplished.

But what would happen at the end of the month? You’d devote most of your time reading through emails, catching up, and losing all the efficiency you had achieved.

The same phenomenon pertains 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 perfectly okay to have a candy bar or a cheeseburger every now and then. 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 in one sitting, 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 understands they should be working out. The problem is equivalent to fad diets: the adoption of an all-or-nothing outlook. You purchase a gym membership and promise to commit to 7 days a week, two 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 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 toward good health.

You can also combine physical activity at work and elsewhere during the day. Choose the stairs instead of the elevator, park your car farther away from the store entrance, do some pushups on your lunch break. All of these activities tip the balance to good health.

4. Lower stress

There are primarily three ways to cope with stress:

  1. Eliminate the source of your stress, if possible
  2. Reframe the stress into something beneficial
  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 methods.

Eliminate – Some activities and commitments produce more stress relative to the benefits achieved. If you notice, for example, that you spend most of your time on social media, but the stress of updating your status yields little reward, you may think about 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 thoughts of anxiety into positive energy you can use to master your fears.

Relax – What do you love doing the most? What is most relaxing to you? Listening to music? Reading? Camping? Meditating? Whichever 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, consider committing to a hearing exam this year. While this may seem insignificant, it’s not—one out of 5 people in the US suffers from some level 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 persistent struggle to hear as a significant source of stress.

Strengthening your hearing is an excellent way to minimize stress, strengthen personal relationships, and enhance your overall health and well-being.

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