New Year’s Resolutions

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

Even though practically everyone aspires to better health, it’s not a secret that the majority of health-related New Year’s resolutions are unsuccessful. We are inclined to establish resolutions that are too challenging or too complex—all in the name of attaining rapid, drastic results.

But rather than striving for the rapid fix, the new year is the opportunity to start lifestyle changes that are simple and effortless to maintain—so that with time they come to be habits, gradually but surely getting you closer to optimal health.

Here are five straightforward resolutions you can put into practice right now for a healthy 2016.

1. Institute a new health mindset

It’s a common story: you begin the latest fad diet and you’re feeling really great. Then, a couple of weeks into the plan, and you have a birthday party to attend. You arrive resolved to be accountable, but you can’t refrain from the cake and ice cream. Diet over.

Quiting in this fashion is a sign of an all-or-nothing mindset 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 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 remainder of the day, week, or month. It’s OK to have that piece of cake occasionally, provided that the bulk 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 response, and how you’ll work toward making more healthy than unhealthy decisions moving forward.

2. Establish a moderate, well-balanced diet

Fad diets almost never work. The fact is that they are not sustainable, which means that even if they do work in the short-term, you’ll very likely just gain back the pounds.

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

But what would take place at the close of the month? You’d spend the majority of your time reading through emails, making up ground, and losing all the productivity you just gained.

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

So what’s the solution?

Moderation. Remember our health continuum? It’s OK to have a bag of chips or a cheeseburger every so often. Individual foods are not important—your overall diet is what’s important. As long as the majority of your decisions are healthy, you’re moving along the continuum in the right direction.

3. Include exercise into your daily routine

If you desire to write a novel, and you pressure yourself to write the entire thing all at once, you’ll never make it to the end. But, if you commit 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 working out. The issue is equivalent to fad diets: the adoption of an all-or-nothing mentality. You purchase a gym membership and vow to commit to 7 days a week, three 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 days you do go to the gym. Each gym trip moves you closer on the continuum to good health.

You can additionally integrate physical activity at work and elsewhere during the day. Choose the stairway instead of the elevator, park your car farther away from the store entrance, do some pushups on your meal break. Each one of these activities tip the balance to good health.

4. Minimize 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 strategies.

Eliminate – certain activities and obligations generate more stress relative to the benefits received. If you discover, for instance, that you consume most of your time on social media, but the stress of updating your status provides little benefit, you may 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 instance, some people loathe 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 overcome your fears.

Relax – What do you enjoy doing the most? What is most relaxing to you? Listening to music? Reading? Camping? Meditating? Whatever it is, find ways to clear your schedule to do more of it and the stress will melt away.

5. Schedule routine 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 has been linked to several significant medical conditions, such as depression, cognitive decline, and even dementia. Not to mention the consistent struggle to hear as a significant source of stress.

Enhancing your hearing is an excellent way to reduce stress, strengthen personal relationships, and improve your all-around health and well-being.

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