New Year’s Resolutions

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

Even though nearly everyone aims for better health, it’s no secret that most health-related New Year’s resolutions are unsuccessful. We are inclined to create resolutions that are too difficult or too complex—all in the name of attaining quick, drastic results.

But in place of striving for the rapid fix, the new year is the opportunity to start lifestyle adjustments that are simple and effortless to sustain—so that with time they become habits, gradually but surely getting you closer to optimal health.

The following are five simple resolutions you can employ right away for a healthy 2016.

1. Establish a new health mindset

It’s a recognizable story: you start the most recent fad diet and you’re feeling really good. Then, a few weeks into the plan, and you have a birthday party to go to. You arrive determined to be accountable, but you can’t refrain from the cake and ice cream. Diet over.

Giving up in this fashion is a manifestation of an all-or-nothing attitude to diet and health. Rather than quiting when you cheat on your diet, view your present level of health as resting someplace 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 pushed you to the wrong end of the continuum, but that doesn’t mean you have to advance in the same direction for the rest of the day, week, or month. It’s fine to have that piece of cake every once in a while, so long as the bulk of your decisions move you towards better health.

Building healthy habits requires a short memory. You will slip-up every now and then. What matters is your response, 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 succeed. The truth is that they are not sustainable, which means that even if they do work in the short term, you’ll likely just regain the pounds.

Fad diets are focused on deprivation of some kind. No carbohydrates, no fats, only 1,000 calories daily. It’s like if I recommended that you’d be more productive at the office if you didn’t check your email for a month. Throughout that month, you would probably get a lot more work accomplished.

But what would materialize at the close of the month? You’d consume the majority of your time reading through emails, catching up, and losing all the efficiency you had 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 completion of a short-term fad diet.

So what’s the solution?

Moderation. Remember our health continuum? It’s perfectly okay to have a candy bar or a cheeseburger from time to time. Individual foods are not important—your overall diet is what’s important. As long as the majority of your choices are healthy, you’re moving along the continuum in the right direction.

3. Incorporate 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 dedicate yourself to writing one page per day, you’ll have 365 pages to work with at the end of the year.

Everyone is aware that they should be exercising. The issue is equivalent to fad diets: the adoption of an all-or-nothing outlook. You invest in a gym membership and promise to commit to 7 days a week, three hours a day, for the remainder of your life. Two weeks in, you miss a few days, deactivate your membership, and never go back.

All or nothing. You’re focused on the days you skip going to the gym when you should be focused on the times you do go to the gym. Each gym trip moves you closer on the continuum toward good health.

You can likewise integrate physical exercise at work and elsewhere throughout 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. Each one of these activities tip the balance to good health.

4. Lower stress

There are basically three ways to cope with stress:

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

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

Eliminate – certain activities and responsibilities produce more stress relative to the benefits gained. If you discover, for example, that you spend most of your time on social media, but the stress of updating your status offers little benefit, you may consider ditching your accounts.

Reframe – Have you ever noticed that the same experience can be stressful for one person, yet exhilarating 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 subdue your fears.

Relax – What do you love doing the most? What is most relaxing to you? Listening to music? Reading? Hiking? Meditating? Whichever it is, find ways to clear your schedule to do more of it and the stress will fade away.

5. Schedule routine hearing tests

And finally, think about committing to a hearing exam this year. While this may sound 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 is connected to several significant medical conditions, such as depression, cognitive decline, and even dementia. Not to mention the continuous struggle to hear as a major source of stress.

Enhancing your hearing is an excellent way to minimize stress, reinforce personal relationships, and improve your general health and well-being.