How To Make Your New Year's Resolutions Actionable
New Year’s resolutions can be hard to achieve. According to statistics, almost 50% of people in the US make New Year’s resolutions but only 8% actually achieve them. Health consistently tops the list of the most popular resolutions. Take a look at some of these ideas and resources that could help you achieve your health-related resolutions this year -- without having to completely change your lifestyle.
1. Be healthier
“Get healthy” once again tops the list of most popular New Year’s resolutions according to search engine trends. There are many good reasons for eating healthy: improving or maintaining overall health, weight loss, getting in shape, and more energy.
- Vitamins and minerals play an important role in making sure our bodies are functioning properly. The good news is that most of us are actually get enough of these essentials from our diet according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Check whether you are getting the daily recommended amounts from your diet. If not, consider adding or changing some of the foods you consume, or start taking a supplement. The most common nutrients that we might not be getting enough of include fiber, vitamin C and D, calcium, and potassium, so be sure to check that you are getting an appropriate amount of these nutrients.
- Get a health checkup. If there are any problems, the earlier you find out, the greater your chances for successful prevention and treatment. What you should check for depends on your age and gender. Take a look at these links to see what you might be missing: men aged 18-39, men aged 40-64, men aged 65+, women aged 18-39, women aged 40-64, and women aged 65+.
- Are you consuming too much of the "bad" fats like saturated fat and trans fat? These types of fat can raise cholesterol levels, increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, and result in weight gain. Switch to healthier dietary fats like monounsaturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and omega-3 fatty acids. This could be as simple as eating more fatty fish and replacing some of the oils you use in cooking. Coconut oil has the highest percentage of saturated fat at 92%, while canola oil has the lowest percentage at 6%.
- Rethink your sweeteners. Cut down on sugary drinks and avoid or reduce the amount of sugar or cream you add to your coffee or tea. Some commercial coffee drinks can contain as much sugar as three cans of Coca Cola! If you like to sweeten your food and drinks, here are some better options: dried fruits with no sugar added, cinnamon, nut or coconut milk, coconut cream, unsweetened cocoa, and vanilla or almond extract.
- Don’t keep unhealthy food or snacks lying around. Check the nutrition labels and throw out anything you shouldn't have in your pantry or donate the items if they are non-perishable. Replace with healthier alternatives such as unsalted nuts, air popped popcorn, and tortilla chips. It might take some courage to get rid of your favorite snacks but its a highly effective tactic and it could be worth it in the long run.
2. Lose weight
Staying within a healthy weight range is important for overall health. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of numerous health conditions, including arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. As a starting point, check the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s tools for calculating your body mass index (BMI) and estimating your body fat. Even if you are in the healthy zone, its important to check your BMI once in a while to make sure you're where you want to be at.
- Plan your meals ahead of time, such as once a week. Meal planning has been shown to be one of the most effective strategies for sticking to your diet and eventually turning healthy eating into a habit. Download an app, use a spreadsheet, or use a diary or organizer to help you plan. There are also lots of websites that provide tools to help you with meal planning.
- If you're making changes to your diet, remember not to restrict yourself too much. According to the University of Minnesota Obesity Prevention Center, severely restrictive diets aren't effective - you might actually end up with the same amount of weight loss as you would on less restrictive diets. Its better off to maintain a healthy, balanced diet with the occasional treat - you're more likely to stay on it and you won't have to feel deprived.
- Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast. You’ll likely end up overeating later on. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, those who skip breakfast tend to weigh more than those who eat breakfast. Prep healthy breakfast foods to eat on the run, such as fruits and yogurt. Stock your pantry with healthy food so you won't have an excuse to skip breakfast.
- Slow down your eating. Eating slowly helps prevent acid reflux (heartburn) and overeating. Try putting down your utensil between bites or use smaller utensils and plates. A study done by the University of Florida actually found that using a fork instead of a spoon and eating from smaller, less fancy plates actually helps prevent overeating.
3. Sleep more
Sleep is critical for maintaining physical health and it plays an important role in the retention of information and skills. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends 10-12 hours a day for children, 9-10 hours a day for teens and 7-8 hours a day for adults.
- If you're not getting enough sleep, go to bed earlier. This is easier said than done because it will take time for your body to get accustomed to new sleeping habits. Start off by going to bed 15 minutes earlier than you normally would, then try going to bed 30 minutes earlier and so on. Setting an alarm clock or using an automatic light timer might serve as helpful reminders for you to head to bed.
