As you get ready for 2016, you’ve no doubt already gotten your goals for the new year all put together. Are they the same as last year’s? Or the year before? Let’s shake them up a bit and include some goals that are concrete and do-able, different from ones you’ve made in years past. How about making it a goal to build good health habits but not habits like “exercising more” or “eating healthier” or “cutting down on drinking;” set goals for your health that are specific, trackable and easy to maintain.
The best place to start creating those goals is to do a down-and-dirty personal inventory. Look at your life, your body, your relationships and your overall health and evaluate:
- Weight: Is it close to the suggested body mass index (BMI) for your height?
- Diet: Write down everything you eat for three days in a row and see how much fast food, sugar and snacks you eat.
- Eating: Different from diet, track when you eat. Are you eating breakfast? Do you often skip breakfast and lunch, then chow down at dinnertime? Do you find yourself regularly feeling tired at the same time every day?
- Sleep: Track your sleep for a week; there are several apps and wearable tech that can help. Look at how often you wake up during the night and whether you’re getting at least seven hours of sleep regularly.
- Movement: We’re not talking exercise here. Look at how much movement you do during the day. Do you work at a desk job? How long do you sit throughout the day? After work, do you come home and plop yourself in front of your television?
- Mood: Are you grumpy and irritable most of the time? Do you just feel “flat?” Is there a lot of stress in your life? If so, what is the root cause?
- Health: Do you have constant aches and pains? Do you feel like you’re always coming down with something?
Doing a personal inventory may seem silly or difficult, but it’s important to do twice a year. A personal inventory will allow you to look at an overall picture of yourself and see if there may be one or two areas influencing others. For instance, if you find yourself grumpy and irritable most of the time, it may be because your blood sugar is low from skipping a meal or not getting enough quality sleep. If you feel like you go from one illness to another, it may be your diet or the fact that you spend most of the time sitting inside.
There may also be some concrete health issues going on, so the first thing on your list of goals for the new year, after your personal inventory, is schedule an annual physical. Even if you feel healthy as a horse, getting an annual physical is essential for everyone. Loren, a personal trainer in Clinton, Iowa, says she skipped her annual physical for a few years. She was very physically fit, but she was constantly tired. She says, “After my dad died suddenly, I decided I’d better get a physical done. I hadn’t gone in a while, so it was time. As soon as the doctor started her exam, she stopped and asked if I had felt a lump in my breast; I told her I had forgotten to do my self-checks in over a year. Turns out what she found was Stage 3 breast cancer. My doctor saved my life.” Imagine what would have happened if Loren continued going about her business as usual and never had her exam.
Here are some good, trackable health goals to set for yourself in the new year:
- Annual physical and eye exams. Schedule them as soon as you can toward the beginning of the year so you remember.
- Eat protein every two hours. A small protein bar, a piece of cheese or a protein shake would be great between meals, at around 10 am and 2 pm. Eating or drinking even a small amount of protein every two hours helps avoid the slump at 11 and 2.
- A good bedtime routine. Get into the habit of taking a warm shower before bed, a cup of the decaf version of your favorite non-alcoholic hot beverage, reading a book or any combination of these are excellent ways of getting into the mood to sleep.
- Regularly get seven hours of quality sleep each night. If you have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, the bedtime routine will help, but you may need something else added to the mix before you reach for the sleeping pills. Try turning on an app that provides ambient noise or calming meditative thoughts. Perhaps having a fan on in the room would help. Try different things until you find the right mix. Jack, a freelance cartoonist in Detroit, said he found the issue with interrupted sleep was actually his animals. “Around 2 a.m. each morning, my cats would start fighting for space on the bed.” The solution? He banished his two cats and one dog from the bedroom at bedtime.
- Park away from the store, the office building or the mall, so you have to walk further. Any movement is good movement when added to a mostly-sedentary lifestyle.
- Take your lunch for a walk. Even if you just walk around the office a few times during lunch, walk. During good weather, walk around the building outside or walk to the nearest lunch spot. You’re not adding a lot of movement, but it’ll be regular and it’s hard to ignore lunchtime.
- Move every hour. Set a timer so you get up out of your chair for five minutes every hour during waking hours, whether you’re at home or at work. Again, any movement is good movement.
- Laugh. They say that laughter is the best medicine and they’re absolutely right. The more you laugh throughout the day, the happier you’ll be overall and it’s amazing how consciously adding laughter to your day can improve your aches and pains, as well as your mood and your reactions to others. Find the funny in every situation. Find the goofiest thing that makes you laugh and partake daily.
Start 2016 on a positive note by setting good, healthy goals for the new year. Remember that goals should be easily tracked, so you can see how you’re doing. The more trackable, the more you can see in front of you what you’re doing, the more successful you’ll be – in all areas of your life.