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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 practically everyone aims for improved health, it’s not a secret that the majority of 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 attaining fast, extreme results.

But rather than striving for the rapid fix, the new year is a chance to establish lifestyle changes that are simple and effortless to sustain—so that over time they become habits, slowly but surely bringing you nearer to optimal health.

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

1. Develop a new health outlook

It’s a recognizable story: you get started on the latest 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 symptom of an all-or-nothing approach to diet and health. In the place of surrendering when you cheat on your diet, view your current level of health as resting someplace along a continuum. Every choice you make pushes 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 have to move in the same direction for the rest of the day, week, or month. It’s OK to have that piece of cake on occasion, so long as the majority of your decisions move you in the right direction.

Creating healthy habits requires a short memory. You will slip-up every now and then. What matters is your response, and how you’ll work toward making more healthy than unhealthy decisions moving forward.

2. Institute a moderate, balanced diet

Fad diets virtually never succeed. The fact is that they are unsustainable, which means that even if they do work in the short term, you’ll very likely just gain back 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 recommended that you’d be more productive at the office if you didn’t check your email for a month. During that month, you would probably get a lot more work accomplished.

But what would take place at the close of the month? You’d devote most of your time reading through emails, making up ground, and losing all the efficiency you just 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 remedy?

Moderation. Remember our health continuum? It’s OK 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 decisions are healthy, you’re moving along the continuum in the proper direction.

3. Combine exercise into your daily routine

If you intend to write a novel, and you force yourself to write the entire thing in one sitting, you’ll never make it to the end. But, if you dedicate yourself 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 equivalent to fad diets: the adoption of an all-or-nothing mentality. You purchase a gym membership and vow to commit to 7 days a week, two hours a day, for the rest 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 skip going to the gym when you should be focusing on the days you do go to the gym. Every gym trip moves you closer on the continuum toward good health.

You can likewise incorporate physical activity at work and elsewhere during the day. Choose the stairs instead of the elevator, park farther away from the store entrance, do some pushups on your meal break. All of these activities tip the balance to good health.

4. Lessen 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 frequently

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

Eliminate – certain activities and responsibilities generate more stress relative to the benefits received. If you notice, for example, that you consume most of your day on social media, but the stress of updating your status offers 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 stimulating for another? As an 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 master your fears.

Relax – What do you love doing the most? What is most relaxing to you? Listening to music? Reading? Hiking? Meditating? Whichever 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, think about committing to a hearing test 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 has been linked to multiple serious medical conditions, including depression, cognitive decline, and even dementia. Not to mention the continual struggle to hear as a major source of stress.

Strengthening your hearing is an excellent way to minimize stress, strengthen relationships, and improve your general health and well-being.