Every year, we make New Year’s resolutions to lead happier and healthier lives, but quickly abandon these plans once we realize how daunting it is to change our bad habits.
We feel your pain. Change isn’t easy. But it’s important to remember your health and happiness can’t wait. Here are eight small changes you can make to put a smile on your face and a spring in your step:
1. Take a lunch break
Taking a break doesn't only break up the monotony of our day, but also allows us to engage in a “mental reset,” setting the stage for more healthy decisions like selecting quality foods, taking a walk, or stretching. “Although easy to neglect, it is important to prioritize lunch breaks as they can significantly help to manage stress and nutrition, largely benefiting mental and physical health,” says Dr. Lisa Benya, founder of CURE.
2. Quit smoking
Ditching a smoking habit is simply the most important way to add years to our lives and, contrary to popular belief, it is never too late to quit smoking — although the sooner the better. The longer you smoke, the more likely you are to develop irreversible health effects. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found women who quit smoking by age 35 added roughly six to eight years to their lives. It’s also well documented that those who quit smoking before 35 have a life expectancy similar to a person who has never smoked. There’s even hope for chronic smokers who may have developed lung disease, as studies have shown quitting decreases the progression of the disease and therefore prolongs life. Simply put, this is the first behavior that should be shelved.
3. Say no to TV before bedtime
A 2012 report by Circulation, an American Heart Association journal, cited that each additional hour spent in front of the TV increased the risk of dying from heart disease by 18 percent and the overall risk of death by 11 percent. So if you’re deciding between binge watching Netflix or going to the beach, pack your swimsuit.
4. Less sugar equals more life
In 2013, the World Health Organization suggested the longstanding 10 percent daily limit on sugar intake be cut in half to 5 percent, citing concern over increased risk of heart disease, obesity and tooth decay. If that’s not convincing enough, a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, reports a modest change in diet that includes eating more whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and fish and less red and processed meats and sugary beverages, may reduce the risk of premature death by as much as 17 percent over a 12 year period. Sweetened beverages are the biggest culprit in bringing about adverse health outcomes, so substitute a medium piece of fruit — about a half cup of berries — or a tablespoon of peanut butter in place of a sugary drink.
5. Stand up every 20 minutes
Of the 100,000 men and women who participated in a new study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology, those who sat for more than six hours a day were at increased risk of dying — mostly of cardiovascular disease —than those who sat for less than three hours a day.
6. If you’re almost full, stop eating!
A 2008 St. Louis University study found cutting just 300-500 calories a day from your diet could be the key to slowing the signs of aging and living longer. How, you ask? Decreasing calorie intake decreases the production of the thyroid hormone, triiodothyronine (T3), which contributes to promoting slower metabolism and tissue aging.
7. Add 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise to your routine
"The miracle cure" of performing 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, five times a week, was proven to be more powerful than many drugs administered for chronic disease prevention and management in a 2015 report from the UK’s Academy Of Medical Royal Colleges. The most important factor in benefiting from this habit is to make it routine — the colleges’ study also showed regular physical activity reduced the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia and some cancers by at least 30 percent.
8. Meet up with friends
In 2015, Brigham Young University collected almost 150 studies assessing human contact and the type of relationships people had. This meta-analysis, which looked at data over a seven-year period involving more than 300,000 people, concluded people 64 and older with adequate social relationships had about a 50 percent greater likelihood of survival than people who were isolated.