Are You Making The Wrong Resolutions?

A woman smiling while sitting outside in a chairFor many people, a new year equals a new commitment to lose weight. Or workout more. Or eat less junk food. Some of these people will succeed…but most won’t.

In fact, according to studies, four out of five people who make New Year’s resolutions will eventually break them…and a third won’t even make it to the end of January.

Here are five clues that you’re focusing on the wrong resolutions (and a few more that you can REALLY commit to):

LIKE BlackDoctor.org on Facebook! Get Your Daily Medicine…For LIFE!

You’re trying to change too much. One mistake people make is attempting to change too much at once. The behaviors associated with them can be hard to maintain.

You’re too focused on the wrong goals. If you want to lose weight, and tend to eat too much, you should ask yourself why you overeat. If it’s because you’re stressed, or not getting enough sleep, then your real focus needs to be on that. By default, it may then be easier to manage the bad habits that result from the real problem.

You’re not flexible enough with your goals. When health goals fall short, people often give up instead of readjusting those goals. For example, your resolution is to work out in the morning, but you keep oversleeping. Instead of opting to try working out at lunch, you just give up altogether.

You’re not being very nice to yourself. According to a 2007 study published the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, highly restrictive eaters who were taught to think more self-compassionately about how they eat ate less candy compared to the restrictive eaters who were not taught to be self-compassionate. Why? People who treat themselves with compassion might be more successful because they are less motivated to compensate for negative feelings by adopting unhealthy behaviors.

Try these resolution tips:

Choose goals you can actually manage. For example, if you haven’t been exercising at all, try to fit in activity for 15 minutes most days of the week. Or, instead of saying “I’m going to eat all healthy food and never eat junk food again,” pick one area of your diet to focus on, such as drinking more water every day. Once you’re used to this new behavior, then you can add on from there.

Choose goals you actually need. Check the all the areas of your life to figure out what changes really need to be made. Are you getting enough sleep every night? Do you spend quality time with your loved ones? Healthy actions tend to affect various areas of your life, so just because you don’t have a specific resolution to go to the gym every single day doesn’t mean you won’t end up losing pounds as a result of being healthier in other aspects of your life.

Instead of giving up restaurants, learn how to share. When eating out, split an entree and dessert with your friend or a loved one (or, when placing your order, ask for half of it to be wrapped up to go immediately). You’ll save calories and money.

Eat your veggies first. Stuffing yourself with produce, such as salad, before every meal is a good way to cut calories. A study from Pennsylvania State University conducted an experiment during which 42 women were given pasta dinners. When the women ate salad before the main course, they reduced their calorie intake by 12 percent.

Experiment with foods you’re not used to. Don’t make a resolution to overhaul you’re entire diet…these types of resolutions generally fail. Instead, find a couple of changes you can easily make, then go from there. For example, if you want to eat more whole grains instead of refined and processed foods, choose one or two whole grain products you like, such as brown rice and/or wheat bread. Make sure to experiment until you find substitutions you actually like…or you’ll be more likely to just give up.

Do something new with a loved one. In one study, couples were assigned a weekly date night. One group did pleasant but familiar activities such as dinner with friends or a movie. The other group chose new activities they both enjoyed, such as going to the amusement park or taking a pottery class. Based on answers to relationship tests, the couples doing new things showed far more improvement in the quality of their marriage after 10 weeks than couples who did the same things every week.

Use a pedometer. If you attach a pedometer to your belt, you will move more. In November, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study that showed people who used pedometers to monitor their daily activity walked about 2,000 more steps every day, or about one extra mile, compared to those who wore covered pedometers and couldn’t monitor their steps. People who used pedometers also showed statistically meaningful drops in body mass index and blood pressure.

Stop making so many resolutions! Studies suggest that willpower is very limited. If you make too many resolutions, you won’t have enough willpower to stick to all of them. It’s better to make one or two resolutions, as opposed to five.

The 9 Best Resolutions For Your Health (And Happiness)

New Year's resolutions written out on a chalkboardNew Year’s resolutions. We know you’ve made a few. Like the year before that. And the year before that. So quick question: are you going to actually keep them this time around?

LIKE BlackDoctor.org on Facebook! Get Your Daily Medicine…For LIFE!

