This year is your year for success by taking small steps and having realistic expectations. By tackling just one or two healthy New Year’s resolutions, you can better keep your eyes on the prize. You’ll also earn the bragging rights of being part of the mere 8% of individuals who report achieving their New Year’s goals.1,2
Explore these four healthy New Year’s resolutions, and discover tips from the experts on how to see them through. Of course, it’s advised to check in with your primary care physician before embarking on any major changes to your lifestyle.
Reducing Stress To Support Healthy Habits
The number one resolution of 2019 was to eat healthier — followed closely by another one of the most common New Year’s resolutions: to lose weight.3 Poor eating habits can not only negatively affect your heart health and contribute to weight gain, but affect your body’s inability to function properly.4
However, instead of exclusively focusing on a strict diet or food choice alone — this year, you can try to approach both eating healthier and weight loss from a new angle — reducing stress.5
According to the latest Gallup poll, Americans are among the most stressed-out people in the world.6 And the most current research shows that your body not only stores more fat when you are stressed compared to when you are relaxed, but that you are more likely to seek out foods high in calories and fat when stressed. Additionally, research is now more than ever pointing to stress as an influencing factor over food choices.7
Three Tips For Reducing Stress, Eating Healthier, And Losing Weight
Along with classic healthy habits like counting calories or swapping out your favorite less-nutritional foods for healthier fare, consider these three tips from Harvard Medical School focused on reducing stress to help avoid overeating and poor diet choices.
- Adopt a meditation practice — With meditation linked to stress reduction, it may have the effect of helping regulate your cortisol levels (cortisol can increase your appetite, making you more prone to overeating). Meditation may also help you be more mindful in your food selection.
- Seek out social support — Research suggests that individuals who work in stressful environments experience better mental health if they have solid social support. Even spending time with friends and family may help reduce your stress levels and make healthier diet habits easier to stick to.
- Focus on physical activity — Exercise can help dull some of the negative effects of stress, including reducing cortisol levels. The benefits of increasing your exercise is detailed more below.8
Supporting Your Overall Health: Exercise More
If there was only one word that could be used to describe many Americans, it could be “sedentary” — with the CDC reporting that nearly 80% of Americans don’t get the recommended amount of physical activity they need.9 An inactive lifestyle not only means you potentially burn fewer calories, but you may be at higher risk of poor blood circulation and immune system response.10
So, how much exercise do you need for optimal health? The Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee recommends adults do 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity (or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity) aerobic activity every week. Additionally, they recommend two or more days a week of muscle-strengthening activities.11
Three Tips To Make Physical Activity Part Of A Healthy Lifestyle
Make this year the year you reach the recommended amount of exercise by following these tips for successful long-term healthy habits.
- Put it on the calendar — Plan exercise into each day by looking ahead at your week and finding the times that are most convenient to stick to. Additionally, choose activities that are easily accessible to avoid unnecessary hurdles.
- Be kind to yourself with reasonable expectations — If you are just getting back into exercise, set yourself up for success by starting out slow and building up your endurance. And if you fall off the exercise wagon, that’s okay. Pick up that calendar, pencil in the next week, and start up again.
- Track your progress — Recording your successes (e.g., increasing your number of steps, lifting heavier weights) can motivate you to keep going. No physical achievement is too small to put down on paper.12
Supporting Your Overall Health: Get Quality Sleep
Over one-third of working Americans aren’t getting enough sleep. The ramifications of inadequate sleep can include an increase in heart-health issues, anxiety, unstable moods, and alcohol abuse — just to name a few.13
So, how much sleep should you resolve to get each night to aid in your “new year, new you” healthy lifestyle? The Sleep Research Society and American Academy of Sleep Medicine both recommend that the average adult needs seven or more hours a night to stave off health risks from chronic sleep deprivation. Interestingly, they don’t advise on an upper limit.14
Three Tips To Improve Your Sleep Habits
Just get more sleep for better health. This is often easier said than done. However, fear not — the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers these three tips to improve your sleep habits.
- Prioritize sleep as you do family and work — set a reasonable bedtime and block off your time dedicated to sleeping.
- Wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day — this includes the weekends — so you don’t throw off your body clock’s sleep-wake rhythm.
- Avoid a lot of stimulation an hour before bed — such as artificial light from computer and TV screens and strenuous exercise.15
Supporting Your Overall Health: Quit Smoking
Even though the number has steadily decreased over the past decade, it’s estimated that over 34 million Americans still smoke cigarettes.16 The risks associated with smoking are ubiquitous — smoking harms almost every organ in your body and is the leading cause of preventable death.17
However, there’s hope for those who want this resolution to stick this year for good — consider this fact: According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are now more former smokers than current smokers.18
Three Tips To Becoming A Former Smoker
If you have tried quitting smoking in the past on your own without success, this year, commit to accepting help. Take these three tips from the CDC on building a support system by enlisting a “quit coach” to not only help motivate you but hold you accountable.
- Know what to expect — Quit coaches can explain to you the process of smoking cessation, including reviewing the signs of withdrawal.
Knowing what the road ahead looks like, and that help is only a phone call away, may help you avoid some of the trickier hurdles.
- Have a plan — Quit coaches are highly trained individuals who know how to listen and ask the right questions. They will help you construct a plan based on your past experiences and current lifestyle.
- Get access to supportive aids — Quit coaches can recommend apps, websites, and even medications to talk to your doctor about in order to help you quit once and for all.19
It’s Your Year To Create Some Healthier Habits — And Stick To Them
Making healthy New Year’s resolutions is a positive way to kick-off 2020. Focusing on just a couple can not only help you see them through but increase your quality of life and sense of well-being. Happy New Year, and the best of luck to you on embarking on some truly rewarding healthy habits.