- Studies have found that white noise or relaxing music has calming effects and might help prep your body for sleep. Experiment with what type of noise or music works best for you - not everything will work for you individually. Try downloading an app that plays white noise or relaxing music (you can even set it to turn off automatically after a certain period of time).
- Try a few simple stretches or yoga positions before you sleep. Studies conducted at Harvard Medical School have found that yoga can help improve sleep quality and sleep quantity for people suffering from insomnia.
- Not only can stress lead to serious health problems such as increased risk of clinical depression, heart disease, and mental disorders, stress could also be preventing you from getting quality sleep. Take a look at our article The Ultimate List: 30 Ways to Fight Off Stress Naturally for some ways to alleviate stress and anxiety.
- Keep the blue lights away. Studies have found that using electronics at night can impact the quantity and quality of sleep due to exposure to short wavelength blue light. Blue light suppresses the production of melatonin, a natural hormone that prepares the body for sleep. Start dimming the lights 2 hours before bedtime and keep your smartphone and other electronics with a light display away from your bed. If you absolutely need your phone beside you, turn on night mode to lower your exposure to blue light. If your phone doesn't come with night mode, there are many apps out there you can download.
4. Get more exercise
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 80% of adults aren't getting enough exercise. Exercise is an important for staying healthy, and helps reduce the risk of developing numerous health conditions. Doctors generally recommend 30 minutes of exercise every day although the right amount of physical activity depends on each person. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. If you can’t meet these recommended times, remember even a little exercise goes a long way to helping you stay healthy.
- Try using a pedometer. Numerous research studies have found that pedometers have a positive effect on health. A study of over 200 sedentary adults showed that pedometers helped decrease their body fat and lower their blood pressure. Another study found that adults with arthritis, a condition which affects joints and impairs mobility, saw improvements in leg strength. If you're just starting out with a pedometer, for the first couple of days simply track the number of steps normally walk each day. Then set a target goal, incrementally adding 500 or 1,000 steps and try to hit that target by walking more.
- Work out more efficiently so you maximize your gains in a shorter period of time. Try incorporating workouts such as high-intensity interval training and bodyweight exercises. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, HIIT training can help improve fitness, heart health, lower cholesterol, and decrease fat and body weight maintaining muscle mass. Follow a workout video or download an app that has prebuilt workouts that you can follow easily.
- Sign up for something like a race or a sports league. There are lots of races you can sign up for, anything from 1K charity races to marathons. Depending on where you live, there may be some friendly dodgeball, bowling or volleyball leagues you can join. Competition and having a deadline or a goal to work towards can help keep you motivated.
- Make exercising more enjoyable so that its easier to turn it into a habit. Play upbeat music, watch your favorite TV shows while working out, or reward yourself with a small treat. You can even take gym classes in the comfort of your own home. There are lots of companies such FitnessGlo that offer classes you can watch online, including live classes. You’ll also find tons of free workout videos and clips on YouTube. You don't need a lot of equipment or space to get a good workout.
5. Drink more water
Water is essential for survival and overall health. Considering that our bodies are 60% water, our brains are 70% water and our lungs are 90% water, it's not hard to see why. Scientists estimate that our body replaces around 2.5 liters of water a day, which is around 10-11 cups of water. The general guideline is to drink 8 glasses of water a day but doctors recommend that you should drink about half your body weight in fluid ounces each day. For a 150 pound person, that equates to 9-10 glasses of water a day.
- Drink a glass of water right after you wake up, before meals and snacks, and in between alcoholic beverages. Make it a habit and you won't need to keep track of how much water you've consumed. Drinking water before meals also helps with digestion and prevents you from overeating. And because drinking alcohol inhibits the production of vasopressin, a hormone that keeps us from over-urinating, water helps prevent your body from getting dehydrated and helps us avoid hangovers.
- Track how much water you’re drinking every day - you might not be getting as much as you think. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 43% adults drink less than 4 cups of water a day. Only 22% of adults drink 8 or more, which is the minimum recommended amount for most adults. Take a look at these water tracking apps that others have recommended.
- Eat your way to more water. Vegetables like tomatoes, lettuce and cabbage and fruits like watermelon and strawberries are more than 92% water. Take a look at this water content chart provided by the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Developmental Disabilities and Health for more info.
- Sugary drinks are detrimental to health and can even lead to death. According to Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D. at Tufts University in Boston, sugary drinks is a single dietary factor that have led to a a significant number of deaths around the world. According to the journal Circulation, sugar-sweetened beverages leads to an estimated 184,000 adult deaths annually worldwide. If you can’t resist sweet flavors, try diluting your sugary drinks with water and ice.
Do you have any tips or ideas? Share your thoughts and ideas with us in the comments below!
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