A Little Change Goes a Long Way

The beginning of a new year is a good time to take stock of your health and well-being. How do you want this year to be different from last year?

Visualizing a clear goal helps you to make positive choices and improve your lifestyle gradually, even if you cannot achieve everything right away. What is the most serious issue impacting your health or your family's health, and what can you do about it?

Drastic lifestyle changes are difficult to maintain because they disrupt daily routines or require more time than you actually have. Instead of rushing into the New Year with a long list of challenging resolutions, identify small, practical lifestyle changes that you can implement successfully. Choose one of these changes and stick to it. When it has become part of your regular routine, take on another challenge.

Here are some positive changes that can bring about a significant improvement in your health:

  • Add 150 minutes of exercise to your week. Do 30 minutes of moderate exercise, such as walking, swimming, or yoga, five days a week. If you have a busy schedule, take a walk during your lunch hour, or while your child is attending a piano lesson or baseball practice. Even better, take a walk after dinner with a friend or family member.
  • Replace fattening snack foods, such as potato chips, with apples or grapes.
  • Cut out meals from fast food restaurants. Prepare simple lunches at home, or choose restaurants with healthy items on their menus. 
  • Sign up for a fitness class, dance lesson, or yoga session. Having a scheduled activity makes you more likely to stick to it. 
  • Try a new, nutritious recipe using fresh vegetables every week. Borrow cookbooks from the library, or look for recipes on websites like Cookinglight.com and Eatingwell.com. 
  • Encourage your family to become more active with at least one outdoor activity together every week. Shoot hoops in the driveway, visit a park or playground, swim in the springs or go on a picnic or a bike ride. Yard work is good if everyone enjoys it. Show your children that you value spending time outdoors and set an example for them. 
  • Find one or more companions for a regular physical activity, such as a game of golf, bowling, or a walk in a natural area. 
  • Schedule a physical with your primary care doctor, discuss your health concerns, and begin monitoring your weight and blood pressure regularly.
  • Commit to observing a regular bedtime. Stop all activities 15 minutes before bedtime and begin making preparations to go to sleep.
  • Reorganize your priorities. Identify those that are most important to you, and move health, well-being and your family to the top of the list. Recognize that you might sometimes have to let housework or work-related tasks go unfinished in favor of other priorities. Review your list of priorities regularly and do not allow temporary situations to throw you off track. Instead, look for creative ways to solve problems while keeping your priorities in order.

To monitor your progress, put a checkmark on your calendar for each day that you fulfill your new lifestyle change. Do not be discouraged if you find you are slacking off. Just start over, or adjust your goal to make it more practical. Even partial success has health benefits.

Do not wait for next New Year to make another positive change in your life. When your lifestyle change has become second nature, tackle the next challenge. Simply being aware of the changes you want to make triggers a new mental attitude. You will find that you are constantly learning and understanding. Every improvement in your health inspires you to try something new.

Let's make 2016 your healthiest year yet!

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