As we ring in the new year, many of us will make resolutions about what we want to accomplish in our work and personal lives.
Experts say the most promising resolutions are aimed at improving one's health through changes in lifestyle or habits.
Actually, making New Year's resolutions to take on a healthier lifestyle need not be seen as unpleasant.
Within a short time, feeling healthier with more energy convinces people that a new approach to behaviors like diet and activity is worthwhile and improves your quality of life.
Experts offer the following tips to ensure a healthier and happier 2012:
- Don't smoke. Millions Americans smoke today, despite the fact that it increases the risk for a number of deadly diseases. If you want to quit smoking, smoking cessation programs can provide the support and reinforcement needed during the difficult withdrawal period. Check with your employer or health plan to find out if these programs are offered.
- Watch your diet. Routine physical inactivity and overeating can lead to obesity and high blood cholesterol - major risk factors for heart disease. To help reduce risk, limit intake of foods containing saturated fat, such as meat and dairy products. On average, fat intake should represent no more than 30 percent of your total daily calories. And daily cholesterol intake should be limited to 250 to 300 milligrams. Regular exercise - ideally at least three times a week - can also help strengthen and condition the heart
- Schedule routine screenings. Make sure you have had all of your routine screenings and immunizations. This applies to children and adults alike. For example, women over 40 should talk with their doctors about the need for routine mammography to help protect against breast cancer. Regular blood pressure and cholesterol screenings are also highly recommended for adults.
- Manage your stress. Stress can have a negative impact on your health. Stress-related disorders, such as alcoholism, heart disease, ulcers, hypertension and emotional distress have become common among Americans. However, stress management programs, offered by employers and local community organizations, teach a variety of strategies and behaviors to help achieve and maintain happier, healthier and more productive lives.
For many, making New Year's resolutions is the easy part of the New Year.
Keeping those resolutions is much more difficult. Here, University of Michigan experts give suggestions on how to make resolutions so that they are easier to keep, and tips on how to keep them:
- Choose a habit to change that is not so deeply ingrained that it is impossible to dent it.
- Take stock of the bad habit so you know what you are up against. What is it; how often to do you do it; what are the circumstances?
- Have a specific, concrete goal in mind. Losing 15 pounds is a better goal than getting into shape.
- Acknowledge intermediate steps and avoid black-white thinking in evaluating your progress.
- Make a public declaration of your intent. Shame and humiliation can be powerful motivators.
- Find a partner in change. Misery loves miserable company.
- Cultivate a replacement activity. It is easier to say no to one thing while also saying yes to another.
- Try to change your routine and surroundings. This will help dislodge the habit.
- Don't resort to bizarre strategies - such as grapefruit and vodka diets to lose weight - that you cannot sustain for the rest of your life.
Maybe the best advice is just to forget about any New Year's resolutions. Learn to love yourself the way you are.