We all get into bad habits in our life, in one way or another. Perhaps you don’t talk to your grandmother enough. Or you eat too much fast food. Or you stopped working out. Setting resolutions for the new year is a good way to try to work on these bad habits.
There are many habits that can be damaging to your health, but here are five resolutions you can make for the new year to improve your health.
Evaluate your eating habits.
Have you been skipping breakfast? Snacking constantly instead of sitting down to dinner? Picking up food on the go instead of cooking at home? These are all habits that can cause us to gain weight and damage our health. Take a look at the latest guidelines recommended by the Department of Agriculture and Health to compare to your eating habits.
If you feel that a complete overhaul is too challenging, change one habit at a time, like making sure to eat breakfast, even if it’s a smoothie or a cup of yogurt. Or pledging to not buy any afternoon snacks for the pantry. Or cooking at least one healthy, sit-down dinner per week; you can always find a recipe that will make leftovers to cover your family for another dinner or two.
Calculate how much television you watch.
A study published last year found that watching more than three hours of television a day correlates with lower levels of mental acuity. Other studies have found that extended hours in front of screens can lead to heart disease and high blood pressure. And if you’re watching with your kids, it’s been shown that children who watch more television at a younger age develop language more slowly and have more problems connecting socially with their peers. If you want to escape into another world, consider picking up a book.
A study found that reading stimulates the brain over time — the excitement you feel when sympathizing with a character lingers for days. Samantha Olson at Medical Daily notes, “Researchers believe this prolonged and measurable brain boost, which was found in the region associated with language and sensory motor skills, could improve brain connectivity over time. It brings using books as an escape to a whole new level.”
Of course, both reading and television are sedentary activities, which leads us to resolution number three:
Increase your daily activity.
We all know the benefits of activity: Being more active reduces our risk for a variety of diseases, keeps our weight lower and makes us feel better. The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, or 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
It might sound like a lot, but they do point out that if you went to see a movie, it would take the same amount of time. And you don’t need to do it all at once; even 10 minutes at a time is better than nothing. If you’re trying to start a new habit, find a friend to do it with you — it’s been shown that if you schedule a class or walk with a friend, you’re much more likely to stick with it. And you get the added benefit of social activity, which improves your mental health. It’s a win-win!
If you’re anxious about starting to work out after a long drought or injury, consult with your physical therapist. A PT can do a wellness evaluation to determine if you’d need to adapt any physical activity, and some even offer fitness programs within their own clinics. Look for a Physiquality member near you with our clinic locator, below.
Take care of your teeth.
The American Dental Association recommends visiting the dentist for a cleaning and check-up at least once a year, if not twice. You should brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily in between those appointments.
So you’re brushing your teeth and flossing regularly. You don’t have any pain. Why should you go for a check-up? Because dentists can catch problems before they turn into something painful, both as physical pain and economic pain. Look at it this way: Filling a cavity is much less expensive than a root canal.
Get more sleep.
Most adults need between 7 and 8 hours of sleep a night, but many people don’t get nearly that much. A lack of sleep can affect your mental and physical health. It is associated with increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and system-wide inflammation.
Lack of sleep can also affect our immune system, our cognitive abilities (i.e., our mental capacity), and our mood and mental health. By getting a good night’s rest, your body can recuperate from a hard day’s work, giving you more energy to get up and get going in the morning.
Olson, Samantha. Inside the human brain: How watching TV changes neural pathways versus reading a book. Medical Daily, June 16, 2016.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 8th Edition. December 2015.
The New York Times.
- Bakalar, Nicholas. TV may be bad for your brain. December 3, 2015.
- Rabin, Roni Caryn. The hazards of the couch. January 12, 2011.
- Parker-Pope, Tara. A new risk factor: Your social life. July 28, 2010.
How much physical activity do adults need? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, June 4, 2015.
Pinto, Renita Tisha. 20 bad habits you need to quit now. Times of India, April 13, 2015.
- How exercise can help prevent disease. June 2, 2014.
- Celebrating PT Month: Why you should see a physical therapist. October 17, 2011.
- Timeless lessons on living a healthy life. March 1, 2011.
Your top 9 questions about going to the dentist—Answered! American Dental Association.
Shaw, Gina. Sleep through the decades: How sleep changes with age, once you’re an adult. WebMD, October 20, 2010.
Cymbalista-Clapp, Julian. 10 bad habits and the best ways to quit them. Reader’s Digest.
Zamovsky, Lisa. 17 worst habits for your heart. Health.com.