Happy New Year! The pandemic has made the past couple of years more difficult. Here are some sobering statistics:
About half of us will be making New Year’s resolutions, the most common involving job, education/other self-improvements, money issues, relationship issues and health/wellness issues. Especially because of the pandemic, we should all make resolutions to focus on our health and wellness:
Stop smoking: Over 15% of adults still smoke cigarettes (down from 20% a few years ago but still way too high); of these one in three will die from something related to their smoking, whether it is heart disease, lung disease or cancer.
Keep a regular sleep schedule: Getting sufficient and regular sleep can help minimize fatigue, stabilize mood, and improve overall health and fitness.
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Exercise: Regular exercise is key to good health. It will make you feel better and has been shown to improve many aspects of health; not only the quantity of years you will live, but very importantly the overall quality of your life. Talk to your health care provider to be sure it is safe for you to begin an exercise regimen, then get out there and stick with it.
Get your ‘routine maintenance’: By this I mean getting the proper screening tests (for example mammograms, colonoscopy, cholesterol checks, blood pressure checks, etc.) and preventative treatments (including vaccinations) to minimize the risks of many diseases. You will need to see your health care provider to discuss what tests and treatments are right for you (the specific recommendations depend on your age and your risk factors, including your family history). Complying with the medications your health care provider prescribes is also important. Take control of your health and understand what medications you are on and what they are for. Review these with your healthcare provider regularly as your medical condition can change, sometimes for the better!
Watch your weight/eat healthier: Obesity is at epidemic proportions in our country. If you are obese, weight loss can benefit your heart, improve your cholesterol, protect you from diabetes (adult-onset type) and help keep your blood pressure in check. If you are maintaining a healthy weight, trying to eat healthier overall (more fruits and vegetables, less processed foods and sugars) is still beneficial.
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Do things to focus on yourself: This may mean increasing connections to supportive people, creating a healthier work/life balance (work-from-home has made this a trickier issue for many people), being sure to set aside time for a hobby, volunteering, your pet(s), friends, family, etc., and maybe just consciously allowing yourself to be spoiled every now and then!
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Making New Year’s resolutions increases the likelihood of achieving your goals by a factor of 10, so make those resolutions and stick to them! About two-thirds of people stick to their resolutions for at least a month, and about half make it six months or longer. Making SMART resolutions may help you do even better, so make your resolutions:
Specific: Instead of “I will exercise more”, resolve to exercise three times per week for at least 20 minutes each session. Instead of “I will lose weight”, resolve to lose two pounds per month.
Measurable: Making the goals specific helps with this, but you should track your progress. For example, consider noting the days you exercise on the calendar hanging on the fridge (we all have one), or using one of the many apps that can help you track your progress.
Achievable: If the goals you set are impractical, you are setting yourself up for failure. Do not resolve to exercise every day if your schedule will just not allow this.
Reasonable: Unreasonable goals are also a set up for failure. For example, do not resolve to lose 20 pounds a month.
Time-based: This ties in with how you plan to measure your progress and how specific you make your goals. Losing a few pounds a month is a better time-based resolution than losing 30 pounds by the end of the year.
Improving your health will make your New Year healthier (pretty obvious) and happier! Make some New Year’s resolutions, but also cut yourself some slack: it has been a hard last couple of years!
Jeff Hersh, Ph.D., M.D., can be reached at DrHersh@juno.com
‘This too shall pass away’ this famous Persian adage seems to be defeating us again and again in the case of COVID-19. Despite every effort