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Forget New Year’s resolutions this year. Try this instead!

By Michelle Rogers, CPT | December 13, 2021 | Healthy Lifestyle, Fitness, Mental Health, Nutrition

African American woman wearing headphones and workout gear looks up toward the sky, looking contemplative and optimistic

As we enter into a new year, we are once again reminded of New Year’s resolutions.

Resolution lists typically consist of the ways you wish you were different than you are today. Two of the most popular resolutions are to lose weight and get in shape. So you buy an expensive membership and hit the gym with the rest of the resolution crowd. And on midnight January 1st you start on that dietfor good this time.”

Often these new endeavors only lasts a matter of days or weeks at most, until someone realizes it’s too hard and they don’t want to do it anymore. Then they feel like a failure.

It seems many people have had enough of that. In fact, January 17th was declared national Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day on a calendar website.

Things seem to be evolving on the resolutions front. More people are realizing that the old ways just don’t work for them. After going through the pandemic, they are also re-evaluating what’s important to them.

A survey last year revealed that one-third of people were skipping making resolutions. But of those who do plan to, “more than half (60%) noted an interest in improving their overall well-being, with 44% noting a focus on physical health and 31% on their mental health.”

As the survey suggests, people are taking stock of what’s valuable in their life and what their priorities are in a world that is still dealing with a pandemic. The good news is people seem to be embracing a holistic view of well-being that includes both their physical and mental health.

And perhaps, we’ve all just had enough.

So here’s an idea. Maybe, this year, ditch those traditional New Year’s resolutions and try a different approach instead.

What if you make this year the year of self-care and focus on your overall well-being? This comes from a place of love and caring for yourself, rather than focusing on your shortcomings.

Here are some resolution alternatives to consider.

Instead of: Working out to lose weight

Do this: Exercise to be healthier, stronger and less stressed

I used to be one of those people who thought the only good reason to exercise was to lose weight. And yes, exercise is beneficial for weight loss. But during my healthy living transformation when I started exercising regularly, I came to realize that it’s about so much more than that. Because of exercise I started to feel like a whole new person, physically and emotionally.

When you change your motivation from focusing on just the scale, incredible things can happen in your health and well-being.

There are so many physical and mental benefits of exercise! Think about how you will feel when you are more active and fit. Imagine yourself with more energy, being less stiff and sore, feeling less stressed, sleeping better, and feeling more alert and energetic.

To get started with exercise, you can keep it simple. Find something you like to do and do it. Schedule the time so that you can make it a daily habit. For example, walk every morning after breakfast. Pick something doable. The best exercise is the one you will do!

Another great way to get started is to sign up for a class or work with a personal trainer. With these methods, you have support and aren’t on your own. Many people are more successful with professional assistance.

READ: Exercise from home with online classes (plus two free options!)

Instead of: Getting more done

Do this: Get more sleep

Do you prioritize rest? It’s one of the most beneficial things you can do for your well-being. Insufficient sleep is linked to the development and management of a number of chronic diseases and conditions, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and depression (CDC).

There is even a connection between sleep and your appetite. Poor sleep makes you hungrier, causing you to eat more calories. Sleep impacts two important hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin. Without enough sleep, the body makes more ghrelin and less leptin.

And besides, when you are tired, everything in your day just seems harder.

One in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep, which is critical for good health (CDC). It’s recommended that adults should get at least seven hours of sleep per night.

Instead of: Dieting

Do this: Eat nutritiously

One of the reasons dieting doesn’t work is because you’re either on the diet, or off the diet. That’s too restrictive and not sustainable for most people.

Doing this leads to yo-yo dieting and weight gain, not to mention a sense of failure and feeling out of control over your health.

Instead of going on another diet that won’t work long-term, focus on nutrition and making healthier food choices instead.

I recommend you start by making one small change at a time, and then build upon that over time.

Healthier changes include things like choosing baked over fried foods, cooking at home rather than eating out, taking your own lunch to work instead of grabbing fast food, or cutting back on sugar.

Choose one thing that is doable for you, and focus on that for a week. The next week add another small change, and so on. This is the method that worked wonders for me.

When you are practicing healthy habits consistently, weight loss tends to follow naturally. And the benefits of good nutrition go far beyond the scale. I can vouch for this from personal experience. When I started eating better, I started feeling better.

According to the CDC, healthy eating:

  • May help you live longer
  • Keeps skin, teeth, and eyes healthy
  • Supports muscles
  • Boosts immunity
  • Strengthens bones
  • Lowers risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers
  • Supports healthy pregnancies and breastfeeding
  • Helps the digestive system function
  • Helps achieve and maintain a healthy weight

If you need assistance, meet with a registered dietitian to customize a nutrition strategy that works for you. It may be covered under your health insurance plan.

READ: Why you should quit dieting — and how to ditch it for good

Instead of: Putting off happiness until you reach a goal

Do this: Practice gratitude, where you are

This one really hits home for me. Used to be, I thought if I could just reach a certain weight goal then I’d finally be happy with myself. I was living for a future that never came during that time, because I couldn’t stick with restrictive dieting. Does that sound familiar?

What if you start being happy with yourself right here, right now. Yes, you may have areas you are wanting to improve, but come at it from a place of love and care. That’s a radical mindset change for many of us. Focusing on gratitude, instead of what you lack, can help you get to where you want to be.

This might not come naturally. Sometimes, we have to make up our mind to be grateful on purpose.

It turns out gratitude can be good for your health. According to a recent study, people who were more grateful had lower blood pressure and heart rate, as well as greater feelings of appreciation toward others.

One way to get started is to keep a gratitude journal and each day write something you are grateful for. Another idea is to start a gratitude jar. Each day, write something you are grateful for on a small slip of paper, and add it to the jar. When you are feeling down, read them.

Let’s make this year a year of love and well-being. You’ll look back this time next year and be so glad you did.

As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. When you are healthy and feel your best, you are better able to do everything in life. That benefits all the people who depend on you, too.

Here’s wishing you and your family Happy Holidays and a Healthy New Year!