If you’re like most people, you know the routine all too well: You start January 1 with a tank full of willpower. But after a few weeks of being on your best behavior, you go from “giving it your all” to “giving up.”
The biggest mistake people make when making New Year’s resolutions is getting too ambitious. They take on too much too fast, and end up falling flat. The key to successful resolving is choosing realistic goals—and then taking slow, deliberate steps to achieve them.
What are some examples of “realistic resolutions?” Well, we’re glad you asked. Here are five that pretty much anyone could—and should, for that matter—keep.
Drink (more) water.
Proper hydration has all kinds of health benefits: It helps regulate your body temperature, lubricates your joints, protects your spinal cord, and expedites waste removal. To make sure you’re getting enough H2O, invest in a reusable bottle and keep it with you throughout the day. How much should you drink? It varies by individual, but a good goal to shoot for is 64 ounces—that’s eight eight-ounce glasses—a day.
Eat (good) fat.
There are plenty of “good fats” out there; you just have to know where to look. As a general rule, stay away from saturated fats and trans fats; they contribute to cholesterol problems. Look instead for heart-healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which occurs naturally in olive oil, peanut oil, and corn oil. Also seek out omega-3 fatty acids in salmon, tuna, and trout, and nuts like walnuts and sunflower seeds. They may actually decrease your risk of coronary heart disease.
Get up and walk.
Research has shown long periods of sitting to be linked to numerous health concerns, including obesity and high blood pressure. That makes it a pretty good idea to devote time to the opposite of sitting: walking. The health benefits of physical activity are well documented, and you don’t have to be an endurance athlete to enjoy them. A good starting goal: Get out of your chair for short walks at least twice daily. Also, park far away from the entrance to the supermarket and take the stairs at the office. Whenever walking is an option, take it.
Stress is a natural part of life. But too much of it can take a big toll on your health. It can affect your digestive system, cause sleeplessness, depress your immune system, and even contribute to heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses. So make a point of fitting a stress-reducing activity into your daily routine. It could be walking, meditating, practicing deep breathing, or any other number of activities. The important thing is to take steps to control stress, instead of letting it control you.
Life, even in the best of times, has its challenges. How we respond to those challenges can have a big impact on our overall health. When things don’t go your way, try your best to look on the bright side, and avoid negative self-talk. Health researchers are beginning to see a link between positive thinking and lower rates of depression, greater resistance to the common cold, and better overall psychological and physical well-being.
Finally: Don’t be too hard on yourself if you slip up on any of these resolutions. Although the title of this post says “anyone” can keep them, it’s equally true that anyone can make a mistake every now and then. If you find yourself lapsing into old habits, think of it is as a minor setback instead of a total failure. Besides, even if you only succeed 50% of the time in keeping these resolutions, you’re still going to be significantly healthier—and happier—in 2018. So keep your head up, and treat every day as a new opportunity to strengthen your resolve.