10 Healthy New Year’s Resolutions & How to Keep Them
New Year’s resolutions – Yes, it’s THAT time of year again. 10 days left in 2015 (gasp!), which means 10 days left to decide on that pesky resolution. New Year’s resolutions are fun to make but often extremely difficult to keep. Did you know that the majority of individuals (75%) actually stick to their resolutions for at least a week, but less than half (46%) on still on target 6 months later? (2015, Health.com)
“Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do, long after the mood you said it in has left you.”
Be committed. While it may be hard to keep up your excitement and dedication to your resolution months afterward, it is definitely not impossible! This year, consider picking just one of the following worthy resolutions and stick with it.
Try the S.M.A.R.T. system to help you set and achieve your resolution goal and to stay on track:
Specific – goals should be simplistically written and clearly define what you are going to do.
Measurable – goals should be measurable so that you have tangible evidence that you have accomplished the goal. Feel free to break your goal down into several short-term or smaller measurements built into the end-goal.
Achieveable – goals should be achievable; they should stretch you slightly so you feel challenged, but defined well enough so that you can achieve them. You must possess or be willing to learn the appropriate knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to achieve the goal.
Results-focused – goals should measure outcomes, not just activities.
Time-bound – goals should be linked to a specific timeframe that create a practical sense of urgency, or results in tension between the current reality and the vision of the goal. Without this, the goal is unlikely to produce a relevant outcome.
Another suggestion to help you stay on track is to participate with a loved one – motivate each other and hold each other accountable. You’d be surprised at how well this works. Now all you have to do is choose a goal! Cheers to your best health and your best self!
10 Healthy New Year’s Resolutions:
1) Improve your body composition
- It’s not just about losing weight that matters. It’s about being at a healthy body composition. This means: Having healthy amounts of lean muscle tissue mass, in addition to a healthy body fat percentage. Sometimes this can mean an individual may technically be heavier on the weigh scale, but might actually be leaner and at a healthier body composition overall. Likewise, it is possible for an individual to have a low weigh scale weight, but actually have a higher percentage of body fat. It’s truly not the pounds on the scale that matter the most!
- Having a body fat percentage between 11-14% for males and 16-23% for females is considered “good” & having a body fat percentage between 15-20% for males and 24-30% for females is considered acceptable (Asker, J., et al., Sport Nutrition, 2nd Ed.). Being leaner (within reason!) likely means you have a more athletic body type and being higher than these numbers may indicate your body is at an elevated body fat percent and could be at risk for potential health consequences.
- Ways to increase your lean body mass & decrease your fat body mass:
- Exercise. A little goes a long way. Lift weights, perform weight-bearing exercise (great for your bone density!) & do cardio that you enjoy – but in moderation. Simply put, sit less, get moving & your body will thank you 🙂
- Avoid empty calories. This means steering clear of calories that do not actually provide any nutritional benefit for your body. (E.g. Soft drinks, alcohol, fried foods, processed foods, artificial food additives, sugary treats, desserts)
- Consume protein with every meal. Some examples of lean protein sources include: Protein shakes, egg whites, lean chicken / turkey breast meat, hummus, low fat yogourt, low fat cheese.
- Consume healthy fats. Yes, you read that right! Having healthy fats (in the right amounts of course!) actually helps your body to burn fat. Some examples of healthy fats include: Avocado, nuts, extra virgin coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, walnut oil, whole eggs, fatty fish, omega-3 fish oils.
2) Stay in touch
- Reconnect with friends and family members! Catching up with loved ones doesn’t just feel good, but is actually good for your health!
- Research suggests that individuals with good support systems and strong social bonds live longer than those who don’t. A lack of close social connections can actually damage your health as much as alcohol abuse and smoking, and even more than being overweight and not exercising (2010, Journal PLoS Medicine).
- In a society where we have smart phones and social media at our fingertips, we have no excuse not to reconnect! Send a message to your best friend, distant relative, or long-lost friend today & schedule an in-person visit to catch up!
3) Quit smoking
- Are you a smoker and have tried multiple times to quit unsuccessfully? Keep this in mind: Multiple attempts are often the path to success & persistence and hard work pays off.
- Consult a professional and try different methods to find out what works best for YOU. Not everyone is the same and what worked for your friend might not necessarily be the best option for you!
- Some benefits of quitting smoking:
- Reduced risk of various cancers
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
- Decreased inflammation in your body (I bet you didn’t realize that quitting smoking = improved muscle and joint health and thus, less aches and pains!)
- Improved collagen health (less wrinkles, healthier skin, nails, hair)
- Reduced strain on your liver
- Increased energy and improved sleep
- Some suggestions for smoking cessation:
- Nicotine withdrawal products (consult your medical doctor for advice on whether this may be appropriate for you).
4) Save money
- Make healthy lifestyle changes and save money at the same time!
- Cut commuting costs (for you and the environment!):
- Walk or ride your bike to work
- Try carpooling
- Take public transit instead of driving
- Cut food costs:
- Take inventory of what you have in your fridge and make a grocery list; going to the grocery store without a list can lead to poor choices & unnecessary items for both your diet and your wallet! Keeping a close eye on the contents of your fridge also allows you to know what food items are coming up close to expiry – eat up what you have, food that has gone bad is simply put, money down the drain.