Each January, roughly one in three Americans resolve to better themselves in some way. A much smaller percentage of people actually make good on those resolutions. While about 75% of people stick to their goals for at least a week, less than half (46%) are still on target six months later, a 2002 study found.

It’s hard to keep up the enthusiasm months after you’ve swept up the confetti, but it’s not impossible. This year, pick one of the following worthy resolutions, and stick with it. Here’s to your health!

Shed The Weight…Finally

The fact that this is perennially among the most popular resolutions suggests just how difficult it is to commit to. But you can succeed if you don’t expect overnight success. “You want results yesterday, and desperation mode kicks in,” says Pam Peeke, MD, author of Body for Life for Women. “Beware of the valley of quickie cures.”

Also, plan for bumps in the road. Use a food journal to keep track of what you eat and have a support system in place. “Around week four to six…people become excuse mills,” Dr. Peeke says. “That’s why it’s important to have someone there on a regular basis to get you through those rough times.”

Keep In Touch

Feel like old friends (or family) have fallen by the wayside? It’s good for your health to reconnect with them. Research suggests people with strong social ties live longer than those who don’t.

In fact, a lack of social bonds can damage your health as much as alcohol abuse and smoking, and even more than obesity and lack of exercise, a 2010 study in the journal PLoS Medicine suggests.

In a technology-fixated era, it’s never been easier to stay in touch—or rejuvenate your relationship—with friends and family, so fire up Facebook and follow up with in-person visits.

Save Money

Save money by making healthy lifestyle changes. Walk or ride your bike to work, or explore carpooling. (That means more money in your pocket and less air pollution.)

Cut back on gym membership costs by exercising at home. Many fitness programs on videogame systems like Nintendo’s Wii Wii Fit Plus and Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect Your Shape Fitness Evolved can get you sweating.

Take stock of what you have in the fridge and make a grocery list. Aimless supermarket shopping can lead to poor choices for your diet and wallet.

Stress Less

A little pressure now and again won’t kill us; in fact, short bouts of stress give us an energy boost. But if stress is chronic, it can increase your risk of—or worsen—insomnia, depression, obesity, heart disease, and more.

Long work hours, little sleep, no exercise, poor diet, and not spending time with family and friends can contribute to stress, says Roberta Lee, MD, an integrative medicine specialist at Beth Israel Medical Center, in New York City, and the author of The Super Stress Solution.

“Stress is an inevitable part of life,” she says. “Relaxation, sleep, socializing, and taking vacations are all things we tell ourselves we deserve but don’t allow ourselves to have.”

Volunteer

We tend to think our own bliss relies on bettering ourselves, but our happiness also increases when we help others, says Peter Kanaris, PhD, coordinator of public education for the New York State Psychological Association.

And guess what? Happiness is good for your health. A 2010 study found that people with positive emotions were about 20% less likely than their gloomier peers to have a heart attack or develop heart disease. Other research suggests that positive emotions can make people more resilient and resourceful.

“Someone who makes this sort of resolution is likely to obtain a tremendous personal benefit in the happiness department,” Kanaris says.

Learn Something New

No matter how old you are, heading back to the classroom can help revamp your career, introduce you to new friends, and even boost your brainpower.

A 2007 study found that middle-age adults who had gone back to school (including night school) sometime in the previous quarter century had stronger memories and verbal skills than those who did not. What’s more, several studies have linked higher educational attainment to a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

“You are gaining a sense of accomplishment by gaining new knowledge, and you are out there meeting people and creating possibilities that were never there before,” Kanaris says.

Drink Less

While much has been written about the health benefits of a small amount of alcohol, too much tippling is still the bigger problem. (In fact, binge drinking seems to be on the rise.)

Drinking alcohol in excess affects the brain’s neurotransmitters and can increase the risk of depression, memory loss, or even seizures.

Chronic heavy drinking boosts your risk of liver and heart disease, hypertension, stroke, and mental deterioration, and even cancers of the mouth, throat, liver, and breast.

Sleep More

You probably already know that a good night’s rest can do wonders for your mood—and appearance. But sleep is more beneficial to your health than you might realize.

A lack of sleep has been linked to a greater risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. And sleep is crucial for strengthening memories (a process called consolidation).

So take a nap—and don’t feel guilty about it.

And…enjoy a healthier, happier year!