10 realistic and achievable New Year resolutions worth considering

I read a report in the last week regarding New Year resolutions, the thrust of which was that setting the bar too high is more likely to lead to us not keeping to whatever resolutions we have made. In other words, opting for smaller, more manageable changes might be a better long-term strategy. I agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly. And I also believe that even seemingly relatively minor adjustments to lifestyle can reap enormous dividends in terms of it’s impact on things like energy and vitality (too things that many of us can find our in short supply from time to time).

So here, in no particular order, are 10 suggestions for ‘bite-sized’ New Year resolutions that some of you may feel inclined to act on. My suggestions is to pick just one or two (maybe three) of these in the first instance, and allow a month or two for you to feel the benefit of your new behaviour and settle in to your new habit(s). You can always add further healthy behaviour later on.

1. Drink water

Maintaining hydration, in my experience, has a profound influence on vitality and energy levels, including mental energy. I suggest drinking enough water to keep your urine pale yellow throughout the course of the day. The usually-critical step that needs to be taken to make this possible is to keep water by you e.g. put a bottle and glass on your desk or carry a water bottle with you as you go out and about during the day.

2. Take exercise

This is certainly one where setting the bar too high can be counter-productive. I’d advise against, therefore, promising yourself you’re going to spend an hour in the gym, four times a week. If you really are quite sedentary right now, how about committing to a 10 minute walk each day. Earlier this year I developed with the help of some colleagues a 12-minute exercise routine as part of a forthcoming book. I’ve managed with relatively little effort to perform this every day for the last six months (except for when I ‘put my back out’ recently). Previous attempts at more ambitious exercise have generally been less successful.

3. Eat mindfully

In our fast-paced world, there can be a tendency to eat while distracted and ‘shovel in’ more food than we need. See here for some information about why eating mindfully can be beneficial to health, and how to do it.

4. Chew thoroughly

Part of mindful eating can be thorough chewing of food, which at the very least will enhance the body’s ability to digest food efficiently, and will usually help with any symptoms of indigestion/reflux. I most recently wrote about the value of chewing here, where you will also find links to blogs which explore the relationship between slower eating and reduced food consumption.

5. Make time

Some new habits (e.g. exercise) can take time, which some of us believe we already don’t have enough of. See here for a blog post which is about creating time for whatever new habits demand this.

6. Sleep

Sleep has the ability to optimise mental and physical energy, and optimal levels of sleep (about 8 hours a night on average) is linked with reduced risk of chronic disease and improved longevity. One simple strategy that can help ensure you get optimal amounts of sleep is to go to bed earlier. Getting into bed a 10.00 or 10.30 pm (rather than 11.30, say) is not a waste of time, but a potentially useful investment in terms of your short and long-term health.

7. Eat a primal diet

Common sense and a stack of science dictate that the best diet for us is one based on foods we’ve been eating the longest. If you know nothing else about diet, this nutritional ‘nugget’ will help you cut through the marketing hype and dietary misinformation, and allow you to make healthy food choices (if you so wish) quickly and confidently.

8. Snack healthily

Snacking tends to have a ‘bad’ reputation, and at least some of this is based on the fact that many snack foods (e.g. biscuits, confectionery, crisps/chips) are far from healthy. However, going for too long between meals (especially between lunch and dinner) can cause the appetite to run out of control, which can lead to the overconsumption of unhealthy food and drink later on. Quelling appetite with something healthy (e.g. a handful or two of nuts) can do wonders to help us maintain our healthy eating habits will minimal effort.

9. Get more sunlight

Sunlight and the vitamin D this can make in the skin has a myriad of benefits for body and brain (see category ‘sunlight’ in left hand sidebar for more information regarding this). While burning is to be avoided, I advise getting as much sunlight exposure as possible if optimal health is your goal.

10. Appreciate more

In a recent post I wrote about how my New Year’s resolution this year was inspired by witnessing a random act of kindness recently. In the comments section of this post, the subject of appreciation came up. It occurs to me that many of us live in societies that are hugely aspirational, and as a result we can easily find ourselves chasing an ever-growing list of goals, many of which can be material in nature. To be frank, many of us could do with spending more time focusing not on what we don’t have, but on what we do ” in its broadest sense. So, in addition to whatever material things we may want to give thanks for, we might also feel appreciation for our things including people, pets, our health, a beautiful landscape or sunset or whatever.

16 Responses to 10 realistic and achievable New Year resolutions worth considering

  1. JJ Lothin 1 January 2010 at 8:48 pm #

    Any more info on the book with the 12-minute exercise routine? 10- minute would be even better!

  2. Dr John Briffa 1 January 2010 at 9:05 pm #

    JJ

    It’s a fat loss book for men (title: Waist Disposal), which is out in April. See here:
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Waist-Disposal-Ultimate-Loss-Manual/dp/1848501153/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262362797&sr=8-1

  3. Craig 1 January 2010 at 9:16 pm #

    Happiness is in direct relation to gratitude!

