Many people look forward to the new year for a new start on old habits. If you are one of those people who repeatedly make your New Year’s resolutions “New Year, New me,” you probably know they aren’t easy to keep. The reason resolutions often don’t work is because a lifestyle change is typically not adaptable in a major leap but through a series of transitional steps.
However, research suggests that any effort you make is meaningful, even if you find yourself taking one step forward and two steps back every now and then. Even if you don’t want to make a formal pledge to yourself, the first day of a new year is always a great opportunity take an extra look at your lifestyle and living and to consider what beneficial health changes you can reasonably carry out over the near future.
- AVOID TOBACCO
If you’re a smoker, quitting should be your first priority this year. Ask for help from family, friends and your doctor. Even if you don’t smoke, commit to helping a loved one who does — and to avoid secondhand smoke.
- EAT RIGHT
Yes this means lots of fruits and vegetables. Lean towards olive and canola oils over other fats. Eat plenty of fish. Adding whole-grain products to your diet instead of refined grains and simple sugars make a huge difference. Your biggest challenge, avoid trans fats in stick margarine, fried foods, and junk foods!
- GET MOVING
Your goal should be at least 30 minutes devoted to exercise each day, whether it is all at once or broken up throughout out the day. The easiest way to accommodate this change is to include physical activity into your daily schedule- walk where you can and take the stairs whenever and wherever possible.
- CONTROL YOUR WEIGHT
A great at home tool to calculate your body mass index (BMI) is by measuring your waist or use your height and weight. If you feel like you need to lose a few pounds and it has been a struggle, there is only one real solution to keep in mind- eat fewer calories and burn up more in exercise.
- IMPROVE YOUR SLEEP
We all struggle in the department to some extent. Insufficient sleep can affect your energy, performance and mood. For most of us, 7 to 8 hours of good, deep sleep is what we need. Take steps to control noise, dim bright light, and stay comfortable. The most difficult, yet simplest solution, turn off all electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime. If you do wake up, don’t stress yourself out, practice relaxation breathing and you’ll fall back asleep in no time.
- CONTROL ALCOHOL
If you choose to drink, limit yourself to an average of one to two drinks a day (or one a day for women). What is one drink? Rule of thumb, count 5 ounces of wine, 1½ ounces of liquor, or 12 ounces of beer as one drink. And NEVER drink before you drive.
- PROTECT YOURSELF FROM INFECTION
Be sure your immunizations are up to date. Keep your distance from individuals with the flu. If you’re ill, protect others by avoiding crowds, wearing a mask and coughing into something other than the open air or your hand. Remember to wash your hands often, and use an alcohol-based sanitizer.
- PREVENT ACCIDENTS AND INJURIES
Many accidents and injuries result from careless behavior. Wear your seatbelt and drive defensively. Don’t drink and drive. Be sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors work. Check the tread on your tire before hitting the road this winter.
- AVOID ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS
Avoid air pollution, pesticides and toxins, contaminated food, and radiation. Remember that excessive sunlight is toxic to your skin as well!
- KNOW YOUR NUMBERS
Be sure that you are knowledgeable of your cholesterol level, blood pressure, blood sugar, and weight. Keep a record of your major illnesses and tests, your medications, and your allergies. Listen to your body and let your doctor know if you don’t feel well, don’t wait until it is too late.
Does it seem like a lot? It is. So, pick the ones you need most and don’t give up if you slip from time to time. If you make 2016 your health year, it will indeed be a Happy New Year.