7 healthy New Year’s resolutions you can actually keep

The beginning of a new year is a great time to make healthy lifestyle changes, give up bad habits, and improve your well-being. It’s no wonder that many Americans celebrate the New Year by resolving to get healthier. The most popular New Year’s resolutions include getting more exercise, losing weight, and eating a healthier diet. While only a small percentage of people actually keep their resolutions, here are some steps you can take to get healthier in the year ahead and achieve your health goals.

1. Lose weight and keep it off

A resolution to lose weight is one of the most important steps you can take toward better health. Losing just five to ten percent of your body weight can help lower your risk of chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. While fad diets may help you lose weight fast, you’re more likely to experience successful, long-term weight loss if you have a goal of losing about one to two pounds per week.

If you’re ready to start shedding pounds, eat healthy food, get regular physical activity, and follow these 10 weight-loss tips that really work.

2. Eat a healthy diet

Healthy eating involves both what you eat and how you eat. Getting your recommended servings of fruits and vegetables each day is important because fruits and veggies are low in calories and fat, high in fiber, and rich sources of vitamins and minerals. Foods that contain fiber keep you feeling full, which helps you lose weight.

Eating too fast can cause you to overeat, so slow down and chew each bite carefully. Turn off the TV, put your phone away, and enjoy the textures and flavors of the meal. As you eat, it can take your brain up to 20 minutes to get the message from your stomach that you’re no longer hungry, so stop eating before you feel full.

3. Sit less, move more

If you haven’t exercised for a while, going to a gym every day may not be a realistic goal. Making a resolution to simply add more physical activity into your daily life is more attainable. An easy way to become active is to sit less and move more. Park farther away from the entrance to the grocery store, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and exercise while you watch TV.

Any amount of physical activity has some health benefits, so if you have a few minutes, you have time to exercise. Finding time for fitness when you’re busy is easier than you may think. If you have limited mobility, find out how to exercise in a chair.

As you become more physically active, you’ll start to feel better over time—and you won’t feel quite right if you go back to your old ways.

4. Schedule an annual checkup

Seeing your primary care doctor each year and taking advantage of your preventive care benefits can help you stay healthy. Regular checkups and preventive screenings allow your doctor to identify minor health issues before they become bigger problems. And treatment is often more effective when an illness is detected early.

Be sure to visit your doctor each year for a regular checkup, even if you feel healthy.

5. Take steps to reduce stress

Learning how to manage stress is an important part of taking care of yourself and maintaining good overall mental and physical health. If your stress is getting out of control, simple activities like practicing breathing exercises, going for a walk, or listening to music can help restore calm to your life. Chronic stress takes a toll on your health and well-being, so explore healthy ways to relieve stress.

6. Get more sleep

Good quality sleep boosts your immune system and promotes emotional wellness by giving your mind time to rest and recharge. Establishing a relaxing bedtime routine, limiting screen time before bed, and creating a quiet sleep environment can help you get the sleep you need. If you suffer from insomnia, take steps to reduce stress and follow these 9 tips for better sleep.

7. Create a plan to stop smoking

Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body and is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Smokeless tobacco causes cancer of the mouth and can lead to nicotine addiction. If you use tobacco, make a plan to quit. Your doctor or healthcare provider can refer you to local resources and help you create a quit plan that is right for you.

If you have tried to quit but started smoking or chewing tobacco again, here are 5 ways to resist tobacco cravings that can improve your chances of quitting for good.

How to keep your New Year’s resolutions

Following through on your New Year’s resolution is challenging. You’re more likely to succeed if you set goals that fit your lifestyle. Creating healthy new habits takes time and energy.

Be specific. Rather than saying you want to lose weight, define exactly how much weight you want to lose. (Remember, a healthy goal is to lose one to two pounds per week.) Don’t just say you want to exercise more—make a commitment to exercise for 30 minutes, five days a week. If you need help defining a specific health goal for the new year, work with your doctor or healthcare provider to create a plan. You doctor can also make sure you have the resources you need to make it happen.

Be realistic. If you haven’t exercised in years, resolving to start training for a marathon isn’t realistic. If you rarely eat vegetables, rather than making a commitment to eat five servings of vegetables every day for the rest of your life, try adding one serving of a fruit or vegetable to a meal each day. Work your way up to five servings per day over the course of the year.

Track your success. If your goal is to be more active, a wearable fitness tracker can help you stay motivated. If you want to stop smoking, keep track of how much money you have saved by not buying cigarettes.

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. You don’t have to be perfect. If healthy eating is your goal, that doesn’t mean you have to give up all of the foods you love at once. Try making one or two small changes at a time. Allowing yourself the occasional salty snack or piece of chocolate can actually help you stay on track and achieve your long-term goals.

Celebrate your milestones. Break your overall goals into smaller items, and reward yourself for each step you accomplish. Join an online support group. Get a hug from your spouse or child. Or treat yourself to a massage.

Making a healthy New Year’s resolution focused on your well-being is an important first step. Following these tips can help make sure you stay on track toward becoming a healthier, happier you.