Forty-five percent of Americans set New Year’s resolutions, according to Statistic Brain. Less than half of these people maintain success longer than six months. Health and fitness resolutions are among the most common and, it seems, the least likely to stick.
While a bit daunting, these low success rates shouldn’t keep you from striving for a healthier lifestyle. One major reason resolutions tend to fail is the tendency to aim too high. Set realistic goals you find enjoyable and you’ll be on the path to lasting success.
1. Color your plates.
I’m not talking about colorful candy or frosting. Emphasizing fruits and vegetables in your meals is one of the healthiest dietary steps you can take. By focusing on increasing these nutrient-packed foods versus avoiding others, you’re more likely to succeed. (A restrictive mindset sends many folks off the low-nutrient food deep end.) Choose colorful produce, such as berries and dark greens, for maximum antioxidant benefits. Fruits and veggies also provide fiber and water, which promote appetite control and digestive health.
2. Meditate for a few minutes each day.
A bit of stillness may be just what you need for a healthier, more productive lifestyle. As someone prone to hyperactivity, it took me years to get to the point where I could sit in stillness — I’m telling you, it’s worth it. Routine meditation is linked with improved immune function, moods, happiness, self-control and even emotional intelligence. If clearing your mind seems impossible, fear not. There’s no need to “empty” your mind. Commit to five to 20 minutes of meditation per day — in silence or to music.
3. Make exercise more fun.
When physical activity feels like a major chore, you’ll probably lose motivation over time. Aim to make workouts fun. Rather than resolving to run daily if you dislike running, for example, sign up for a new class, such as spinning or Pilates. Replace worn-out workout clothes for colorful threads you feel great wearing. Add fun to hiking with music or friends.
4. Establish a healthy sleep routine.
Getting sufficient nightly sleep is both uncommon and extremely important. A lack of sleep is associated with foggy thinking, reduced life quality and productivity and a heightened risk for chronic diseases, such as depression, diabetes, cancer and obesity. To dodge these risks, the National Sleep Foundation recommends sticking to fairly routine sleep and waking times, limiting caffeine and other stimulants — especially later in the day — and making sure your sleep environment is dark and relaxing.
5. Walk a dog.
Both you and your dog need exercise. Pairing the two isn’t only enjoyable, it’s also health-promoting. People who walk dogs tend to have higher overall levels of moderate and vigorous physical activity than those who don’t walk dogs and exercise about 30 minutes more per week, according to research. If you don’t have a pooch of your own, consider volunteering to walk dogs from a shelter.
6. Prioritize intimacy.
People who make efforts to maintain long-term, quality relationships tend to have better overall health and happiness. No matter how hectic life gets, prioritize emotional and physical intimacy by respecting your partner, communicating and making time to connect in and outside of the bedroom. Hugs and sex can strengthen immune function and a sense of well-being while minimizing stress.
To help ensure long-term success, take time to talk about your resolution with a loved one. While you’re at it, add monthly reminders to your calendar for the year. As you move along, keep in mind that regrouping, as needed, isn’t a sign of failure. Recommitting or adjusting your goals if they end up feeling realistic will only strengthen the outcome.
August McLaughlin is a nationally recognized health and sexuality writer, former nutritional therapist and creator of the empowering brand Girl Boner®, with work appearing in DAME magazine, the Huffington Post and more. Known for melding personal passion, artistry and activism, August uses her skills as a public speaker and journalist to inspire women to embrace their bodies and selves, making way for fuller, more authentic lives.