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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?

While nearly everyone aspires to improved health, it’s not a secret that most health-related New Year’s resolutions are unsuccessful. We tend to set resolutions that are too difficult or too complicated—all in the name of gaining fast, extreme results.

But in place of striving for the quick fix, the new year is an opportunity to establish lifestyle adjustments that are simple and easy to sustain—so that after some time they come to be habits, gradually but surely getting you closer to optimum health.

The following are five straightforward resolutions you can implement right now for a healthy 2016.

1. Institute a new health outlook

It’s a familiar story: you start the latest fad diet and you’re feeling pretty great. Then, a couple of weeks into the program, and you have a birthday party to attend. You get there resolved to be responsible, but you can’t refrain from the cake and ice cream. Diet over.

Quiting in this manner is a symptom of an all-or-nothing attitude to diet and health. Instead of surrendering when you cheat on your diet, think of your current level of health as resting someplace along a continuum. Every choice you make moves you nearer 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 mean you need to advance in the same direction for the remainder of the day, week, or month. It’s okay to have that piece of cake every once in a while, as long as the bulk of your decisions move you towards better health.

Establishing healthy habits demands a short memory. You will slip-up every so often. What counts 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 almost never work. The reality is that they are not sustainable, which means that even if they do work in the short-term, you’ll most likely just regain the pounds.

Fad diets are focused on deprivation of some sort. No carbs, no fats, only 1,000 calories daily. It’s like if I proposed that you’d be more productive at work if you didn’t check your email for a month. Throughout that month, you would most likely 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, catching up, and losing all the efficiency you had achieved.

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

So what’s the remedy?

Moderation. Remember the health continuum? It’s perfectly okay to have a candy bar or a cheeseburger once in awhile. Individual foods are not as important as your overall diet. As long as the majority of your choices are healthy, you’re moving along the continuum in the right direction.

3. Combine exercise into your daily routine

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

Everyone realizes they should be exercising. The issue is the same as with fad diets: the adoption of an all-or-nothing mindset. You buy a gym membership and vow 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, deactivate your membership, and never return.

All or nothing. You’re focused on the days you miss going to the gym when you should be focusing on the days you do go to the gym. Each gym trip pushes you closer on the continuum to good health.

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

4. Limit stress

There are basically three ways to cope with stress:

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

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

Eliminate – certain activities and responsibilities create more stress relative to the benefits achieved. If you notice, for instance, that you spend most of your time on social media, but the stress of updating your status supplies little reward, you might think about ditching your accounts.

Reframe – Have you ever noticed that the same experience can be stressful for one person, yet appealing for another? For example, some people dread 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 defeat 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 booking a hearing exam this year. While this may sound insignificant, it’s not—one out of 5 people in the US suffers from some level of hearing loss and most do nothing about it.

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

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