Lifestyle Lessons: 10 Healthy New Year's Resolutions You Can Actually Stick To
Medically reviewed by Carmen Fookes, BPharm. Last updated on Dec 2, 2020.
Countdown to January 1st
2020 was a year of massive upheaval. Words like quarantine, boundaries such as social distancing, and new experiences, such as COVID-19 tests, were thrust upon us, whether we wanted them or not.
Words people have used to describe the past year include unprecedented, wacky, and apocalyptic. But if one thing is certain, it's that time moves on. Let's look towards 2021 with a sense of optimism. We can do this! And what better way to build resilience than to make sure that you are in the best health that you can be in. Here are 10 ways to launch into 2021 with a bang!
Curb That Drinking
Alcohol is both a tonic and a poison. Initially, it can help you forget any woes, calm your nerves, and make have a good time. Push the boundaries a bit, and it can make you feel depressed, anxious, affect your heart, lower your immunity, and increase your risk of cancer, among many other things.
Research conducted during the pandemic reported a 54% increase in national sales of alcohol and a 262% increase in online sales. While it may seem like a good idea at the time, alcohol is not the way to cope with stress.
So cutting back on your alcohol intake is a good first place to start with your 2021 New Year's resolutions. If you choose to drink, make some days alcohol-free days and chose lower-strength alcohol options when drinking. Try not to drink more than two or three times per week and drink at least two glasses of water for every alcoholic drink you consume. Look up some recipes for non-alcoholic mocktails and host an alcohol-free event.
Resolve to break the circuit of drinking alcohol every night and you will be both physically and mentally happier for it.
Sock It To Stress
Since alcohol is out for managing stress, let's look at other ways you can sock it to stress, particularly if you have a stressful job or the pandemic is taking its toll on your mental health.
The key to successful stress management is to first identify what is stressing you out in your life. Is it your work, a work colleague, money, your family, your house, a pet, a friend, or any of the other potential thousand triggers?
How do you know you are stressed? Stress can manifest itself in many ways and common symptoms include headaches, stomach pains, difficulty sleeping, irritability, sweaty hands or feet, weight changes, or feeling overwhelmed. Learn to identify your stress signals.
What do you typically do when you are stressed? Is this when you normally drink or overeat? Implementing some other go-to stress management strategies, such as meditation, phoning a friend, switching off technology, managing your time, affirmations and imagery can help you make a positive change to your stress levels.
See our stress management guide for more ways to help manage stress.
Shed That COVID-19 Belly
Feel like your clothes have all shrunk since the pandemic started? Been indulging in a bit more snacking than usual because of stress or just plain boredom?
You are not alone. Over 800 adults in the UK were surveyed and more than 63 percent reported finding it “very” or “somewhat difficult” to manage their weight during the lockdown. Although the reverse was true for those who had been enrolled in a slimming club before lockdown and who had received weight-management support over the entire lockdown period. These people continued to lose weight during this time, exercised more, and reporting higher overall wellbeing compared to respondents from the general population.
Structured weight-loss support groups are a great way to lose weight and make friends. They can help you feel better about yourself and share your weight-loss barriers with others in the group. They provide sound nutritional advice and offer tips on the best ways to start exercising.
If a structured group is not for you, then you can do it yourself. But aim to lose a small amount of weight each week (say 1 to 2 pounds), and keep it off. Avoid fad diets that cut out whole food groups and increase your exercise, which will not only help with the weight loss but improve your mental health and boost your immunity.
Don't beat yourself up for one slip-up but get back on track the very next meal.
Cultivate Those Brain Cells
Puzzles, crosswords, and board games were a huge hit with some families during the COVID-19 quarantine, and they are also good for your brain.
Problem-solving tasks engage the mind and help you feel good about yourself and like you have achieved something. Keeping your mind active, especially as you grow older, helps ward off dementia, boost your memory, and sharpen your mental health.
And you are never too old to go back to school, take up a night class, or finish that diploma, as Nola Ochs from Illinois proved. At 95 years old she achieved a Guinness world record by becoming the world’s oldest college graduate. She then went on to achieve a Master's Degree in Liberal Arts at the age of 98.
If board games aren't your thing, you can get creative and make up your own challenges, like scavenger hunts or family quiz nights.
The important thing is to make time to exercise your brain, just as you would exercise your body.
