1. By Milka Gronlund, Ph.D., Psy.D.

The beginning of a New Year is a great time to get focused on creating a healthy and happy new you. Have you ever started a new program in the beginning of the year and then given it after a few weeks? Consistency is the key for long term success and good health. Few short weeks might not be enough for long-term health and happiness. This short article looks into some of the key areas in wellness and gives some simple tips on how to establish a long-term healthy lifestyle.

10 steps to the New You

  1. Exercise is important for health. It not only helps with looks and energy levels, but also with prevention of chronic diseases, such as heart disease. How about finding a few 30-minute blocks of time per week to do some circuit training? How about doing push-ups and sit-ups during lunch break or when returning home- before relaxing on the couch or eating dinner? Sometimes excuses get ridiculous. It really does not take that much time and effort to get at least a little exercise done. The investment in time is most likely well worth the effort (American Heart Association- AHA). Here is a target heart rate calculator: http://www.cancer.org/healthy/toolsandcalculators/calculators/app/target-heart-rate-calculator
  2. Nutrition can help you stay healthy and productive. Some people are on restricted diets due to health reasons, while others eat whatever they feel like eating. We make choices about food all the time. Why not make good choices from now on? This is a good time to learn what your body appreciates in terms of nutrition and learn to eat accordingly. There are many helpful resources available for this, including the FoodTracker by the United States Department of Agriculture www.choosemyplate.gov/supertracker (USDA). Here is a nutrition and activity quiz: http://www.cancer.org/healthy/toolsandcalculators/quizzes/nutrition-activity-quiz/index.htm. In case you have issues with overeating, you can support at www.oa.org.
  3. Stress Reduction can not only help one be healthier but also live life more calmly and peacefully. Lower stress levels can be better for mood and physical health. How about doing some yoga, meditation or relaxation exercises during lunch break? What about a walk or a jog in the morning before going to work? There are many ways to lower stress levels. This is a great time to start a few stress management techniques for better health and happiness (AHA). Here is a calculator for calories burned during an activity: http://www.cancer.org/healthy/toolsandcalculators/calculators/app/exercise-counts-calculator
  4. Laughter is good for the mental health and physical health. According to the American Heart Association, laughter lowers stress levels, which promotes good health. There are many ways to add more laughter to your life. How about spending time with friends, accepting things that cannot change, finding joy in life, getting enough sleep, not worrying, facing your fears and watching a funny movie once in a while (AHA)?
  5. Weight management is important in order for one to be healthy. Excess weight and excess body fat is associated with many health problems, including heart disease and diabetes. Many people are in denial and avoid facing the unfortunate reality that they are overweight and over fat. How about starting to monitor your weight, body fat and the body mass index? There are many reasonably priced scales that can provide these important health numbers. This information can perhaps help keep one motivated to exercise and eat healthy. Here is a BMI calculator: http://www.cancer.org/healthy/toolsandcalculators/calculators/app/body-mass-calculator. BMI level is an indication of good health for a person with normal body composition. BMI over 25 is considered overweight. BMI takes into consideration the weight and the height. Muscles mass is not a part of the calculation. It might not be the most appropriate test for an athlete due to greater muscles mass and lower fat percentage. For women who are breastfeeding or pregnant, the BMI will not be accurate (AHA).
  6. Clean lifestyle might feel difficult to achieve. Toxic substances, toxic home environment, toxic relationships and toxic foods can all make us feel miserable, unhealthy and unhappy. How about keeping your home organized and clean, bills paid and closet in order? How about living without drugs, alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes? The New Year is a great time to start with a new clean lifestyle. It is worth it. You might be able to help prevent skin cancer by practicing proper sun safety. If you are interested in quitting drinking, you can get started by visiting www.aa.org. Here is a sun safety quiz for the prevention of skin cancer: http://www.cancer.org/healthy/toolsandcalculators/quizzes/app/sun-safety-quiz
  7. Sleep is important not just for overall health, but also for the prevention of heart disease. It is needed for weight loss. If one is having problems with sleep, physical exercise might help one sleep better. It is best to avoid alcohol and caffeine in order for one to sleep better (AHA). According to a recent study by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, lack of sleep is linked to higher pain sensitivity. People who had difficulty sleeping registered more pain and discomfort.
  8. Smoke Free Lifestyle. Smoking can cause premature death and it is associated with many health risks (AHA). There are resources available to help you quit smoking.  Here are some of them www.smokefree.gov, 1-800 QUITNOW and www.lungusa.org. This is a good time to get serious about toxins in your environment and body. Following link is a smoking habits quiz: http://www.cancer.org/healthy/toolsandcalculators/quizzes/app/smoking-habits-quiz.
  9. Spiritually fulfilled life is good for your health. Being able to accept things that cannot change can be positive for stress reductions and overall outlook in life (AHA). According to the American Cancer Society, spirituality is linked to better quality of life” and help with coping and provide comfort during cancer treatment (AHA). Spirituality can be very positive for health and happiness. 

Change can be difficult at times, but often not impossible. Why not get started today with small changes and then build your strength, momentum and health from then on? Be sure to consult your doctor prior to making any changes to your diet, lifestyle and exercise. Your health matters.


American Cancer Society, www.cancer.org

American Heart Association, www.heart.org retrieved

Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, http://www.niams.nih.gov/News_and_Events/Spotlight_on_Research/2013/ra_pain_sleep.asp

United States Department of Agriculture, https://www.supertracker.usda.gov

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