New Year’s Resolutions

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

Even though virtually everyone aims for improved health, it’s not a secret that most health-related New Year’s resolutions fail. We tend to establish resolutions that are too challenging or too complex—all in the name of getting rapid, drastic results.

But rather than trying for the quick fix, the new year is the opportunity to establish lifestyle modifications that are simple and easy to maintain—so that with time they become habits, slowly but surely getting you nearer to optimum health.

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

1. Institute a new health outlook

It’s a familiar story: you get started on the latest fad diet and you’re feeling pretty great. Then, a couple of weeks into the plan, and you have a birthday party to go to. You show up determined to be accountable, but you can’t resist the cake and ice cream. Diet over.

Giving up in this manner is a manifestation of an all-or-nothing mindset to diet and health. In the place of giving up when you cheat on your diet, imagine your current level of health as sitting at one point along a continuum. Every decision you make moves you nearer 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 advance in the same direction for the rest of the day, week, or month. It’s OK to have that piece of cake occasionally, so long as the majority of your decisions move you in the right direction.

Creating healthy habits requires 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 moving forward.

2. Institute a moderate, well-balanced diet

Fad diets almost never succeed. The fact is that they are unsustainable, meaning that even if they do work in the short-term, you’ll most likely just gain back the pounds.

Fad diets are focused on deprivation of some kind. No carbohydrates, no fats, only 1,000 calories daily. It’s as if I proposed 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 done.

But what would materialize at the end of the month? You’d devote the majority of your time reading through emails, making up ground, and losing all the productivity you had gained.

The same phenomenon applies to deprivation diets. In fact, studies show that people tend to gain more weight back than they lose after the conclusion of a temporary fad diet.

So what’s the remedy?

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

3. Include exercise into your daily routine

If you desire to write a novel, and you make yourself to write the entire thing all at once, you’ll never make it to the end. But, if you dedicate yourself to writing one page daily, you’ll have 365 pages to work with at the end of the year.

Everyone is aware they should be exercising. The issue is equivalent to fad diets: the adoption of an all-or-nothing mindset. You invest in a gym membership and pledge to devote to 7 days a week, two hours a day, for the rest of your life. Two weeks in, you miss 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 times you do go to the gym. Every gym trip moves you closer on the continuum to good health.

You can also integrate physical activity at work and elsewhere throughout the day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park 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. Reduce stress

There are basically three ways to manage stress:

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

This will be different for everyone, but here’s an example of a resolution incorporating all three methods.

Eliminate – certain activities and commitments produce more stress relative to the benefits obtained. If you find, for instance, that you consume most of your time on social media, but the stress of updating your status offers little benefit, you might think about ditching your accounts.

Reframe – Have you ever noticed that the same experience can be stressful for one person, yet thrilling for another? For example, some people hate public speaking while others cherish it. It is possible, but not easy, to reframe your thoughts of anxiety into positive energy you can use to subdue your fears.

Relax – What do you enjoy 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 melt away.

5. Schedule regular hearing tests

And finally, consider committing to a hearing test this year. While this may sound 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 is connected to multiple serious medical conditions, including depression, cognitive decline, and even dementia. Not to mention the consistent struggle to hear as a major source of stress.

Strengthening your hearing is a great way to minimize stress, reinforce relationships, and improve your general health and well-being.