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New Year’s Resolutions

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

Although nearly everyone aspires to improved health, it’s not a secret that most health-related New Year’s resolutions are unsuccessful. We have a tendency to set resolutions that are too challenging or too complicated—all in the name of getting fast, drastic results.

But rather than trying for the quick fix, the new year is the chance to start lifestyle changes that are simple and easy to maintain—so that after some time they become habits, slowly but surely bringing you closer to optimal health.

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

1. Develop a new health outlook

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

Giving up in this manner is a sign of an all-or-nothing mindset to diet and health. Instead of quiting when you cheat on your diet, think of your present level of health as sitting at one point along a continuum. Every decision you make moves 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 indicate that 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 on occasion, provided that the greater part 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 matters is your response, and how you’ll plan on 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 likely just regain the pounds.

Fad diets are focused on deprivation of some sort. No sugar, no fats, only 1,000 calories each day. It’s as if I proposed that you’d be more productive at work if you didn’t check your email for a month. In the course of that month, you would probably get a lot more work done.

But what would materialize at the close of the month? You’d consume most of your time reading through emails, making up ground, and losing all the productivity you had gained.

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 OK to have a candy bar or a cheeseburger on occasion. 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 right direction.

3. Combine exercise into your daily routine

If you intend to write a novel, and you pressure yourself to write the whole thing all at once, you’ll never make it to the end. But, if you commit 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 issue is the same as with fad diets: the adoption of an all-or-nothing outlook. You purchase a gym membership and pledge to devote to 7 days a week, three hours a day, for the remainder 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 focused on the times you do go to the gym. Each gym trip pushes you closer on the continuum toward good health.

You can likewise combine 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 lunch break. Each one of these activities tip the balance to good health.

4. Decrease stress

There are fundamentally 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 often

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

Eliminate – Some activities and commitments produce more stress relative to the benefits acquired. If you find, for instance, that you spend the majority of your time on social media, but the stress of updating your status offers 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 stimulating for another? For instance, some people loathe 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 conquer your fears.

Relax – What do you enjoy doing the most? What is most relaxing to you? Listening to music? Reading? Hiking? Meditating? Whatever it is, find ways to open 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 trivial, 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 is connected to several significant medical conditions, such as depression, cognitive decline, and even dementia. Not to mention the consistent struggle to hear as a major source of stress.

Improving your hearing is a great way to minimize stress, strengthen personal relationships, and enhance your all-around health and well-being.

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