Make Time For Buddies and Your Favorite Clan
Covid-19 lockdowns generally meant people spent a whole lot of time with the same people, or they spent a whole lot of time by themselves.
For most of the pandemic, countless individuals had to die alone and loved ones were prevented from fully grieving by not being able to provide burial services. Perhaps the hardest hit were the elderly, the homeless, and minority groups.
When it comes down to it, the most important things in life are the people you connect with.
Make staying in touch with good friends and family a priority, not something you brush aside until you have time. Maybe get in touch with a neighbor who you know lives alone or an elderly couple who don't have any family.
Research has shown you're more likely to live longer if you stay socially connected.
Get More Sleep
Sleep is vital for your immune system, your gut and heart health, your mental well being, and weight control. It keeps your blood sugar levels steady and allows your muscles and other tissues to repair.
Sleep-related problems affect over 50 million Americans. Sleep deprivation is defined as less than 6 hours of sleep a night for adults. Ideally, we should all aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night for good health.
Research has shown that good sleep hygiene improves how much you sleep each night. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Do not eat too soon before going to bed, allow at least 3 hours for your food to digest. Avoid alcohol at least two hours before you go to bed.
Keep your bedroom just for sleeping and free from clutter. Do not watch TV or work in your bedroom. Do at least an hour of exercise each day, but not too late at night. Try to limit stress and keep a notebook beside your bed to write down your worries so you don't end up thinking about them every night.
Give A Little of Yourself For Free
There's nothing that gives you as big a warm fuzzy feeling as helping out others in need or less fortunate than yourself.
Volunteering, even just for a couple of hours a week or a month, really puts life into perspective, which is good for your soul. Many people rely on the kindness of strangers to make their world a better place to live in.
Best of all there's no weight to lose, no smokes to give up, or no parties to forgo. Just a little bit of your time and presto - a New Year's resolution fulfilled!
Have a Little Staycation Somewhere Near You
While it's not so easy to ride off into the sunset or travel to another country at the moment, it is still important to have a change of scenery now and then.
In your city, town, or county there will be places that you haven't yet been to. Check them out for a day or a weekend, there's nothing like adventuring somewhere new to improve your outlook on life.
Staycations have so many benefits too. Less planning, less time spent traveling, no jet lag, and you tend to unwind and relax more quickly. Plus they save you money!
Give Up The Smokes. Give Up The Smokes. Give Up The Smokes
You can see we have repeated ourselves several times above. It is not an easy thing to give up smoking. And no doubt, the first time you won't succeed. Success rates of people giving up smoking are notoriously low - around 6-7% - but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try, and try again, and try again, and try again!
Counseling and other types of emotional support can boost success rates higher than medicines alone. Combining certain medicines may work better than using a single drug. Learn from your mistakes. Eventually, you will win, and your health will be better off because of it.
Be Good With Money
Switch banks if your fees are too high. Sell some of that stuff taking up space in your garage. Make your own gifts. Avoid impulse buying; make yourself wait 30 days to confirm that you really do need that new dress or toy. Write a list before going shopping and invite friends over for a potluck meal rather than going out.
There are hundreds of ways to save money. Start with little steps and before long your bank account will be bulging!!!
Finished: Lifestyle Lessons: 10 Healthy New Year's Resolutions You Can Actually Stick To
Trouble falling or staying asleep is one of the most common medical complaints. Sometimes, just a few simple changes in lifestyle can make a big impact so you can get the shut-eye you need.
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- Pollard MS, Tucker JS, Green HD. Changes in Adult Alcohol Use and Consequences During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the US. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(9):e2022942. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.22942
- Alcohol: Balancing Risks and Benefits. Harvard T.H. Chan. 2020 https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/drinks-to-consume-in-moderation/alcohol-full-story/
- More than half of people struggled to manage their weight during COVID-19 lockdown, suggests UK survey EUROPEAN ASSOCIATION FOR THE STUDY OF OBESITY. 1 Sep 2020. AAAS. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-09/eaft-mth083120.php
- Miller E. Loneliness in the Era of COVID-19. Frontiers in Psychology. 18 Sept 2020 https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.02219/full
- Surprising Reasons to Get More Sleep. WebMD https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/benefits-sleep-more
- The State of Sleep health in America. https://www.sleephealth.org/sleep-health/the-state-of-sleephealth-in-america/#:~:text=It is estimated that sleep,in minorities and underserved populations.