When the clock strikes midnight every December 31, a flurry of fireworks and burst of champagne bubbles usher in the arrival of a new year. In a tradition as cemented as the dropping of the ball in Times Square, millions of Americans will set goals for the coming year.
As well-intentioned as New Year’s resolutions may be, they’re often broad and lofty, making them difficult to attain. According to a Forbes Health poll, the average resolution lasts under four months. And, they usually start at the same place: the gym.
“I frequently see patients with high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes or prediabetes, obesity, anxiety and depression,” said Hannah Alvarado, DO, a family physician with Baptist Primary Care. “These are all things that can be improved with lifestyle changes, and you don’t need to commit to a gym membership to make a big difference.”
Reachable New Year’s resolutions
Dr. Alvarado suggested focusing on behavior changes rather than outcomes when setting goals. Here are her five recommended resolutions you can attain without ever setting foot inside the gym.
Schedule your annual wellness exam. This is your yearly opportunity to get up to date on routine vaccines and preventive screenings, as well as discuss with your primary care physician any health concerns you have to develop a personalized action plan.
Focus on a balanced diet. Dr. Alvarado named this one of her top areas to focus on if you want to make big improvements to your overall health. Embrace vegetables, whole grains, fruits, fish and lean meats like chicken and turkey. Try to cut back on sugary and processed foods and drinks.
Prioritize your mental health. The new year is a great opportunity to find a hobby that helps you unwind. It could be knitting, meditating, doing yoga, reading, or just stepping outside for a walk. Another component of mental wellness is staying connected to loved ones, so use those new calendars to pencil in coffee dates, video chats, and reminders to text someone you care about.
Make small changes to move more. Dr. Alvarado recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week, divided however works best for your schedule (for example, 30 minutes, five days a week). Little things add up, so opt for a parking spot farther from your destination, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or walk your dog for an extra block.
Improve your sleep environment. Most adults need at least seven hours of sleep each night. Help yourself wind down by avoiding artificial light (from a phone, computer or TV) for 30-60 minutes before bedtime. Keep the room cool, dark and quiet. Sorry dog lovers, but Dr. Alvarado said you’ll get the best sleep in a pet-free bed. She also suggested avoiding caffeine, alcohol and exercise within two hours of getting into bed. Racing thoughts keeping you up? Try keeping a journal on your nightstand to write things down so you can address them in the morning.
“Making lifestyle changes can seem daunting, but you really just have to take things one little step at a time,” Dr. Alvarado said. “No matter how slow you walk, you’re lapping everyone who’s still sitting on the couch!”
A primary care doctor can help you set and achieve personal health goals at any time of the year. To make an appointment with Dr. Alvarado or a Baptist Primary Care physician close to your home, call 904.202.4YOU (4968) or fill out the appointment request form.