4 Health Resolutions to Make (and Keep) in the New Year and Beyond
The odds of keeping your New Year’s resolutions aren’t great. You can resolve to change or achieve just about anything for two weeks or a month. But what happens when the novelty of making a lifestyle change wears off? That’s where the rubber hits the road, and most people decide to take the next exit. If you want to be the exception to the rule, read on to learn more about resolutions that you can make permanent habits.
1. Eat More Plants
Eating healthier is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions, and it’s one of the most difficult to stick with. Unlike some behaviors you resolve to change, eating is something you can’t just eliminate from your life.
Even eating the daily recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables can be challenging. Starting small is the key to achieving long-term change, and this principle also applies to eating better. The old saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is good advice. Start by adding just one additional serving (e.g., a medium-sized orange) to your daily intake to progress toward the goal.
You can also add more plant power to your diet by incorporating a plant-based protein every day. A veggie burger here or banana smoothie there will do the trick. This approach allows you to increase your servings over time and make healthy changes without the stress and failures of short-term diets.
2. Stand More
Sitting has been described as the new smoking. Experts recommend standing for at least two hours a day. That goal may seem like too much because of your occupation or health conditions. When you think about it incrementally, though, it’s actually very doable.
Resolving to increase your standing comes down to a matter of minutes. You can meet or even surpass the recommendations by standing for 10 minutes each hour you are awake. Those 10 minutes per hour don’t sound like much, but they’ll decrease your risk of stroke and heart disease.
If your job requires a lot of time in front of a computer, you may want to consider a standing desk. These were originally used therapeutically for people with existing back problems. The ergonomic benefits are so good that they are now a staple in home and workplace offices.
Another way to increase standing is to set a reminder on your smartwatch or phone. Many devices with health apps have built-in standing reminders to show your daily progress. You may be surprised how quickly the regularly scheduled reminders turn into subconscious behaviors.
3. Incorporate More Movement
Committing to moving more does not have to mean working out for two hours a day. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity weekly. If you’re at a more advanced fitness level, the recommendation is 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity. Engaging in a combination of both intensity levels is another way to reach the goal. Remember that it is always important to check with your doctor before changing your level of physical activity.
Taking a brisk walk daily for 25 minutes is one of the simplest means of reaching the recommended level of activity. Walking gets your heart rate up and raises the serotonin levels in your brain. With this kind of movement, you’ll reap the physical benefits of increased activity and elevate your mood.
Stretching daily is another approach to moving more, and individuals of any fitness level can do it. The benefits include increased range of motion, muscle strength, flexibility, and reduced inflammation. If you’re not sure what stretches are right for you, an online search can get you started.
4. Schedule Your Sleep
It’s no secret that getting enough sleep is good for you. Experts recommend that adults get seven or more hours of sleep every 24 hours. Sleep’s far-reaching impacts include lowered risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and injury. Proper sleep strengthens your immune system, promotes healthy weight, and increases your ability to focus.
Uninterrupted periods of sleep are also vital to memory and emotional processing capacity. These periods occur during the rapid eye movement stage, which doesn’t begin until 60-90 minutes into a sleep pattern. That means perennially late bedtimes are bad for your brain. Whether your evenings are activity-packed or you linger too long in front of the TV, scheduling your sleep keeps you on track.
Start by working backward from the time you want to be asleep. First, plan to cease all distracting activities — including watching TV or scrolling social media — at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Next, set a firm time to begin your nightly routine, which might include washing your face, brushing your teeth, and doing meditation. Finally, turn off the lights and hop into bed. Give yourself time to adjust to your new schedule, as the change won’t happen in one night.
Baby Steps on the Road to Grown-Up Habits
The concept behind a New Year’s resolution is to improve something in your life. The intention is good, but sometimes the approach is unrealistic. Vowing to work out seven days a week and give up chocolate forever just sets you up for failure.
Instead, making small changes you can keep up will give you the biggest results over time. Your mind and body will thank you for sticking with it. You’ll know you’ve done something right when a temporary resolution becomes a healthy behavior you don’t even have to think about.