Kicking off the new year with resolutions is a long-held tradition, but many people think of it as something that leads to frustration and failure. In truth, there are many small lifestyle changes that can make a big impact on your ongoing health. Below, Dr. Lindsay Lee and Dr. Julia Yoon, both family medical practitioners with Summit Health, share five suggestions on laying the groundwork for a healthy and happy 2022.
1. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep often falls to the bottom of the priority list when it comes to healthy habits. But studies show that lack of sleep shortens your lifespan. "The ideal amount of sleep for the average adult is 8 hours," notes Dr. Lee. "For most people, less than 7 hours is considered sleep deprivation.”
2. Rethink Your Diet
While achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is pertinent to a long life, crash diets are not the solution. The key, Dr. Lee and Dr. Yoon say, is changing your mindset about what a "diet" means:
- Find what works best for you. "You can try out different eating plans such as low carbohydrate, Mediterranean, DASH diet, and intermittent fasting," Dr. Yoon says. "But, ultimately, you should find the diet that works best for you and your schedule."
- Think about vegetables differently. "Stop looking at vegetables as something you have to add in, but, rather, something that you plan meals around," says Dr. Lee. Dr. Yoon points to The Plate method as a good guideline. "Half of your plate should be vegetables, a quarter should be a healthy protein such as fish or white meat," she says. "The last quarter should be your carbohydrate—preferably brown rice, whole-wheat bread, or whole-wheat pasta."
3. Focus on Your Mental and Emotional Health
Both doctors emphasize the importance of self-care. "Many people have baseline stress that they haven't gotten away from because they just keep piling on things in their lives," says Dr. Lee. "This clouds their mental judgment."
"Life is always busy and will likely only get busier," adds Dr. Yoon. "Reward yourself with making time for hobbies, meditating, journaling, and enjoying time with family and friends—and try not to feel guilty doing so."
4. Integrate Physical Activity Into Your Life
"Exercise improves not just your physical health, but also your mental health," says Dr. Yoon. The two doctors advise a good mix of cardio and weight-bearing exercises, along with yoga and pilates. The latter are important as we age, emphasizes Dr. Lee, because "if you're not incorporating stretching into your workouts, you're more apt to hurt yourself."
5. Set Appointments
Health maintenance is key to a long life. As work and life ramp up after the holidays, these things often fall through the cracks. Get ahead of this, advises Dr. Yoon. "Make an appointment for your annual visit with your primary doctor and six-month checkup with your dentist."