Are you one of the countless thousands determined to get your health in shape this year? If you are, that’s great, but for most people, their resolve usually dies off after a few weeks. It’s estimated that roughly 40 per cent of adults will make a New Year’s resolution, but only 9 per cent will get anywhere near achieving it.
Why do Health Resolutions Fail?
- Discontinuity effect. According to research by professor of social psychology at the University of Bath, Bas Verplanken, “habits can be changed when you change the factors around the habit,” such as location or context. They call this the “discontinuity effect.” New Year’s Eve is not an actual change in circumstances, which means it isn’t motivation enough to change any habits.
- Distraction created by past rewards. Research by Johns Hopkins University neuroscientists shows our brains get a surge of dopamine just by seeing things associated with past rewards. In other words, your brain is wired to pay more attention to things that have given you pleasure in the past hoping to get that same pleasure again. That’s why you might find it hard to stop thinking about pizza while trying to eat steamed veggies.
- Vague or unrealistic resolutions. Let’s face it – the easier your resolutions are, the more likely you’ll be to keep them for a whole year. For example, if you hate running, don’t make it a resolution to go out for a run every day just because you think it’s healthy.
Our Health Resolutions Are Easy To Keep
Luckily, making easy-to-keep health resolutions is easier than you think. If you need some inspiration, look at these 10 easy, healthy resolutions to kick start the New Year on the right foot.
- Drink More Water
Drinking enough water keeps your digestive system and skin healthy.
However, how much water should you drink? It depends on the climate you live on, your sex, physical activity, and other health-related conditions. According to the Mayo Clinic, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine suggests 3.7 liters of fluid per day for men and 2.7 liters per day for women. However, remember that 20% of your fluid intake comes from foods.
If you find it hard to remember to drink more water, set an alarm on your phone to remind you to take a sip of water every other hour. Alternatively, you can use one of the many water tracking apps on the market.
While the healthiest option is to drink plain water, you can increase your intake of fluids by drinking tea or infused water.
- Improve Your Eating Habits
This is an easy enough resolution, as long as you define what eating better means to you. To do this, keep a food journal for a couple of weeks and pay attention to any patterns in your eating habits. For example, you might notice you eat healthy foods during the day but indulge at dinner time, or that you prefer takeout to homemade meals on weekends.
A good, healthy diet is varied and balanced and the best way to achieve this is to cook more meals at home. Start with easy meals, like breakfast. Instead of picking up
Cooking your own meals gives you more control of what you eat and helps you enjoy food more.
- Workout For 10 Minutes A Day
The best way to keep this resolution is by finding a workout you enjoy. Physical activity is not just going to the gym, after all. Many people think that in order for workouts to be effective you have to exercise for an hour or more a day. Make it easy and start small, commit to 10 minutes a day, even if it’s just a walk around the block and build up from there.
You can take up dancing, spinning, running, yoga, rock climbing, pole dancing, or even walking your dog around the block. If you enjoy the workout, you’ll be more likely to commit to it all year.
Remember to start slow, especially if you’re starting from scratch. Building your strength and endurance progressively will help you prevent injuries and will make the experience more enjoyable. Working out too much, exhausting yourself, or choosing advanced workouts will only make you feel frustrated, which, in turn, will make it more likely for you to quit.
Aim to make the workout experience fun. Sign up for a new class, buy workout clothes you like, or ask a friend to join you.
- Learn Something New
Health is not just about eating enough vegetables and working out. As human beings, we feel the need to be creative and to improve ourselves.
Learning a new skill keeps your brain sharp and healthy. Moreover, nowadays learning new things is easier than ever. Websites like Coursera, Khan Academy, and Udemy have a wealth of free and low-cost courses by professors from renowned universities and top professionals in their fields.
Language learning is also easier with technology. Duolingo offers free language courses, and YouTube also has free language learning resources.
Use the New Year as motivation to give your brain some well-deserved workout by learning a new skill.
- Reconnect With Friends And Family
Your emotional health should be just as important as your physical health. So, in 2018, make your friendships and personal relationships a priority.
Sometimes, the stress of daily life makes us forget about the importance of personal relationships in our lives. As social creatures, it’s very important for human beings to have a strong social network that offers support and comfort during difficult times.
A 2010 study confirms these results. Despite the possible negative effects of some relationships, the benefits greatly outweigh the risks. Literature review in the same study has found consistent positive results of strong social relationships. For example, adults with coronary artery disease were at 2.4 times greater risk of cardiac death if they were socially isolated. Low quality of social relationships is also linked to other cardiac conditions, cancer, and even slower wound healing.
- Cut Down On Calories
Losing weight is a common New Year’s Resolution, but in order to do it, you need to do several things – eat healthy food, work out, get more sleep, reduce your stress levels, and more.
