New Year’s resolutions are easy to come up with but can be hard to keep throughout the year. After the first few weeks, New Year’s resolutions drift down the priority list for most people.
When resolutions are unrealistic or unpractical, they are hard to keep up with. Here are some top health goals worth sticking to all year around and ways to make them practical throughout the whole year.
1. Get Enough Sleep
A lack of a good night’s sleep may do a lot more damage than feeling tired the next day. According to a 2012 study from the Annals of Internal Medicine, sleep may affect metabolic rate and insulin sensitivity. Healthy research participants had significantly lowered insulin sensitivity after 4 consecutive nights of getting 4.5 hours of sleep.
Chronic or acute lack of sleep may directly increase risk for obesity and diabetes by decreasing insulin sensitivity. If you’re trying to lose weight but not getting enough sleep at night, this could be sabotaging your weight loss efforts.
How much sleep is enough? Of course everyone may be slightly different, but in general 8-9 hours is considered an adequate amount of sleep per night. Quality of sleep is also important. If sleep is not sound, metabolic rate and insulin sensitivity can still be affected.
To help you get adequate rest at night, make a goal to take an hour technology break before bed. Avoid using your phone, computer or tv from your bed. This break from technology can help relax your mind before bedtime which may help you fall asleep faster.
Go to bed at an early hour, and make sure your bedroom’s environment is set up for optimal sleep. Keeping your bedroom dark, quiet and at a comfortable temperature can help you fall and stay asleep.
According to a 2008 article from Psychology Today, about 17% of Americans currently have an anxiety disorder, and 28% of Americans will have an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. Anxiety may increase risk for hypertension, gastrointestinal disorders, metabolic dysfunction or arthritis.
Anxiety levels are higher than in the past, as children have more anxiety compared to decades ago. Stress seems to also increase every decade as you age. How can you combat this growing trend to anxiety?
One goal for the New Year to help lower anxiety is to make time for relaxing activities. Make time in your schedule for things that you enjoy and are relaxing to you like: exercising, knitting, volunteering, yoga, reading or socializing. These activities may seem like they are easily expendable, but make it a goal to keep them on your schedule.
Instead of focusing on your worries, focus on things you’re thankful for. Keep a journal of things you are thankful for year around instead of just focusing on them at Thanksgiving. Focusing on the positive can also help with increasing quality of sleep too.
3. Move more
Most people know that exercise is beneficial for health and reducing risk for diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. A common New Year’s goal is to hit a gym hard, lose weight and get healthier. However, this goal may also be susceptible to falling off throughout the year.
Another goal focus to think on for 2014, in addition to or instead of getting a gym membership, is to move more throughout the day. Instead of just focusing on the hour spent exercising per day, what you do in the rest of your non-exercise time may be just as or more important for health risk.
With the rise of technology and sedentary jobs, overall movement during the day for most Americans is drastically low. Too much sitting is now a prevalent problem that in the mid-20th century was almost unheard of.
Make a goal to get in some movement every 30 or 60 minutes per day. It can be as simple as taking a short walk around your office, going up and down a flight of stairs, etc. Just taking a break from constantly sitting for hours on end appears to have some health benefit.
4. Eat whole foods
Make a goal to limit processed foods, and eat foods made from scratch as much as possible. It may be easier to start with trying to cook all your meals at least 3 days a week. When that becomes easy, bump it up to four or five.
Instead of focusing on a calorie number, focus on the quality of your calories. Eat whole, natural fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and dairy instead of frozen, canned or buying pre-made foods full of artificial ingredients.
This takes some planning and time, but in the end it may help decrease risk for a number of chronic diseases.
5. Eat Local whenever possible.
Eating local food may possibly mean a higher nutritional content for food. Locally grown produce tends to stay longer on the vine which could mean increased nutrient and antioxidant content. Eating locally may be harder in certain areas depending on the growing season, so do what is feasible for your local growing season.
Research community supported agriculture (CSA) in your area; this can be a fun, economical way to try a variety of local produce. Another goal for 2014 is to buy a meat share from a local farmer that uses grass feeding.
Five general goals for health in 2014 are to get enough sleep, de-stress, move more, eat whole foods and eat local whenever possible. Set specific, tangible goals that fall under these umbrella categories to hold yourself accountable.
Examples include: unplug from electronics for 1 hour before bed, cook all your meals from scratch at least 3 days a week, take movement breaks every hour and make time for relaxing activities to help you stay de-stressed.