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It’s a tradition when it comes to any New Year’s Resolution: Ideas center on self-improvement—and often in the area of health. And why not? For some, buying a new car or traveling to an exotic locale might come first. But without our health, those fancy material possessions and adventurous trips won’t mean as much. Here, we offer 17 worthy New Year’s Resolution ideas, each of them focused on helping you improve or maintain your health.
“Focused” is the key word. It’s too easy to make a resolution to simply “lose weight.” Or “exercise more.” Or “stop smoking.” Better to be specific in your goals: “Lose weight by giving up junk food,” for example.
We hope the tips presented here will lead you toward health-conscious New Year’s Resolution ideas—ones that work for you.
1. Don’t eat late at night
Here’s an easy one—commit to resisting the temptation to graze during the nighttime hours. Okay, maybe it’s not easy. But that late-night salami sandwich or bowl of Doritos can become habit-forming, and the results aren’t ideal for your health. Late-night eating can cause the obvious health setbacks (weight gain, elevated triglycerides and cholesterol, impairments in blood sugar regulation) along with effects that you might not consider: altered hormone function, inflammation, and, yes, impaired memory.
Late-night snacking, if it’s a must here and there, should focus on filling choices like celery, carrots, and other veggies, or fruits (a banana, apple slices, or a few frozen cherries are good choices). A small bowl of cereal and low-fat milk also can work. You likely know you should avoid fatty, sugary, or caffeinated items. Better yet, resolve to cut out late-night eating. Read more about the effects of late-night eating by clicking here.
Never tried meditation? Proponents swear by its benefits: It can “help alleviate stress, improve thinking and memory, and, according to some research, lower your risk of serious health conditions like diabetes and heart disease,” according to the publication UCLA Medical Center Healthy Years. “For seniors, it can be one of the easiest ways to improve their overall well-being.”
Meditation, contrary to some perceptions, isn’t difficult, nor is it a “mysterious” pursuit. It’s a technique by which you practice focusing your attention. In one of the most popular types, mindfulness meditation, “you focus your attention by intentionally bringing it, in a non-judgmental manner, to what you’re experiencing in the present moment,” as described in this UHN post. For more on meditation, see our story “5 Fun Mindful Exercises to Improve Health and Well-Being.”
3. Get your protein
Adhering to any type of diet doesn’t mean you should skimp on protein. The daily Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (or 0.37 grams per pound of body weight).
Figure out your own protein needs by multiplying your weight by 0.37. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, your RDA of daily protein is 57 grams. Too much protein from red meat can lead to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, so make sure the protein you get is balanced between lean meats and fish (see our post “High-Protein Foods Are Essential to a Healthy Diet”) and a variety of other sources, from seeds and nuts (including walnuts, pistachios, almond butter, and peanut butter) to beans and peas to eggs and processed soy products (including veggie burgers, tempeh, and tofu).
4. Get your carbs
Don’t rob yourself of needed carbs if you’re adhering to a low-carbohydrate diet. You could be missing out on vital nutrients found in sources like oats (fiber, protein, iron, thiamin, magnesium), wheat (iron, fiber, protein, thiamin, zinc), and rice (known to help cut diabetes risk and lower cholesterol levels). Our post “Low-Carb Diets: They May Fall Short on Essential Nutrients” has more.
5. Kill the junk food
The temptation is all around us, and when a hunger pang hits, it’s so easy to cave in. A few cookies? A bag of salty chips? A triple cheeseburger with bacon? A greasy pizza topped with greasy pepperoni? Make it a resolution to pass on such treats. They’re not worth the health risks, as we explain in our post “Junk Food Effects: Stay Away from These 6 Foods and Beverages.”
6. Give up soda
Drinking soda pop, according to studies, can be linked to at least seven serious afflictions: liver disease, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease (and kidney stones), pancreatic cancer, and osteoporosis. Click here for our post “7 Things Soda Does to Your Body.”
6. Discover your ideal body weight
That’s right—there’s an ideal weight, or at least a range, for all of us. Do you know what yours is? Often, we “just know” when we need to lose weight, but finding out your body mass index (BMI) can give you a more specific figure. Use this equation to get there:
Weight in pounds ÷ (Height in inches x Height in inches) x 703
BMI results are classified as follows:
- 18.5 or lower: Underweight
- 18.5 to 24.9: Normal weight
- 25.0 to 29.9: Overweight
- 30.0 and above: Obese
See this post for more; it includes links to online BMI calculators that can do the math for you.
8. Push yourself in your exercise—think aerobic
If you find your exercise patterns inconsistent, take the plunge and start an aerobic fitness routine, whether you join a program at a local gym or do it yourself via a video program. Physical fitness attained through aerobic activity has innumerable benefits; it’s a key to everything from weight control to mobility, blood pressure to cardiovascular health, prevention of diseases to emotional health, and much more.
