The fact is that many people set a list of lofty and hard to attain goals every year, then wonder why they aren’t successful. Maybe this is the year to take a different approach, and focus on goals that will really have the most impact on your health – if you actually work towards them. For inspiration, look to what health care experts are most likely to recommend:
Move just a little bit more. Instead of setting a goal to work out for an hour every day, try increasing your activity by just 10 minutes a day. At the end of the month, try adding another 5 or 10 minutes. If you can get to the point where you’re getting in 30 minutes of movement (walking, biking, dancing, etc.) most days of the week you’ll be well on your way to making some significant health improvements.
Reduce your sugar intake. Eating a healthier and more balanced diet is a goal just about everybody has, but you’re a lot more likely to be successful if you focus on doing just one or two things at a time. Sugar adds nothing but empty calories to our diets, and can contribute to a host of health issues, from tooth decay to obesity. What’s more, many people find it extremely difficult to control their sugar consumption once they give into their cravings. Start reading labels, and avoid anything that lists sugar as a primary ingredient for 30 days. That means no more candy, cake or cookies. Your body could probably use a break after the holidays, and after 30 days you’ll be surprised at how much your cravings have diminished. Once that habit is established, try substituting fresh fruit for other sweet treats for the rest of the year, and you’ll likely see great results in the way you look and feel!
Schedule your screenings. Whether it’s an annual mammogram, a colonoscopy you’ve been putting off, or just a yearly checkup with your primary care doctor, getting regular screenings is one of the most important things you can do for your health this year. Don’t skip routine screenings and blood tests because you feel fine or assume you’re healthy. Detecting – and treating – issues at their earliest stages, before symptoms appear, ensures that you have the greatest chance of success.
Prioritize your mental and emotional health. We’ve come a long way over the past few years in reducing the stigma surrounding mental health, but we need to do better. Doctors today want to know more about your emotional health, and it’s important to be honest with them. Resolve to talk to your doctor about any anxiety, stress, or depression issues you think may be affecting you. They can help you find the right treatment, from meditation and other relaxation techniques to talk therapy or even medication. Unresolved mental health issues can impact everything from your weight to heart health, so it’s critical that you give your emotional health more attention and self-care during the coming year.
Quit embracing fads. From the latest diet of the week to extreme and dangerous fitness routines and “natural” supplements, “miracle” breakthroughs are generally anything but miraculous. If it sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is. So before trying out the latest craze that promises to cure your ills and increase your energy, do a little more research. Is it backed by sound scientific and clinical studies? If so, talk to your doctor about it. If not – well it’s time to dismiss it and keep your focus on those habits and practices that have years of medical advocacy behind them.
This article first appeared in the January 2019 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.