It’s that time of year again! New Year’s Eve is just around the corner, whether you’re celebrating with a night out or staying in, you should start thinking about setting a New Year’s resolution. Resolutions come in many forms, but people generally set ones that involving improving their health (either mental or physical).
With endless possibilities it can be difficult to decide what to choose, and equally difficult to follow through on. Many people fail to follow through because they’ve taken on too much at once. To avoid this problem, tackle just one of the following 10 New Year’s resolutions for better health to improve your life both physically and mentally…
Probably one of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to quit smoking, and given how difficult it can be to completely kick the habit, it’s a resolution that many don’t succeed at. But it’s a good resolution to make, even if you’ve failed before. Smoking is an extremely addictive habit, with the risk of deadly cancers and other health complications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States”, causing more than 480,000 deaths per year, a frightening number considering it’s preventable.
The CDC says that cigarette smoking not only increases your risk of lung cancer, but it causes about 90 percent of lung cancer deaths. On top of this, it also increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and several other types of cancers including bladder, cervix, esophagus, blood, stomach and pancreas. And if those health risks don’t scare you enough, smoking is an expensive habit. The financial toll affects both the present cost of the habit and future medical services and treatment. So pack it in this year and kick this deadly habit to the curb.
Try Something New
Everyone needs a change in their life once and awhile. There might be an art class or book club that’s piqued your interest, or maybe you’ve been wondering if you could train for a marathon or try a new form of exercise. Whether you make a resolution to try something social, mental or physical, trying anything new can be great for your health. It can be a challenge because you’ve put yourself in a new situation, which is good for pushing your boundaries.
Diversifying your exercise routine could be just what you need to kick-start getting in shape or help you lose those 10 pounds you keep saying you want to lose. Or you could join a sports league, combining physical health with social opportunities. Challenging and expanding a skill set, like those from an art class or literature course, can be extremely rewarding. Once the course or class is finished, you’ll be sure to enjoy a rush of excitement for achieving a goal. No matter what you decide, it will no doubt help guide you to better overall health.
Get in Shape
If you’re currently a regular gym-goer, you probably hate the gym in January because so many people make the resolution to get in shape. Usually by mid-February most people give up, the crowds die down, and you no longer have to wait in line for the elliptical machine. But if you’re the person who makes a New Year’s resolution to get in shape, stick to it to reap the health benefits.
Although you may feel pressured to get in shape right away, you’ll be more successful in reaching your goals if you take the time to research different gyms and exercise classes, and even do a trial at some of your local gyms. And one of the most important things to do if your New Year’s resolution is to get in shape, is to make a realistic plan. So many people fail at following through on this resolution because they think they need to workout 5 days a week, and want to lose their first 10 pounds in January. Don’t rush it! Being healthy is a lifestyle, so set small goals along the way and be proud of each success.
Get Enough Sleep
Many New Year’s resolutions involve significant lifestyle changes, and while getting enough sleep – and sleeping well – might not seem like a big deal, it really is. In general, most experts recommend adults get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. And it’s not healthy to skimp on sleep during the week with the excuse that you’ll “catch up on the weekend”. Your body and mind doesn’t function well without adequate sleep, leading to lower productivity at work, and trouble concentrating and learning. Your emotional well-being may become strained, causing problems in your relationships.
Not only is not enough sleep (or waking up several times during the night) tiring, it can also lead to many serious health problems. Studies have shown that lack of sleep has been linked to increasing your chance of heart and kidney disease, diabetes, and stroke. If you get sick often, it could be from not getting enough sleep because it can negatively affect your immune system. Your tired body can’t protect itself from infections like the common cold. So focus on sleeping well over the next year, and reap the benefits of doing so.
As the age of technology and being available 24/7 continues, the more experts are emphasizing the importance of unplugging regularly. If you’re lucky, your home has a no-phone rule during dinners and even during family time – or dates, if you’re in a relationship or dating. And it’s even more impressive if when you spend time with friends, everyone keeps their phones away. It probably would have seemed ridiculous 15 years ago if someone predicted that more social time would be spent online than in person, but today it certainly seems to be the norm.
Whether you’re plugged into work, constantly texting, or checking social media once every hour (or more!), you could be hurting your health. There have been several studies that show being plugged in all the time can increase stress, damage your mental health, cause neck, back, wrist and hand problems, and prevent quality sleep and rest. Plus, working too much can make you less productive and cause burnout. So this year, plan to unplug, unless you’re on call, stop checking email in the evenings, and if you’re spending time with family or friends, keep your phone tucked away.
