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Each January, roughly one in three Australians resolve to better themselves in some way. While about 75% of people stick to their goals for at least a week, less than half (46%) are still on target six months later, research suggests. New Year’s resolutions are very black and white: I’ve either kept them or I haven’t. That’s because many of us just give up when we “fall off the wagon.” Instead, set realistic goals that you can work on throughout the year. Realize that things won’t go well all the time, but you can make progress if you have a long-term plan. You’ll avoid the mental defeat that can occur when we don’t stick to what we’ve resolved to do.
It’s hard to keep up the enthusiasm months after you’ve swept up the confetti, but it’s not impossible. It starts with changing habits, and once those habits become the new normal, it becomes much easier to embrace this new life.
Here are 9 new year’s resolutions to consider for a healthier, happier life.
Feel like old friends (or family) have fallen by the wayside? It’s good for your health to reconnect with them. Research suggests people with strong social ties live longer than those who don’t. In fact, a lack of social bonds can damage your health as much as alcohol abuse and smoking, and even more than obesity and lack of exercise, studies have found.
When it comes to cleaning up your eating, take a tip from the Boy Scouts: Be prepared. If you want to rise above temptation, like a yummy app spread at a party, you have to think one step ahead. Meal planning is helpful, here. It also helps to have no-deprivation strategies. Eating better is often associated with misery, so it’s no wonder that so many people throw in the towel. Focusing not on subtracting food but adding food is more useful, mentally speaking, so instead of focusing on what you’re going to cut out of your diet, focus instead on what you’ll add – more fruits and vegetables to your plate. More plant-based meals. Figuring out your “why” for eating better can also better motivate yourself when you’re eyeing the dessert menu.
Thirty minutes of moderate exercise a day at least five days a week: That’s the advice for keeping your heart in tip-top shape. But it’s also a fabulous mood-booster. Even as little as an hour of exercise a week can reduce future risk of depression, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Exercise increases blood flow in the brain and that, in turn, boosts both production and availability of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. The more neurotransmitters we have, the better we feel.
No matter how old you are, starting a new class can help revamp your curiosity for life, introduce you to new friends, and even boost your brainpower. A 2007 study found that middle-age adults who had gone back to school (including night school) sometime in the previous quarter century had stronger memories and verbal skills than those who did not. What’s more, several studies have linked higher educational attainment to a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. You are gaining a sense of accomplishment by gaining new knowledge, and you are out there meeting people and creating possibilities that were never there before.
While much has been written about the health benefits of a small amount of alcohol, too much tippling is still the bigger problem. Drinking alcohol in excess affects the brain’s neurotransmitters and can increase the risk of depression, memory loss, or even seizures. Chronic heavy drinking boosts your risk of liver and heart disease, hypertension, stroke, and mental deterioration, and even cancers of the mouth, throat, liver, and breast.