It’s resolution time again—and perhaps unsurprisingly, four of the top five New Year’s ambitions for 2024 involve some aspect of health: eating better, getting fit, losing weight, improving mental health, according to a recent Forbes Health/One Poll. If better health is your goal this year, we have you covered.
Contributed by Sonal Patil, MD, MSPH | Family Medicine Physician
Your best bet for making and keeping health resolutions is to understand that being healthy isn’t just about avoiding illness, it’s about your overall physical, emotional, and social wellbeing, says Sonal Patil, MD, MetroHealth Family Medicine Physician.
To be successful at achieving your health goals, break them down into manageable steps. Focus on these first, says Dr. Patel:
Get a check-up:
Kickstart the New Year by seeing your primary care provider for a well check. They can make sure you get any necessary health screenings and update vaccinations to prevent disease.
Your primary care provider makes sure problems, such as high blood pressure, don’t get worse and turn into a chronic condition, such as diabetes or heart disease. They can also refer you to behavioral and mental health professionals to address your emotional needs.
Get better sleep:
A good day, and good physical and mental health, start with getting restful sleep. Adults need at least 7 hours snooze time, but many of us fall short.
To get quality sleep, go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each day.
“Wind down from all mentally stimulating activities at least one hour before bedtime, especially screens,” says Dr. Patil. The blue light from electronic devices can disrupt your slumber.
Get out there:
Boosting social connections is good for all aspects of health—and it’s been shown that social isolation and loneliness have adverse health effects. “The need for belonging is very powerful,” Dr. Patil says.
Make part of your healthy-new-year resolution to connect with old and new friends. Consider taking a class or joining a group that engages in an activity you like or want to try. If you have a health issue or are caring for someone else who does, joining an in person or online support group can help you feel understood and less alone.
Get on top of stress:
A little stress helps performance, such as on tests or at work. But chronic stress is harmful to long-term health. To manage either, Dr. Patil says apps for meditation, guided imagery, and progressive muscle relaxation can be helpful.
For a low-tech solution, practice intentional breathing. Whenever you feel stressed, take a series of deep breaths—in through the nose, out through the mouth.
“Breathing exercises can help thwart the harmful effects of stress on the body,” Dr. Patil says, “breaking the cycle of what stress does to the body.”
Get a fitness plan:
Two quick steps: find an exercise option that works for you; then decide when and how often you can fit that activity into your schedule. The key is finding something you can do and that you enjoy—so you stick with it, says Dr. Patil.
Even if you aren’t doing a formal workout or class, make a habit of moving your body every day, even just walking around your home.
To keep yourself accountable, use a fitness app to track your physical activity and remind you that it’s time to get up and move (or enlist a fitness buddy in real life!).
Get on track with diet:
Many people only change their eating habits to lose weight but it’s smarter to focus on eating well for lifelong health.
Planning is key: Create a meal plan for your week—a nutritionist can help you design a healthy one. Then prep and store as much of your meals ahead of time as you can.
“With a lot of emotion-triggered eating, or when people are very hungry, they grab the first thing that they can eat. Typically, that is something that is processed or unhealthy,” Dr. Patil says. “Making sure you have a healthy food option available after a long day can reduce impulsive eating.”