A whopping 8 percent of all people actually achieve their New Year’s resolutions each year. There’s a reason for this—and there’s a foolproof way to actually win in 2016.
New Year’s resolutions tend to be broad and focused on the end result rather than the process. “Stay fit and healthy,” the number one resolution last year, sounds great! But lots of people are leaving out the part where they have to actually figure out how to do that and follow through. And some of us might not be so clear on what “healthy” really means to us. Then there’s the ever popular resolution to lose weight. But if the motivation behind that resolution is to feel good by way of looking good, that’s a set-up for disappointment.
Start small by zeroing in on little changes that are definitely doable, and shift the focus to enacting them on a daily basis rather than the end result. This way, your overall health will improve by default. In that spirit, here are four positive health goals for 2016 that don’t involve getting skinny.
1. Get Eight Hours of Sleep
Trying to conquer the world in 2016 will most likely come at a price: losing sleep. Thirty-five percent of adults report getting less than seven hours of sleep each night, and there’s no doubt that around-the-clock access to technology and rigorous work schedules are a factor. Sleep plays a role in growth and stress hormones, the immune system, and cardiovascular health. Being well-rested decreases the likelihood of a person developing chronic diseases including hypertension, diabetes, depression, obesity, and even cancer and early mortality. Not to mention, getting the appropriate amount of shut-eye can boost productivity, which can be a key factor in helping you achieve other personal or career goals throughout the year as well.
2. Exercise (Almost) Every Day
Many of us have heard by now that “sitting is the new smoking.” A sedentary lifestyle has tons of adverse effects on our health, including heightened risk of obesity, type II diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. It’s a no-brainer that physical activity can help offset these issues, and it comes with neurological benefits as well. According to one study, even brief workouts can increase the brain’s plasticity, improving a person’s ability to learn new skills. So, want to pick up a new hobby in the new year? Getting physical might give you an edge in mastering it.
But only 49 percent of American adults are getting enough exercise, which federal guidelines suggest is a minimum of two-and-a-half hours per week of moderate aerobic activity, one hour and 15 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combo of the two. Better get our butts in gear ASAP! It can be as little as a 30-minute walk five days a week, or as intense as a grueling SoulCycle class every other day. The important thing is to just set goals to get moving and stay accountable for them every single day—with one rest day in the mix, of course!
3. Eat At Least One Fruit or Vegetable in Every Meal
Eighty-seven percent of Americans are not eating the daily recommended serving of fruit, and 91 percent aren’t eating enough vegetables. Wow, just wow. Hey, we’re all guilty of it—reaching for a cookie instead of an apple or opting for one too many burritos each week is almost human nature. We’re often on-the-go, and we crave whatever we think will give us a quick jolt of energy.
It’s not a secret that fruits and veggies are essential to our well-being . . . Mom and grandma most likely reminded you of that over and over again growing up, and for good reason. A diet high in plant-based foods not only provides a load of necessary vitamins and minerals, but also delivers tons of fiber (which aids digestion and keeps things regular) and phytonutrients, which can calm inflammation, help repair DNA damage, and enhance immunity.
Incorporating fruits and vegetables into a daily diet is easy. Instead of butter, spread some spirulina tapenade on morning toast; drink up a glass of juice made with pomegranate powder during lunch; and for dinner, allow vegetable dishes to take center stage more often than meat or carbohydrates. These small changes will go a long way in helping you adopt a healthier lifestyle all around.
4. Cut Back On Added Sugar and Salt
Want to make the biggest impact on your health without having to switch to an intense diet? Simply cut the added sugar and salt. One of the most sensible ways to do this: Ditch processed foods altogether. The benefits will extend way beyond weight loss, to better sleep, more stable energy levels, improved immune function, better heart health, and fewer cravings.
That’s all there is to it. Set goals that really require mindfulness, discipline, and action, forget about the finish line, and just enjoy the year. If you mess up one day, there are 364 other days to make up for it.
Photo credit: Alicia Cho