We’ve all made live-healthier declarations at the start of the new year. The problem is, most of the time, they’re just too grand. Big goals tend to be unrealistic and set you up for failure. The key to making resolutions stick is to take little steps toward your main goal.
- Want to lose weight? Resolve to sit down whenever you eat. This simple behavioral change can help you lose several pounds without even trying. We tend to eat more quickly when we’re standing and miss our body’s “fullness” signal that tells us when we’ve had enough. When you sit, you’ll eat more slowly and savor each bite, which will help you feel more satisfied.
- Want to eat healthier? Resolve to snack on one-ingredient foods. Many of us get a quarter of our day’s calories from snacks, most of which aren’t healthy. Switch to one-ingredient snacks (think fruits, yogurt, nuts) or combos of one-ingredient foods (such as trail mix) and you’ll eat fewer packaged and processed foods, which will help boost nutrition while decreasing calories.
- Want to exercise regularly? Resolve to walk at least five minutes daily. It may not sound like very much, especially when you’ve heard that you need to do at least 30 minutes daily. But at this point, it’s all about setting the groundwork to make exercise a habit. Building a habit gradually and consistently makes it more likely that you’ll stick with it long-term. After the first week or two, bump up those walks to 10 minutes; keep adding five minutes every week until you’re walking 30 minutes or more every day.
- Want to lower your disease risk? Resolve to substitute beans for meat two meals each week. Studies show that people who eat more plant-based foods, which are lower in calories and richer in antioxidants than animal-based foods, have fewer incidents of chronic illness, including heart disease and diabetes. Some easy ways to get your beans: Swap out beef for black and red beans in burritos and chili; instead of steak or meat loaf, serve a heart minestrone soup and whole-grain bread.
- Want to quit smoking? Resolve to talk to your doctor. Advice and help from doctors can more than double odds a smoker will quit successfully. Quitting smoking may be the single most effective thing you do to improve your life expectancy.
- Want to reduce stress? Resolve to take time for yourself. Set aside time to think and relax. Make time for activities that are important to you, such as your spirituality or a personal hobby.
- Want to feel smarter? Resolve to do something uncomfortable. Stimulate your brain by moving out of your comfort zone and trying something new. Learn some phrases in a foreign language, attempt a challenging puzzle, take a new route for your daily commute or take a class in something new that interests you. Your brain needs exercise too.