A new year has begun! And with a new year comes New Year's resolutions. In honor of the year 2017, here are 17 New Year's resolution ideas for a happy and healthy year ahead.
1. Quit Smoking – You can't start new good habits if you don't quit the old bad ones first. If you are a smoker, quitting smoking is the single greatest thing you can do to improve your health in 2017 and beyond. If you are not a smoker, don't start! For help and motivation to quit smoking, click here.
2. Moderate to no Alcohol Consumption – If you do not drink, good for you! And don't start drinking! While it is true there are some health benefits to moderate consumption (2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women) of alcohol, most notably red wine, doctors do not recommend anyone who does not drink alcohol to start drinking alcohol for any perceived health benefits. The fact is that alcohol related deaths, especially cirrhosis of the liver, are on the rise among certain populations in America. Beer ads are seemingly ubiquitous during sporting events and, as a result, heavy drinking and binge drinking are on the rise. If you drink more than what is considered moderate consumption, resolve to only moderately consume alcohol in 2017 or resolve to quit altogether.
3. Exercise – Exercising more is a popular New Year's resolution every year and for good reason. Walk, run, join a gym, play a sport, hike, bike, swim, ski, etc. However you choose to exercise in 2017, just make sure you exercise more than you have in the past. The older you get, the more you should get moving to prevent disease, arthritis, and immobility as you age. It is recommended you get at least 30 minutes each day of moderate exercise, the equivalent of a brisk, 3-4 mph walk. Anything less than this and you are not getting enough exercise.
4. Eat Better – There are plenty of ways to eat better, especially in America. Americans eat way too much fast food, junk food, and sugary beverages. Last year the United States government released its dietary guidelines for Americans through the year 2020. The recommendations seemed to follow the Mediterranean diet fairly closely. Nutrition writer Michael Pollan summed up the recommendations this way; "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Eating more fruits and vegetables and less meat is a major way to eat better as is giving up overly processed foods, sugary drinks, trans fats, and anything labeled as "diet." For more about the guidelines and how to eat healthier, click here; or if you want to know more about the vegan diet, click here.
5. Volunteer – Another way to improve your health is to volunteer or serve on a board. Volunteering your time to a cause or activity you are passionate about is a great way to help you feel connected to your community. It can have a tremendous effect on your feelings of self-worth and your self-esteem.
6. Visit your Primary Care Physician – Schedule your annual physical with your primary care physician and/or your OBGYN, especially if you haven't been in a while. Your annual wellness visit is such a vital part of your overall health. It is the only time you see your doctor when you are not sick. Your annual check-up is when your doctor gets to monitor any changes in your vitals and make recommendations to maintain or improve a healthy lifestyle and prevent any potential chronic diseases.
7. Spend Time in Nature – In general, our society spends too much time indoors, staring at television and computer screens. We also rarely get the opportunity to truly unwind from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Experiencing nature, away from any electronic devices, has a calming effect on the mind. Your body needs sunlight to process vitamin D, which also improves your mood, as does the sunlight itself. So get in touch with nature, connect with it, relax, un-clutter your mind, and just be happy!
8. Go to the Dentist – Everyone loves going to the dentist, wait, no, the opposite. Well it doesn't matter, it's important to go and you're going whether you like it or not. Besides getting a biannual cleaning and getting checked for cavities, your dentist can check for any abnormalities and can help spot early signs of mouth or throat cancer. So make a point to see your dentist this year!
9. Learn a New Skill – Whether you learn to play a new instrument, speak a new language, or just use a smart phone, resolve to learn something new this year! Pick a thing. Learn a thing. Then do that thing and get completely immersed in the wonder and challenge of learning something new.
10. Work towards Mastering an Old Skill – Maybe even better than learning a new skill is mastering an old one. Maybe you have a hobby you've been dabbling in for years. Set a goal, reach a new milestone, and finally master a skill that's been eluding you for years!
11. Get your Annual Cancer Screening – Depending on your age, gender, and medical history, you may be due for a cancer screening such as a mammogram, colorectal screening, or pap smear. If you are due for any of these, make sure you get screened! Don't skip any cancer screening appointments.
12. Take a Fitness Class – Fitness classes are a great way to exercise for so many reasons. Working out at a gym or at home is nice, but if you don't change up your routine you can run the risk of burnout or overuse injury. In a fitness class, you have a certified instructor teaching you. The instructor can teach you new routines, how to vary your workout, and can help correct you if you are doing anything that could cause injury. You may even be able to incorporate some of the things you've learned in class into your workouts at the gym or at home. Plus, in a class setting, you get to meet new people and make new friends. If exercising is a new resolution for you this year, a fitness class is an especially good place to start!
13. Experience the Arts – Go to a musical, an opera, an art gallery, a poetry reading, anything! Experience the arts in some way, shape, or form. Take in the atmosphere and just enjoy the experience through whichever medium you choose. Experiencing the arts live has a way of immersing you in the experience in way you just cannot connect from your living room couch. If the arts really aren't your thing, then catch some form of live entertainment in the next year.
14. Create Art – Whether you do it just for yourself or you share it with someone else, create something this coming year. Tap into your creative side and maybe unleash a creativity you never knew existed inside you before. Or maybe you did know it existed, but it's time to get reacquainted again.
15. Get an Eye Exam – Don't forget about your annual eye exam! Our eye sight diminishes as we age. You may have had perfect eye sight last year, but that was last year. This is this year, so be sure to get your eyes checked!
16. Travel – Go! Be free! Too often we spend so much time in the same place that it becomes easy to forget that there's a great big world out there! Travel this year, and don't let money constrain you. It doesn't have to be a super fancy vacation, but it can also be a super fancy vacation if you want. Just get out of town for a little while. If you can, go someplace new.
17. Be Mindful, Be Grateful – Mental health is a huge component of overall health. One cannot be truly healthy without mental health. It's easy to become consumed with the negativity around us with the everyday stressors we face so often. Sometimes it is easy to lose sight of all the joy and positive things around us. Sometimes we need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and remind ourselves how truly lucky we are, and to be thankful for all of the good and positive things in our lives. Being mindful of such things and feeling genuine gratitude on a daily basis can have a lasting positive effect on your mood and overall disposition. Practice daily mindfulness exercises in this coming year, and you will be on your way to having a happy and healthy new year.