The start of a fresh new year is an excellent time to refocus on your health. However, studies show that most of our New Year’s resolutions to lead a healthier lifestyle fail.
Contrary to what you might think, a lack of motivation is not the reason. The real reason is that we make our goals too broad or too vague.
For example, we may vow to “eat less” or “exercise more” without making a plan for the necessary lifestyle changes. As a result, 91 percent of us give up on our New Year’s resolutions within about six weeks.1
How can you be among the 9 percent that does follow through on their goals? Studies show that successful resolutions are specific and offer alternatives that can replace our current habits. Instead of setting broad goals like “lose weight” or “eat healthy,” you choose specific actions to add to your routine.2
With that key in mind, we’re offering some realistic, attainable ways to make changes in your lifestyle that will add up to a healthier you in the new year. Here are seven steps you can take to help recharge your health in 2023.
1. Improve your sleep. Nearly 40 percent of adults in the U.S. report that at least once a month they fall asleep during the day without meaning to. Additionally, research reveals that 50 to 70 million Americans have chronic sleep disorders.3
Sleep deficiency can lead to both mental and physical health problems, ranging from depression to heart disease. Yet setting a goal to “get more sleep” can be difficult to achieve. If you are consistently not getting the seven to nine hours of sleep recommended by the National Sleep Foundation, here are some concrete steps to take.4 Everyone is different, so choose which steps are doable for you from this list.
- Aim to establish a sleep-wake cycle by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, including weekends.
- Decrease screen time before bedtime. Work up to a goal of one hour.
- Reduce light in your bedroom.
- Cut back on caffeine and alcohol consumption before bedtime.
- Create a bedtime routine that promotes sleep, such as sipping a cup of hot caffeine-free tea, taking a warm shower or bath, and reading a good book in bed.
- Avoid rigorous exercise before bedtime.
- Avoid eating a large meal within two hours of bedtime.5,6
2. Stay hydrated. Drinking enough water is essential for our bodies to function properly. Yet, some studies reveal that 75 percent of Americans are dehydrated.7
Symptoms of dehydration include frequent headaches, muscle cramping, trouble concentrating, dark or strong-smelling urine, constipation, sluggishness, and dry skin or mouth.8
However, setting the vague goal to “drink more water” is not easy to maintain. Plus, scientists agree that there is no magic formula for how much water each person needs. In other words, some people need to drink eight glasses of water each day, while others may need more or less.9
Here are some additional tips to help you focus more on healthy hydration for your body.
- Replace at least one sugary beverage each day with a glass of water.
- Make water part of another routine, such as drinking a glass of water every time you brush your teeth.
- Have a water bottle handy at your desk and in your car. Aim to finish it by the time you finish a project or by the time you get home.
- Keep chilled water in the fridge. Add slices of lemon, cucumber, ginger, or sliced fruit for flavor and nutrition.
3. Move more. When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, fitness goals are often at or near the top of the list. Yet, these goals often involve joining a gym or buying expensive exercise equipment.
Why not set smaller, more achievable steps this year that can lead to a healthier you? Here are a few ideas:
- Take a walk outside during your lunch break. Try increasing how often and how far you go by increments each week.
- If you have a sedentary job, take frequent breaks that involve movement. Stand up for voice calls or walk around the room a few times.
- Park further away from your destination, whether it’s the office or the supermarket.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Physical fitness isn’t just about playing a sport, running, or biking. Many forms of movement can benefit your overall wellness. The important thing is to sit less and move more.
4. Spend more time outdoors. Did you know that spending time outdoors can improve your physical and mental health? Studies show that being in nature can help reduce stress and anxiety levels and even lower your blood pressure.10
Taking that lunchtime walk we mentioned earlier will help you meet this goal, and here are a few other ideas to get you outside more:
- Schedule a walking meeting with a friend or a colleague. Arrange to meet at a local park or trail.
- Make it part of your routine to take a walk around the block after dinner.
- Walk or ride a bike to accomplish errands whenever possible rather than driving.
- Take up a new outdoor hobby.
- Get a dog!
- Go outside to read a book or listen to a podcast.
Yes, bad weather can be an issue when striving to spend more time outdoors, but you’ll find that the weather doesn’t always have to be a barrier when you dress appropriately.
5. Challenge your brain. Exciting research is underway on how we can boost our brain health. And the good news is that the previous steps on our list benefit your brain as well as the rest of your body.
In addition to getting better sleep, focusing on more movement, and spending time outdoors, there are other concrete ways to improve your cognitive function.
For example, research shows that we can stimulate and even build new brain cells by trying new things. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Make word puzzles part of your daily routine.
- Learn a new language.
- Experiment with drawing, painting, sculpture, or other crafts.
- Learn to play an instrument.
- Listen to music.
- Try meditation techniques.11
6. Focus on nutrition. Many people resolve to “go on a diet” at the start of the new year. Unfortunately, most diets are unsustainable because they focus on what you should not eat (deprivation) rather than on the healthy foods you should eat (inclusion).
Another way to achieve success is by thinking in terms of what you can add to your diet for healthier eating. Here are some suggestions for nutritious foods to include in your meals:
- Leafy greens
- Dark berries
- Whole grains
- Healthy fats (like olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados)
- Lean meats, chicken, and fish
- Legumes (including black, kidney, red, and garbanzo beans, soybeans, and peas)12
Making small adjustments to what you eat is the way to build healthy, long-term habits. Minor tweaks may not feel like you’re doing much at first, but that’s the point. You’re more likely to stick with these changes when they become second nature. And you’ll be encouraged by the improvements in how you look and feel.
7. Make preventative care appointments. You may have noticed that many of the above tips fall under the category of self-care. And why not? Self-care is not selfish—your good health demands it.
One of the most important ways to take care of yourself is by keeping up with your preventative healthcare appointments. These include dental and eye exams and an annual well visit with your doctor.
Your doctor will advise you when it’s time for a Pap test, mammogram, and other screening tests.
Preventative care helps identify many health issues early when they are much more easy to treat. You can help stay on top of your health by being aware of any unusual changes in your body and discussing them with your primary care provider. Trust your instincts and ask questions when something doesn’t feel right.13