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 aspires to better health, it’s no secret that most health-related New Year’s resolutions fail. We have a tendency to create resolutions that are too challenging or too complex—all in the name of achieving fast, extreme results.

But in place of striving for the rapid fix, the new year is a chance to start lifestyle changes that are simple and effortless to maintain—so that after some time they become habits, slowly but surely bringing you closer to optimum health.

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

1. Institute a new health outlook

It’s a common story: you start the most recent 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 arrive resolved to be accountable, but you can’t resist the cake and ice cream. Diet over.

Quiting in this fashion is a sign of an all-or-nothing approach to diet and health. In the place of giving up when you cheat on your diet, view your current level of health as sitting somewhere along a continuum. Every choice you make pushes you nearer to one end (good health) or the other end (poor health).

The cake and ice cream moved 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 okay to have that piece of cake on occasion, so long as the bulk of your decisions move you towards better health.

Implementing healthy habits calls for a short memory. You will slip-up every so often. What counts is your response, and how you’ll plan on making more healthy than unhealthy decisions going forward.

2. Institute a moderate, balanced diet

Fad diets almost never succeed. The reality is that they are unsustainable, meaning that even if they do work in the short term, you’ll most likely just regain the weight.

Fad diets are all about deprivation of some sort. No carbs, no fats, only 1,000 calories daily. It’s as if I recommended that you’d be more productive at work if you didn’t check your email for a month. Throughout that month, you would most likely get a lot more work done.

But what would materialize at the end of the month? You’d spend most of your time reading through emails, catching up, and losing all the efficiency you just achieved.

The same phenomenon pertains to deprivation diets. In fact, studies show that individuals tend to gain more weight back than they shed after the completion of a short-term fad diet.

So what’s the remedy?

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

3. Combine exercise into your daily routine

If you desire to write a novel, and you pressure yourself to write the whole 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 recognizes they should be exercising. The issue is the same as with fad diets: the adoption of an all-or-nothing attitude. You purchase a gym membership and pledge 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 return.

All or nothing. You’re focused on the days you miss going to the gym when you should be focused on the days 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 during the day. Take the stairs in the place 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 essentially three ways to manage stress:

  1. Eliminate the source of your stress, if possible
  2. Reframe the stress into something positive
  3. Participate in relaxing activities more often

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

Eliminate – certain activities and obligations 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 yields 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 instance, some people dread public speaking while others cherish it. It is possible, but not easy, to reframe your feelings of anxiety into positive energy you can use to defeat your fears.

Relax – What do you love 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 routine hearing tests

And finally, consider booking a hearing exam this year. While this may seem trivial, 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, such as depression, cognitive decline, and even dementia. Not to mention the continuous struggle to hear as a significant source of stress.

Improving your hearing is an excellent way to minimize stress, strengthen relationships, and improve your general health and well-being.