- Plan your meals ahead and eat out on special occasions only. Grabbing fast food here and there might seem harmless at the time, but calories and dollars add up quickly! Pack a lunch and plan dinners ahead so you aren’t scrambling during a busy work week to fill your hungry belly.
- Cut back on expensive entertainment costs:
- Save on your gym membership by exercising at home, going for a walk / run / bike ride outside, or trying a free class at a local fitness studio. Most fitness facilities will also offer deals for first-time clients – don’t be afraid to ask!
- Trade in that fancy party out for a potluck or games night in. This is also a great opportunity to reconnect on a more casual level, which most people tend to love!
5) Cut your stress
- Simply put, chronic stress is bad for your health. Stress increases the levels of a hormone called cortisol in your body, which, if experienced over a long period of time, can increase your risk of depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, sexual dysfunction, obesity, heart disease, premature aging and much more.
- A little bit of stress here and there isn’t harmful and can actually give us an energy boost occasionally, but in the long term, chronic stress can take a very unhealthy toll on our bodies. Contributors to stress may include: Long work hours, lack of sleep, poor diet, lack of exercise, conflict, not spending time with loved ones, not taking part in activities we love, or just being “too busy.”
- Suggestions to help reduce stress:
- Have a healthy work-life balance. Don’t spend your life in the office and pass up the things in life that really matter. Take care of all your responsibilities, take care of all your work tasks and go home to your loved ones!
- Relax and do something you love every day. Make yourself a priority; you must look after yourself before you can look after others.
- Sleep. Make sure you get 7 – 9 hours of sleep per night.
- Socialize. Spend time with family members and friends. No time? A simple phone call counts too.
- Take a vacation. Sometimes all we need is a change of scenery to help us re-charge. Whether a road trip just for the day, a mini weekend getaway, or an airplane trip to somewhere exotic, get out there and enjoy the world!
- Giving back to those in need isn’t just beneficial for those on the receiving end, but it is good for your health as well. The “feel good” feeling you get when you help others is a positive emotion that is directly related to health benefits.
- Individuals who are happy and who experience positive emotions are about 20% less likely than their gloomier counterparts to develop heart disease or have a heart attack. Research also suggests that positive emotions can make people more resilient, have improved immunity and be more resourceful as well (2015, Health.com). So get out there and volunteer – the happy feeling you get is good for your health & the happy feeling experienced by the recipient is good for their health – everybody wins!
7) Go back to school
- No matter what age you are, or where you are in your life path or career, heading back to school can help introduce you to new people, boost your brainpower and even revamp your existing and/or new career!
- Not only does going back to the classroom give you a sense of accomplishment by gaining new knowledge, but lifelong learning and challenging your brain has many health benefits as well! A 2007 study found that middle-age adults who had gone back to school had stronger memories and verbal skills that those who did not. Many studies have also linked higher educational attainment to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease (2015, Health.com). So get out there and learn – create new possibilities and health benefits for yourself; there are too many reasons not to!
8) Cut back on alcohol
- While consuming alcohol in moderation (ONE glass of red wine per day) has been shown to have some health benefit, drinking alcohol in excess has adverse health effects. Binge drinking and drinking to the point of being “drunk” seems to be on the rise as a social trend – especially for young individuals and those looking to relax after a long day. This trend needs to stop.
- In the short term, drinking alcohol in excess affects the brain’s neurotransmitters and can actually increase the risk of anxiety, depression, paranoia, memory loss, and even cause seizures.
- Chronic heavy drinking can have long term lasting effects such as liver disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, mental deterioration, diabetes, cancer (liver, mouth, throat, breast), personality and mood disorders.
- So enjoy a glass of wine or beer here or there, but keep these health concerns in mind and enjoy responsibility and in moderation!
9) Get more sleep
- Sleep is crucial to your health. We all know that a good night’s sleep can do wonders for your mood and your appearance, but did you know that a lack of sleep can actually have a detrimental effect on your health? Chronic lack of sleep increases our body’s cortisol levels, which is linked to an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, anxiety, depression, mood disorders and memory problems.
- Aim for 7 – 9 hours of sleep per night as an adult and listen to your body – if you are tired, take a nap – and don’t feel guilty about it, you probably need it!
- Travelling is rejuvenating and replenishing. Travelling gets you out of your usual everyday environment and the effects are revitalizing. In today’s busy society (and especially workplace), it is often too easy to get stuck in a rut, or to be stuck on our routines where everything is too familiar, boring and un-stimulating. To point out the obvious, this in itself, is unhealthy.
- Travelling allows us to explore, tap into life as an adventure and to make changes in our lives without having to do anything too bold or dramatic. It is a form of mental and physical stimulation that is ever different, exciting and novel. Travel is another form of new discovery and learning, which is great for both the body, mind and soul. It is a great way to reset ourselves and to come back to our lives rejuvenated, reenergized and feeling alive. Travel is a simple way to refuel our productivity tanks and our happy tanks – why not give it a try?
Wishing you all the very best for 2016 – live your best life in your best body. #mybestlife
Author: Dr. Katie Au
Toronto Chiropractor | Acupuncture Practitioner | Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist