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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 not a secret that most health-related New Year’s resolutions fail. We have the 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 quick fix, the new year is the chance to start lifestyle modifications that are simple and easy to sustain—so that after a while they become habits, gradually but surely getting you closer to optimal health.

Here are five simple resolutions you can put into practice right away for a healthy 2016.

1. Establish a new health mindset

It’s a familiar story: you begin the latest fad diet and you’re feeling really good. Then, a few weeks into the program, 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 fashion is a manifestation of an all-or-nothing approach to diet and health. In the place of giving up when you cheat on your diet, view your present level of health as resting at one point along a continuum. Every decision 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 indicate that you have to move in the same direction for the remainder of the day, week, or month. It’s okay to have that piece of cake every so often, providing the majority of your decisions move you in the right direction.

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

2. Institute a moderate, balanced diet

Fad diets practically never succeed. The truth is that they are unsustainable, which means 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 a day. It’s like if I proposed 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 done.

But what would take place at the end of the month? You’d invest most of your time reading through emails, catching up, and losing all the efficiency you had gained.

The same phenomenon pertains to deprivation diets. In fact, studies show that individuals often gain more weight back than they shed after the conclusion of a temporary fad diet.

So what’s the solution?

Moderation. Remember our health continuum? It’s okay to have a bag of chips or a cheeseburger once in awhile. Individual foods are not important—your overall diet is what’s important. So long as most of your choices are healthy, you’re moving along the continuum in the proper direction.

3. Integrate exercise into your daily routine

If you intend to write a novel, and you pressure yourself to write the entire thing all at once, you’ll never make it to the end. But, 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 issue is equivalent to fad diets: the adoption of an all-or-nothing mentality. 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 skip a few days, cancel your membership, and never return.

All or nothing. You’re focusing on the days you skip going to the gym when you should be focused on the times you do go to the gym. Every gym trip moves you closer on the continuum to good health.

You can also incorporate physical exercise at work and elsewhere throughout the day. Choose the stairs 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. 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 favorable
  3. Engage in relaxing activities more often

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

Eliminate – certain activities and obligations produce more stress relative to the benefits received. If you notice, for example, that you spend the majority of your time on social media, but the stress of updating your status provides 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 example, some people hate public speaking while others love it. It is possible, but not easy, to reframe your thoughts 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? Hiking? Meditating? Whatever it is, find ways to clear your schedule to do more of it and the stress will fade away.

5. Schedule routine hearing tests

And finally, consider scheduling a hearing exam this year. While this may sound 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 serious medical conditions, such as depression, cognitive decline, and even dementia. Not to mention the constant struggle to hear as a major source of stress.

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