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New Year’s Resolutions

Envision your life in 2016 with half the stress and double the energy. Who wouldn’t want to have that?

Even though virtually everyone aspires to improved health, it’s not a secret that most health-related New Year’s resolutions are unsuccessful. We have the tendency to establish resolutions that are too difficult or too complex—all in the name of achieving quick, extreme results.

But rather than trying for the rapid fix, the new year is a chance to start lifestyle adjustments that are simple and effortless to maintain—so that after some time they come to be habits, gradually but surely bringing you closer to optimum health.

Here are five simple resolutions you can implement right away for a healthy 2016.

1. Develop a new health mindset

It’s a common story: you get started on the most recent fad diet and you’re feeling pretty good. Then, a few weeks into the program, and you have a birthday party to attend. You get there resolved to be responsible, but you can’t resist the cake and ice cream. Diet over.

Giving up in this manner is a manifestation of an all-or-nothing mindset to diet and health. Instead of giving up when you cheat on your diet, imagine your current level of health as sitting somewhere 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 move in the same direction for the rest of the day, week, or month. It’s OK to have that piece of cake from time to time, so long as the bulk of your decisions move you in the right direction.

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

2. Institute a moderate, well-balanced diet

Fad diets almost never succeed. The reality is that they are unsustainable, which means that even if they do work in the short-term, you’ll likely just regain the weight.

Fad diets are all about deprivation of some kind. No carbs, no fats, only 1,000 calories per day. It’s as if I proposed that you’d be more productive on the job if you didn’t check your email for a month. During that month, you would probably get a lot more work done.

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

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

So what’s the remedy?

Moderation. Remember the health continuum? It’s perfectly okay to have a bag of chips or a cheeseburger every now and then. 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 right direction.

3. Integrate exercise into your daily routine

If you intend to write a novel, and you pressure yourself to write the whole thing all at once, you’ll never make it to the end. But, if you commit to writing one page per day, you’ll have 365 pages to work with at the end of the year.

Everyone realizes they should be working out. The problem is equivalent to fad diets: the adoption of an all-or-nothing mentality. You invest in a gym membership and promise to devote to 7 days a week, two hours a day, for the rest of your life. Two weeks in, you skip a few days, cancel your membership, and never go back.

All or nothing. You’re focused on the days you skip 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 additionally incorporate physical activity at work and elsewhere throughout the day. Choose the stairway instead of the elevator, park farther away from the store entrance, complete some pushups on your meal break. All of these activities tip the balance to good health.

4. Reduce stress

There are basically three ways to manage stress:

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

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

Eliminate – certain activities and commitments produce more stress relative to the benefits gained. If you notice, for example, that you consume most of your time on social media, but the stress of updating your status offers little benefit, you may consider ditching your accounts.

Reframe – Have you ever noticed that the same experience can be stressful for one person, yet thrilling for another? For instance, some people hate public speaking while others cherish it. It is possible, but not easy, to reframe your feelings of anxiety into positive energy you can use to overcome 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 melt away.

5. Schedule routine hearing tests

And finally, consider committing to a hearing test this year. While this may sound trivial, 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 multiple significant medical conditions, such as depression, cognitive decline, and even dementia. Not to mention the consistent struggle to hear as a major source of stress.

Strengthening your hearing is an excellent way to reduce stress, reinforce personal relationships, and improve your overall health and well-being.