9. Work those muscles back into shape
Resistance training is as important as aerobic exercise, so get lifting. You don’t necessarily need barbells, either; as we explain in our post on resistance training benefits, pulling a resistance band or pushing against a wall also count as strength training. The point is to consistently partake in deliberate exercises that challenge your muscles with “stronger-than-usual counterforce.”
Resistance or strength training helps your body to fight off all kinds of diseases, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis as well as anxiety, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease.
10. Resolve to fight off stress in healthy ways
Speaking of stress, it hits every one of us, and, as experts will tell you, it’s not a bad thing; there’s good stress (which inspires us to get out of bed, go to work, and accomplish goals) and bad stress (which we may feel over job deadlines, health woes, relationship issues, or even long traffic jams). Our No. 7 and No. 8 New Year’s Resolution ideas above can help you handle stress, and so too can good sleep hygiene, a balanced and healthy diet, and such solutions as cognitive behavioral therapy.
11. Don’t allow yourself to sink into depression
Depression can sneak up on us and manifest itself in myriad ways that can affect our overall health. Resolve to be resilient when you feel symptoms of depression, which can typically fall under the categories of Major Depressive Disorder or the more chronic Persistent Depressive Disorder (see our post “Depression Symptoms: ‘Major’ vs. ‘Persistent’”), or it may be related to what’s known as “situational depression”—the result of a negative life event.
Your methods for beating depression may range from treating a dopamine deficiency (see “8 Natural Dopamine Boosters to Overcome Depression”) to a serotonin deficiency (see “4 Serotonin Supplements to Treat Depression, Anxiety, and Insomnia”).
Of course, because this condition is so personal, each of us will benefit from different treatments. You may find your depression-busting resolutions within one of these posts:
- “How to Fight Depression”
- “How to Stop Depression: What’s Good for the Body…”
- “8 Tips on How to Cure Depression”
12. If you’ve put it off for a while, get an eye test
If we’re seeing okay, we might put off that annual eye exam for a year or two or three. But as we get older, our risk factors rise for a number of conditions, including cataract symptoms, glaucoma, and detached retina. Our post “Aging Eyes and Declining Eyesight” helps explain the importance of regular check-ups. For further informaiton, check out “Eye Exams 101,” a post at the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s website.
13. Watch your blood pressure readings
If you haven’t had a reading in a while, a number of telltale signs can tip you off that your blood pressure is high: headaches, nosebleeds, facial flushing, or dizziness. Our post “Blood Pressure Chart: Where Do Your Numbers Fit” can give you a more thorough understanding of blood pressure numbers and what they mean.
Whether yours is high or just right, make it a New Year’s Resolution to improve or maintain your blood pressure. Our posts “7 Foods That Lower Blood Pressure” and “Spice Up Your Life with These High Blood Pressure Remedies” can help. And make sure your diet includes enough vitamin D; see our post “Natural Remedy for High Blood Pressure: Vitamin D.”
14. If you’re over 50, resolve to get that shingles vaccine
A quick shingles shot can save loads of trouble later. The virus herpes zoster causes this often excruciatingly painful condition, where “even the mildest touch can make the most stoic person wince,” as noted in “Get Your Shingles Vaccine: It’s Just Common Sense.” “Shingles blisters typically form on the body but can also affect the face. They usually last about 10 days, form a crust, and then fall off.”
15. Keep your memory sharp
If you’re in your 20s or 30s, it may not seem like an urgent task. If you’re in your 50s or 60s, it makes sense to keep your brain in shape by eschewing yet another sitcom rerun in favor of memory-building exercises and activities. Our post “How to Increase Memory Power” offers four proven methods: Play brain games; be social; move your body via exercise; and eat right by maintaining a healthy diet rich in lean protein, fruits, and vegetables. See also our post “Train Your Brain with Memory Improvement Games.”
16. If you smoke… quit
Perhaps you’ve tried every patch, nicotine gum, and/or vaporizer to quit, but unsuccessfully. If so, try cold turkey. The health benefits may start as soon as you stop. Our post “How to Prevent Smoking Diseases—and Add Years to Your Life” may be just the push you need to in resolving to quit; it sums up the many negative and harmful effects of smoking.
See also our post “Quit Smoking: Increase Your Life Expectancy with COPD.”
17. Sleep right
Let your body and mind get the rest they need by sleeping seven to eight hours per night. If this resolution makes sense for you, see our posts “Effective Insomnia Cures: 4 Steps to a Better Night’s Sleep” and “What Keeps You Up at Night? 6 Ways to Beat Insomnia.”
What better way to start off the new year than by making sure you’re well-rested?
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Remember to be realistic, too. Even if every one of the above might apply to you, keep your list to a reasonable total of resolutions. Good luck—and Happy New Year!
Originally published in 2016, this post has been updated.