But losing weight is just the result of using up more calories than what you consume. Therefore, you might want to be a bit more specific about your resolution and focus on
Again, a food diary or a meal tracking app will help you determine if you do need to reduce your calorie intake. If that’s the case,
Fortunately, there are simple things you can do to lower your calorie intake without going hungry or limiting yourself too much.
- Forget about sugary drinks. A sweet, refreshing drink might taste great with your lunch, but it’s adding up calories with very little nutritional value. For example, a 500-ml bottle of Coke has almost 200 calories. Go for water (plain or infused) instead.
- Switch ingredients. Like some milk in your coffee? Go for low-fat milk or even non-dairy milk, or chose healthier side dishes, like salad instead of fries, to get more nutrition for fewer calories.
- Use smaller plates. A 2013 study (Portion size me: plate-size induced consumption norms and win-win solutions for reducing food intake and waste, Wansink B, et al) supports the importance of the visual aspect of food, and that the size of the plates “provides a visual anchor of an appropriate fill-level, which in turn, serves as a consumption norm.” Consequently, using smaller plates may help you feel full with smaller portions and reduce food waste, as well.
- Eat Less Sugar
You probably know that sugar is bad for you. It affects your teeth and puts you at risk of obesity and all the health issues it brings, such as type II diabetes and heart disease.
However, when doctors talk about cutting down on sugar, they mostly refer to added sugar, not those sugars occurring naturally in foods like fruits (fructose) and dairy (lactose). Added sugars are those you put on your foods or drinks to improve their taste, like white and brown sugar, honey, and high fructose corn syrup.
But how much sugar should you be eating to stay healthy?
In a 2009 statement, the American Heart Association recommends the following daily limits of added sugar intake:
- For men: 150 calories from sugar (9 teaspoons, or 36 grams)
- For women: 100 calories from sugar (6 teaspoons, or 25 grams)
Now that you know how much added sugar you should be consuming, let’s look at some ideas to keep those numbers within your healthy ranges.
- Find hidden sugars. Many processed foods have sugar, even though they may not look like it. For example, most commercial tomato sauces have added sugars to stabilize the rather acidic tomato flavor. Make sure to read the labels and look for added sugars.
- Choose healthier snacks. Muffins are delicious, but you can satisfy a sweet tooth with naturally occurring sugars from fruits. Their high fiber content helps to make you feel full faster.
- Eat mindfully
In the age of multitasking, side hustles and rush hours, it’s difficult to sit down to just eat. Not checking your email, watching a TV show, or driving. However, making the effort of sitting down and focusing exclusively on your food helps you enjoy it more and eat less.
A 2010 pilot study suggests that using mindfulness when you eat helps you lose weight by helping you control binge and emotional eating.
When you eat distractedly, it takes you longer to notice when you’re starting to feel full. You also eat faster and you’re more likely to eat less healthy foods like snacks or fast food.
You can curb unhealthy eating habits by paying more attention to your meals, like so:
- Eat slowly and without distractions. Eat your food away from screens, preferably sitting down in a quiet place.
- Notice any feeling of fullness when you eat. Stop eating when you start feeling full. You don’t have to eat everything on your plate.
- Learn to tell the difference between hunger and thirst. Sometimes, you may feel like snacking when you’re actually thirsty. If you’re feeling up for a snack after lunch, drink a full glass of water, first. Wait about 20 minutes and ask yourself if you’re still hungry.
- Engage all your senses. Notice the appearance of food, its textures, smells, and tastes.
- Cut Down On Social Media
Researchers are only starting to understand social media’s effects with prolonged use and the results so far are not optimistic – for some users, problematic use of social media works just like drug addiction in the brain, which negatively impacts school and work performance and real-life personal relationships.
But for many people, cutting the cord from social media is just not possible. From keeping in touch with friends and family to business networking, social media is a tool many people can’t go without in their personal and professional lives.
So, what to do?
- Put a cap on the time you spend on social media. Use browser extensions like StayFocusd and apps to put a limit on how much time you go through your Facebook wall.
- Get rid of some accounts. If you have way too many accounts, keep just one or two.
- Give yourself a social media free day. Choose one day of the week to go without social media.
Start the New Year with more time spent outside, cultivate your personal relationships face to face, and do more activities that increase your well-being.
- Make Regular Appointments With Your Doctor
For some people, going to the doctor is a hassle. It opens the possibility of something going wrong with your body, which many people prefer not to think about. In addition, healthy individuals are finding fewer reasons to visit their doctor.
However, according to a 2015 article by Harvard Health Publishing, there are still reasons to schedule that annual check-up with your doctor, no matter how healthy you are.
Needless to say, an annual check-up may help your doctor discover any health concerns before they become problems. Early detections of cancer or chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes may greatly increase your chances of recovering or better managing the disease.
However, checking in with your primary care doctor may also help him or her become more familiar with your needs and offers you more personalized care.
Good luck with your health resolutions for the new year!