    Write a list of everything you are grateful for from the biggest to the smallest little thing! Give it a try and see how good you feel! Then write a list about all the good things about yourself and the people who are around you! THEN ;-) add to these lists whenever you think of something else!

    Keep the lists and read through them whenever you think about it particularly if you are a little unhappy….. you’ll probably find something extra to be even more happy about!

    In my understanding depression is, as many medics will tell you, a ‘chemical imbalance in the brain’, HOWEVER it is not a tricyclic deficiency! ;-) Our brains are capable of making the ‘chemicals’ required (maybe within genetic boundaries…. maybe not, I don’t believe life style factors have been optimised yet). And lifestyle factors provide the building blocks for these ‘chemicals’ through nutrition and sunlight, execise moves the nutrition around and can be a trigger for release along with our thoughts which are also the driving force behind the production!

    Absolutely no scientific basis to these comments, none required! Just my thoughts! ;-) What do you think??

    I’m starting with my gratitude towards the Briffmeister!
    Thank you for all your work John! I hope you have a healthy happy 2010!

    Craig Gill

  4. Dr John Briffa 1 January 2010 at 9:27 pm #

    Craig

    It’s a good idea, I think, to keep a list of things one is appreciate for, and to add to it as time goes on.

    Shall we call it ‘Craig’s List’? (Sorry, couldn’t resist) ;-)

  5. Craig 1 January 2010 at 10:03 pm #

    LOL.

  6. Anon. 1 January 2010 at 10:06 pm #

    I had been pondering my resolutions for 2010; they had not quite reached the stage of a written manifesto. Then I saw yours, John.
    Printed off, pinned to the wall by my desk, I sense well-being and self improvement already.
    Items 2, 7, 8, 9, and 10 especially, are similar personal resolutions that were up for inclusion on my list. All would be applicable to me.

    By adding some lines in pencil I have personalised your list for my own needs. I’ll share them – it may help me stick to them.
    11, Smile more (Song)(Lyric)
    12, Laugh more. (like Johnson and Aggers) or with Brian Johnson reading Les Barker.
    13, Sing more, make music more often, while being self aware. The act may enrich my life while impoverishing the lives of those in earshot.
    14, Read more
    15, Think more
    16, Obsess less (blog more, post less)
    17, Study polyunsaturates to the point of comprehension, while meantime, cut back on use of vegetable oils.
    18, Do not neglect to follow the pre-election debate. VOTE.
    19, Consume less (abstain completely from alcohol), give and share more (especially in re. time for family).
    20, Love more, especially the people I have yet to come to know. Radiate.
    21, Copy a valued friend and request she periodically check my adherence to all of the above.

  7. Anon. 1 January 2010 at 11:00 pm #

    error. … Brian Perkins reading Les Barker.

    22, concentrate more, proof read, and don’t ‘read through’ the blinking mistakes ! LOL

    Happy New Year!

  8. Bill 2 January 2010 at 3:04 am #

    I’ve been eating a paleo diet for 3 years now, and one of the side effects is that I don’t get hungry and I don’t need to eat snacks. In fact a 24-36 hour fast is not difficult and has positive effects.

  9. ITcrowd 3 January 2010 at 12:32 am #

    My New Year’s resolution will be to maintain and improve nose breathing (over mouth breathing). Mouth breathing is extremely injurious to the health and should be examined when making improvements to ones’ health. Here’s a link:

    http://www.breathing.com/articles/nose-breathing.htm

    I’ve just about cured my mild asthma in less than 6 weeks using some Buteyko Method techniques (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buteyko) and will be developing my health through pranayama breathing:

    http://www.abc-of-yoga.com/pranayama/

    Roll on 2010!

  10. Rose Morris 3 January 2010 at 12:13 pm #

    Thank you, Dr Briffa. Your health advice is invaluable. Talking of gratitude lists, gratitude wells up spontaneously in me when I read your newlsetters. I wish you every blessing. Rose

  11. Greg 4 January 2010 at 10:08 pm #

    I’m looking forward to the publication of “waist Disposal”, I have a feeling that it will be a big seller.

  12. Chris 6 January 2010 at 10:29 pm #

    ‘Waist Disposal’ is eagerly anticipated. I expect it will be great. Moreover, we have come to expect good science and sound advice from you, John.
    The amazon link returns some related items in the ‘Customers Who Bought .. Also Bought.’ Taubes’ ‘Diet Delusion’ and Kendricks’ ‘Great Cholesterol Con’ are returned in the window. On amazon ‘Waist Disposal’ keeps good company.

  13. Maz 8 January 2010 at 1:19 pm #

    Is powdered Glutamine the best thing to have rather than tablet form

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