24 in ’24: Healthy New Year’s resolutions that are easy to keep
Healthy New Year’s resolutions don’t need to be super-ambitious — just achievable. Focus on breaking down those big new-year health goals into smaller and realistic goals to get more done.
Your primary care provider can help you define your personal health goals. In the meantime, here are 2024 resolutions for healthy life habits that anyone can keep.
- Keep regular sleep and wake times. One of your healthy resolutions for the new year should be to go to bed and rise at the same time every day, even on weekends. Your body will eventually adapt to the routine, making it easier for you to get to sleep at night and become alert in the morning.
- Use the bedroom for sleep only. Resist the urge to watch television, read, check social media and do other activities after you hit the sack. Blue light from your electronics interferes with the production of melatonin, which helps you get to sleep. Plus, when you associate your bedroom with complete relaxation, sleep naturally comes more easily.
- Leave yourself enough time for sleep. Sleep shouldn’t be how you spend what’s left of your day. It should be one of your biggest priorities. Make sure your daily schedule includes at least seven to eight hours of sleep.
- Unplug at the end of the day. Smartphones, tablets and laptops distract you from the important winding down process. Turn them off an hour before bedtime and practice other soothing, healthy sleep habits that cue your body and mind to relax: Change into cozy pajamas, brush your teeth, read a book, journal or practice quiet meditation.
- Dim the lights and lower the heat. Turn off the TV, shut down your phone and put your smartwatch on bedtime mode. Set your HVAC to run a few degrees cooler at night. A cool, dark bedroom you use just for sleep will improve your sleep quality.
- Eat healthier homemade food. Restaurant meals — particularly fast foods — are notoriously high in fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt. That's no way to achieve weight loss. People who prepare all or most of their meals at home are better able to control what goes into their food and enjoy a healthier diet overall. Home-delivered meal kits will save you shopping and cooking time. Want to make the effort really count? Make a big batch of your favorites, so you can enjoy leftovers when you don’t have the time or motivation to cook.
- Pile on the veggies. You don’t need to deprive yourself to keep your healthy eating New Year’s resolutions. Just indulge more in fresh, colorful vegetables. Cover three-quarters of your plate with steamed, boiled or raw veggies, generously seasoned, and go easy on the sauces.
- Prepare foods you love that just happen to be healthy. Some foods are good for you but still feel indulgent in their presentation. Think grilled seafood, fancy crudité or a charcuterie board brimming with fruits, nuts and olives. You won’t miss chips and dip with that kind of spread.
- Savor slowly. Chew food deliberately, focusing on lean proteins and vegetables first. Once you feel about 80 percent full, stop. These four easy healthy New Year’s resolutions will help you eat less without much effort. Don’t worry about “wasting” what’s left on your plate — properly refrigerate or freeze your leftovers for another meal.
- Wash hands often. Avoid colds, flu, COVID and other viruses through a good handwashing technique . Wash for at least 20 seconds with soap and water before and after touching public surfaces, eating, preparing meals, using the restroom, caring for other sick people and any time your hands look dirty.
- Keep high-traffic areas clean. A bleach-based surface cleaner can do wonders to sanitize countertops, doorknobs and other places where viruses can pass from one hand to another. When there’s no time to wipe down everything, use a generous spray of disinfectant to kill germs.
- Brush your teeth to banish gum disease. Two minutes twice a day is all you need to stave off some potentially devastating health repercussions. Make brushing part of your morning routine and bedtime ritual to rid your mouth of meddling plaque that can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Research shows that gum disease has also been linked to heart disease and Alzheimer's. That means a healthy smile may help you maintain both mental and physical well-being in the long term.
- Tackle the stairs. One of the easiest heart-healthy New Year’s resolutions is to simply change how you get from point A to point B. If you are able, why wait for an elevator to the third floor when there’s a perfectly good staircase that never breaks down? Adding extra steps to your exercise routine can quickly add up.
- Park further away from the door. Instead of cruising for the closest parking space, choose one at the far end of the lot. It's a painless way to get more physical activity. There’s not as much competition for parking, not as much risk of door dings, and you just might be inside before other drivers are done searching for a spot.
- Stretch your legs often. “Sitting is the new smoking,” so the saying goes. Hours of inactivity are dangerous to your health, but there’s a simple fix. Break the stillness cycle by taking a short walk a couple of times an hour. Set a reminder alarm or go on the hour and half hour – it all counts.
- Practice positive self-talk. Your body is an amazing feat of engineering — be kind to it. Recognize negative self-talk and body-shaming the moment you do it. Then remind yourself that you’re beautiful the way you are and you’re only getting better.
- Prioritize you. It’s not selfish, it’s necessary to give yourself top priority. While it feels good to give time and attention to friends and family, you'll reap real health benefits when you spend time looking after your own needs, too. Whether it’s a short mental break, a quiet walk, a soak in the tub or “retail therapy” at your favorite shop, your “you time” should focus on things that make you feel at peace.
- Be grateful. Misery may love company, but gratitude is a more powerful balm. Answer stressful worries and doubts with a reminder of something for which you are grateful. Healthy children. Goofy pets. A sharp mind. Friends and family who care. These things make life rich and worthwhile.
- Just add water. Build it into your daily routine in a way that makes sense to you. Make it a habit to drink 8 ounces first thing in the morning, 30 minutes before each meal and an hour after each meal. Sip the rest of the time, and you’ll be healthfully hydrated in no time.
- Cut back on alcohol. You don’t have to become a teetotaler to make meaningful changes. Just tweak your drinking habits a bit: Instead of wine, how about a wine spritzer? Or switch out your imperial stout for a light lager. Have your Old Fashioned with an ice water chaser, or enjoy your bourbon and cola, extra-heavy on the diet cola. Then, savor your sippable slowly, no matter what it is.
- Don’t drink your calories. Morning lattes, fruit drinks, smoothies and happy hour libations can add up to hundreds of calories per day in simple sugar and fat that increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, liver disease and more. Even worse, liquids aren’t satisfying, so you’ll still be hungry afterward. Cut back on liquid calories with small sacrifices and smart trade-offs: Replace syrupy frappuccinos with skinny cappuccinos; sip sparkling water instead of sparkling wine; say sayonara to smoothies and give juice boxes the boot.
- Schedule an annual physical. Touch base with your primary care physician at least once a year, even if you’re feeling fine. It’s your chance to check that your vitals are healthy (blood pressure, BMI, heart rate, cholesterol, etc.) and you’re still on the right health track. Bring with you a list of questions you wish to ask during your annual visit.
- Provide good intel. Your doctor will have questions, too. Bring updated information with you, including your current medications; recent illnesses, injuries, surgeries or hospitalizations; and new symptoms or health concerns.
- Make your primary care provider your partner in health. Your doctor is not just there to patch you up when you’re hurt or sick; they also want to help you stay healthy through preventive medicine. Your doctor or nurse practitioner will gladly work with you on a personal health plan to address your specific needs and help you keep all your healthy New Year’s resolutions. Find a primary care provider near you taking new patients.
If you need immediate care for a minor illness or injury, schedule a virtual visit with a BJC doctor or nurse practitioner. Available 7 days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for new and current patients 12 years and older.