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New Year’s Resolutions

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

Even though nearly everyone aims for better health, it’s no secret that most health-related New Year’s resolutions are unsuccessful. We have the tendency to establish resolutions that are too challenging or too complicated—all in the name of acquiring fast, extreme results.

But rather than trying for the quick fix, the new year is a chance to start lifestyle adjustments that are simple and easy to maintain—so that with time they come to be habits, gradually but surely getting you closer to optimum health.

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

1. Establish a new health mindset

It’s a common story: you start the most recent fad diet and you’re feeling pretty good. Then, a couple of weeks into the plan, and you have a birthday party to go to. You arrive resolved to be responsible, but you can’t resist the cake and ice cream. Diet over.

Quiting in this manner is a manifestation of an all-or-nothing attitude to diet and health. In the place of surrendering when you cheat on your diet, view your present 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 imply you need to advance in the same direction for the rest of the day, week, or month. It’s OK to have that piece of cake from time to time, so long as the bulk of your decisions move you towards better health.

Implementing healthy habits demands a short memory. You will slip-up every now and then. What counts is your reaction, and how you’ll work toward making more healthy than unhealthy decisions going forward.

2. Establish a moderate, well-balanced diet

Fad diets practically never succeed. The reality is that they are unsustainable, meaning that even if they do work in the short-term, you’ll probably just gain back the weight.

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

But what would take place at the close of the month? You’d expend most of your time reading through emails, catching up, and losing all the productivity you just achieved.

The same phenomenon applies to deprivation diets. In fact, studies show that people often 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 perfectly okay to have a bag of chips or a cheeseburger once in awhile. Individual foods are not as important as your overall diet. So long as most of your decisions are healthy, you’re moving along the continuum in the proper direction.

3. Combine exercise into your daily routine

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

Everyone knows they should be working out. The problem is the same as with fad diets: the adoption of an all-or-nothing mentality. You invest in a gym membership and pledge to commit to 7 days a week, two hours a day, for the remainder of your life. Two weeks in, you skip a few days, cancel your membership, and never go back.

All or nothing. You’re focused on the days you skip 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 to good health.

You can likewise combine physical exercise at work and elsewhere throughout the day. Take the stairway in the place of the elevator, park your car farther away from the store entrance, do some pushups on your meal break. All of these activities tip the balance to good health.

4. Limit 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 different for everybody, but here’s an example of a resolution making use of all three methods.

Eliminate – certain activities and obligations generate more stress relative to the benefits obtained. If you find, for instance, that you consume the majority of your day on social media, but the stress of updating your status produces 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 exciting for another? For example, some people hate 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 enjoy doing the most? What is most relaxing to you? Listening to music? Reading? Hiking? Meditating? Whichever it is, find ways to open your schedule to do more of it and the stress will disappear.

5. Schedule routine hearing tests

And finally, think about booking a hearing test this year. While this may sound insignificant, it’s not—one out of 5 people in the US suffers from some amount of hearing loss and most do nothing about it.

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

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