Soak Up the Sun
Getting out of the house and into the sun can be good for your health in many ways, so make a resolution to do so in 2015. Exposure to sunlight gives your body vitamin D, an important vitamin that helps make your immune system function properly, fights diseases, and prevents bone problems like osteoporosis. The sun can also lower blood pressure and be a great mood enhancer, improving your outlook on life.
Even if you live somewhere that gets snow, you can sneak in some time in the sun by properly bundling up in a winter jacket, hat, scarf, and mitts, and even long-johns and snow pants when necessary. That said, don’t go outside or stay out too long if it’s dangerously cold. And put on the sunscreen if you’re going to be outside for long periods of time. There’s a lot of controversy about whether or not your skin should be exposed to the sun without sunscreen, and it seems that many experts believe that short exposure is okay. Decide for yourself and if you want to wear sunscreen, use it year-round.
Take Regular Breaks
With the continual emergence of technology and technological-dependency, more and more jobs consist of sitting at a desk in front of a computer for 8 or more hours per day. Even if you work the standard 40 hours a week, sitting all day can cause serious health problems, many of which could become chronic and affect you for the rest of your life. The thing is, your brain and your body both need breaks to stay healthy. This holds true for all jobs, from physical ones like construction and firefighting to stationary jobs performed on a computer.
Pushing yourself both physically and mentally can increase stress no matter what you do. Work might be important to you, but being healthy should be the top priority. If you don’t take regular breaks already, consider making it your New Year’s resolution. The difference could be significant. Not only will breaks help relax your muscles and clear your mind but you’ll likely be even more productive at work, which is win-win for your employer and your health.
Learn How to Cook
Whether you already make home cooked meals, throw a frozen dinner in the microwave after a long day of work, or have takeout on speed dial, learning how to cook well isn’t just about making things from scratch and is more about cooking healthy. After all, many home-cooked meals are full of unnecessary fat, sodium, sugar, and calories. And eating pre-made, processed foods and indulging in takeout most days of the week is by far from healthy.
If you aren’t sure where to start to cook healthy meals for at work and home, there are a lot of different ways to tackle this New Year’s resolution. Cookbooks these days cater to every need, especially those that focus on all-around healthy meals. There’s even cookbooks and countless food blogs that focus on single-living cooking, since many use that excuse as to why they don’t cook. If you don’t make anything homemade because you “don’t have the time”, there’s a solution for that, too. Cook meals ahead of time (on the weekend), and leave the first day or two in the fridge while freezing the leftovers.
Take Time for Yourself
Oh, the coveted me time. Do you ever feel like you’re on the go all the time, with nothing to do but crash at the end of the day? Like many others, a combination of your work, family obligations, social life, and volunteering probably make you very busy and stressed out as a result. But being busy all the time catches up to you, both physically and mentally. If you think it’s crazy and impossible to get alone time every week, even just a little bit, then this resolution is definitely for you.
Time alone to do something you want, whether that’s taking a relaxing bath, reading a book, or taking up a hobby, doesn’t have to be for hours. Even half an hour could greatly reduce your stress and increase your happiness. Of course, ideally you should get a few hours each week to yourself but you can start by blocking in half an hour if your schedule is that packed. Put it in your calendar and enjoy this alone time. It may be an adjustment to actually relax, but don’t give up.
Strengthen Good Relationships, End Bad Ones
Your overall health and happiness is greatly related to your personal relationships with friends, family, and even coworkers and managers. Bad relationships cause stress and emotional turmoil, which can lead to a lot of health problems – beyond the added stress, they can also increase your chance of heart disease, raise your blood pressure, cause you to develop depression and low self-esteem, and you may even suffer physical injuries. These aren’t even all of the harmful possibilities.
Bad relationships come in many forms, but one of the most common ones is with your boyfriend or girlfriend, partner or spouse. These unhealthy relationships don’t have to involve physical abuse, though that is definitely one of them. They can also come in the form of emotional abuse, through words and actions that continually beat down on your mental state. If you’re in any type of mentally or physically abusive relationship, most cities (or one close to you) offer support services and can help protect you if you’re fearful of what the abuser would do. Get help by contacting one of these services, confiding in a trusted confidant, and getting rid of unnecessary, toxic relationships.