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New Year’s Resolutions

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

Even though almost everyone aims for improved health, it’s not a secret that the majority of health-related New Year’s resolutions are unsuccessful. We tend to establish resolutions that are too challenging or too complex—all in the name of achieving fast, extreme results.

But rather than trying for the quick fix, the new year is the chance to establish lifestyle changes that are simple and effortless to maintain—so that over time they become habits, slowly but surely getting you closer to optimum health.

Below are five straightforward resolutions you can put into action right away for a healthy 2016.

1. Establish a new health mindset

It’s a familiar story: you start the latest fad diet and you’re feeling pretty good. Then, a few weeks into the plan, and you have a birthday party to attend. You show up resolved to be accountable, but you can’t refrain from the cake and ice cream. Diet over.

Quiting in this fashion is a symptom of an all-or-nothing attitude to diet and health. In the place of quiting when you cheat on your diet, think of your present level of health as sitting somewhere along a continuum. Every choice you make moves you closer 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 imply you have to move in the same direction for the remainder of the day, week, or month. It’s OK to have that piece of cake once in a while, as long as the majority of your decisions move you in the right direction.

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

2. Institute a moderate, well-balanced diet

Fad diets virtually never work. The fact is that they are not sustainable, meaning that even if they do work in the short term, you’ll probably just gain back the weight.

Fad diets are focused on deprivation of some kind. No carbs, no fats, only 1,000 calories daily. It’s as if I proposed that you’d be more productive at work 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 end of the month? You’d invest the majority of your time reading through emails, making up ground, and losing all the efficiency you had gained.

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

So what’s the solution?

Moderation. Remember the health continuum? It’s okay to have a bag of chips or a cheeseburger every so often. Individual foods are not as important as your overall diet. So 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 intend to write a novel, and you make yourself to write the entire thing in one sitting, you’ll never make it to the end. But, 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 understands they should be exercising. The problem is equivalent to fad diets: the adoption of an all-or-nothing outlook. You invest in a gym membership and vow to commit to 7 days a week, two hours a day, for the remainder of your life. Two weeks in, you miss a few days, deactivate your membership, and never go back.

All or nothing. You’re focused 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 pushes you closer on the continuum to good health.

You can also integrate physical exercise at work and elsewhere during the day. Take the stairway instead of the elevator, park farther away from the store entrance, do some pushups on your meal break. All of these activities tip the balance to good health.

4. Reduce stress

There are in essence three ways to manage stress:

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

This will be unique for everybody, but here’s an example of a resolution incorporating all three strategies.

Eliminate – Some activities and responsibilities produce 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 yields little reward, you may think about ditching your accounts.

Reframe – Have you ever noticed that the same experience can be stressful for one person, yet exhilarating for another? As an example, some people despise public speaking while others love it. It is possible, but not easy, to reframe your feelings of anxiety into positive energy you can use to subdue 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 clear 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 exam this year. While this may seem insignificant, it’s not—one out of 5 people in the US suffers from some degree of hearing loss and most do nothing about it.

Hearing loss is connected to multiple significant medical conditions, including depression, cognitive decline, and even dementia. Not to mention the constant struggle to hear as a significant source of stress.

Strengthening your hearing is a great way to reduce stress, reinforce personal relationships, and enhance your general health and well-being.

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