The hard part
Millions of Americans will make New Year’s resolutions this week, but not everyone will have success in accomplishing them. Making resolutions is easy, sticking to them is the hard part. Research has shown that you are more likely to achieve a goal that matches your own interests and values rather than one that reflects outside pressures or expectations. In other words, the motivation should come from you, not someone else. One way to achieve your goal is to put it in writing. Write a list of all the benefits of your New Year’s resolution, and then put it where you’ll see it every day. Another one is to tell someone else about your goals, this helps you make a commitment to them. It’s also a good idea to plan ahead. Think of a contingency plan to battle temptation. Perhaps you could take a walk instead of having a doughnut or a cigarette. And don’t be afraid to take baby steps. Don’t set your goals too high, and remember to take it one day at a time.
Cutting back on alcohol
One of the more popular New Year’s resolutions is giving up or cutting back on alcohol consumption. 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. To help control your drinking, try staying away from people you normally drink with or places where you would drink. Plan activities you enjoy that do not involve drinking. Be sure to keep alcohol out of your home. Create a polite but firm way of refusing a drink when you are offered one. Talk with someone you trust when you have the urge to drink. Follow your plan to handle your urges to drink and remind yourself why you decided to quit.
Did you make a New Year’s resolution to spend less time procrastinating and more time focused on things that are important? Think about the top three priorities in your life and determine whether you manage your time in accordance with these priorities. For example, you may often worry that you don’t spend enough time with your family, but you don’t change anything and only continue to worry, maybe worrying even more because you never resolved the concern. If you can close the gap between what you say you want to do and what you actually do, you can have a healthier, happier life. You may have to make some changes. If you can’t, try to determine what barriers are preventing you from spending time on your priorities. If you’re committed to dedicating more time to the top three priorities in your life but you’re having difficulty doing so, seek out a professional counselor who can help you develop an action plan to assess and overcome those barriers.
Quitting smoking is one of the most common resolutions Americans make during this time of year. Many say that the longer you smoke, the harder it is to quit, but the benefits of quitting never change. Although 70 percent of smokers want to quit and 35 percent attempt to quit each year, less than 5 percent succeed. Former smokers live longer than continuing smokers, according to the Surgeon General’s office, which pointed out that people who quit smoking before the age of 50 have one-half the risk of dying in the next 15 years compared to those who continue smoking. Quitting decreases the risk of lung cancer, heart attack, stroke, and chronic lung disease. The benefits of quitting far exceed any risks associated with the average 5-pound weight gain or adverse psychological effects that may follow quitting. Giving up smoking will leave you with a cleaner mouth, brighter smile and decreased risk for heart attack as well as thinner blood and lower cholesterol levels.
Work and walk
If you made a New Year’s resolution to add physical activity to your daily routine, here are some tips you can do in your workplace. Try printing to a printer located further away from your work area. Consider printing one floor up or down and take the stairs. Park at a remote parking lot and walk to the office. The further away you park, the more activity you can include in your day. How about walking and talking? Have a walking meeting or step in place while talking on the phone. Start meetings with five to 10 minutes of stretching or activity, or add in stretch or activity time mid-way through long meetings. Do 60- to 90-second standing breaks for every hour you sit. Keep a set of hand weights by your desk. Use them three or four times a day for muscle strengthening. Also, many employers offer weight management programs and on-site fitness programs to encourage and support employees with establishing and maintaining healthy lifestyle behaviors.
Trusted by thousands of listeners every week, T. Glenn Pait, M.D., began offering expert advice as the host of UAMS’ “Here’s to Your Health” program in 1996. Dr. Pait began working at UAMS in 1994 and has been practicing medicine for over 20 years.