23 Healthy New Year’s Resolutions You Can Actually Keep
By Jillian Kubala
A new year often signifies a fresh start for many people. For some, this means setting health goals, such as losing weight, following a healthier diet, and starting an exercise routine.
However, more often than not, the health and wellness resolutions chosen are highly restrictive and unsustainable, leading most people to break their resolutions within a few weeks. This is why many people make the same resolutions year after year.
To break that cycle, it's important to make resolutions that can not only improve health but also be followed for life.
Here are 23 New Year's resolutions you can actually keep.
1. Eat More Whole Foods
One of the easiest and most sustainable ways to improve overall health is to eat more whole foods.
Whole foods, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and fish, contain a plethora of nutrients that your body needs to function at an optimal level.
Research shows that following a whole-foods-based diet may significantly reduce heart disease risk factors, body weight, and blood sugar levels, as well as decrease your risk of certain diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.
What's more, adding more whole foods to your diet can be done slowly and consistently. For example, if you're not used to eating vegetables, start by adding one serving of your favorite veggie to your diet every day.
2. Sit Less and Move More
Whether it's due to having a sedentary job or simply being inactive, many people sit more than they should. Sitting too much can have negative effects on health. In fact, it may be linked to an increased risk of overall mortality.
Making a resolution to sit less is an easy and attainable resolution that can be tailored to fit your lifestyle.
For example, if you have a desk job that requires long periods of sitting, make a resolution to go for a 15-minute walk at lunch or to get up and walk for 5 minutes every hour.
3. Cut Back on Sweetened Beverages
Cutting back on sweetened beverages is a smart idea considering that sugary drinks are linked to an increased risk of obesity, fatty liver, heart disease, insulin resistance, and cavities in both children and adults.
Though quitting sweetened beverages cold turkey is always an option, gradually minimizing your intake may help you kick your sugary drink habit for good.
4. Get More Quality Sleep
Sleep is an essential part of overall health, and sleep deprivation can lead to serious consequences. For instance, lack of sleep may increase your risk of weight gain, heart disease, and depression.
There are many reasons why people don't get enough sleep, so it's important to focus on your schedule and lifestyle to determine the best ways to improve sleep quantity and quality.
Decreasing screen time before bed, reducing light pollution in your bedroom, cutting back on caffeine, and getting to bed at a reasonable hour are some simple ways to improve sleep hygiene.
5. Find a Physical Activity That You Enjoy
Every New Year, people purchase expensive memberships to gyms, workout studios, and online fitness programs in hopes of shedding excess body fat in the year to come. Though most people start strong, the majority don't make their new routine into a lasting habit.
Still, you can increase the chances of making your fitness resolutions stick. To get started, choose an activity based on enjoyment and whether it fits into your schedule.
For example, taking a half-hour walk, jog, or bike ride before work, or swimming at a gym that's on your way home, are simple and sustainable exercise resolutions.
Then, set an attainable goal, such as planning to walk a few specific days per week instead of aiming for every day.
Making a more realistic goal can enhance the chances of making your new routine last, especially if you're new to working out.
6. Take More 'Me Time' and Practice Self-Care
Taking time for yourself is not selfish. In fact, it's imperative for optimal health and wellbeing. This is especially true for those in caretaker roles, such as parents and healthcare workers.
For people with busy schedules and limited time, making a resolution to engage in self-care may take some planning. However, it's well worth the time investment.
Self-care doesn't have to be elaborate or time consuming. It can simply mean taking a bath every week, attending your favorite weekly yoga class, preparing a healthy meal for yourself, going for a walk in nature, or getting an extra hour of sleep.
7. Cook More Meals at Home
Research shows that people who cook more meals at home have better diet quality and less body fat than people who eat more meals on the go.
In fact, a study in 11,396 adults found that those who ate 5 or more home-cooked meals per week were 28% less likely to be overweight, compared with those who ate fewer than 3 home-cooked meals per week.
Start by making one meal a day, then increase the frequency over time until you're making the majority of your meals and snacks at home.
8. Spend More Time Outside
Spending more time outdoors can improve health by relieving stress, elevating mood, and even lowering blood pressure.
Making a New Year's resolution to spend more time outside every day is a sustainable and healthy goal that can benefit most everyone, no matter where you live.
Taking a walk outside during your lunch break, hiking on weekends, going camping with friends, or simply soaking in the beauty of your backyard or local park are all ways to incorporate nature into your daily routine.
9. Limit Screen Time
Many people depend on their phones and computers for work and entertainment. However, spending too much time on electronic devices — particularly on social media — has been linked to depression, anxiety, and loneliness in some studies.
Setting a resolution to cut back on the time you spend scrolling through social media, watching TV, or playing computer games may help boost your mood and enhance productivity.
10. Try Meditation
Meditation is an evidence-based way to promote mental well-being. It may be particularly helpful for people who have anxiety or depression.
Trying out this practice is a perfect New Year's resolution because there are many ways to meditate, and it's easy to find books, podcasts, and apps that teach you how to start a meditation practice.
11. Rely Less on Convenience Foods
Many people rely on convenience foods, such as packaged chips, cookies, frozen dinners, and fast food, for a quick meal or snack. Though these items may be tasty and readily available, they can have detrimental effects on your health if eaten too often.
For example, frequent fast food intake is associated with poor overall diet quality, obesity, and an increased risk of numerous conditions, including heart disease and diabetes.
To cut back on your consumption of convenience foods, make a resolution to prepare more meals at home using healthy ingredients.
12. Stop Dieting
Chronic dieting is harmful to both physical and mental health. Plus, most people who lose weight through restrictive dieting regain up to two-thirds of the weight lost within 1 year.
Dieting can also make it harder to lose weight in the future.
Rather than setting a New Year's resolution to lose weight by using restrictive measures, such as a fad diet, try a healthier, more sustainable method of weight loss by focusing on increasing physical activity and eating healthier foods.
13. Go Grocery Shopping Regularly
Having a well-stocked pantry and fridge is necessary to prepare healthy, home-cooked meals.
If you're not used to going grocery shopping, make a New Year's resolution to go to the supermarket or farmer's market more regularly to stock up on nutritious ingredients.
Depending on your schedule, it may be helpful to designate one day each week as your day to shop. Ensuring that you have time to buy the groceries you need to make tasty, nourishing meals is a savvy way to improve your diet quality.
14. Use Healthier Household Products
It's obvious that what you put into your body can significantly impact your health. However, what you choose to put onto your body and what products you use in your home matter, too.
Make a New Year's resolution to purchase more natural beauty products, household cleaners, laundry detergents, and personal care products to create a healthier environment for yourself and your family.
15. Add More Produce to Your Diet
Adding more cooked and raw vegetables and fruits to your diet can go a long way towards improving your health in the new year.
Numerous studies have shown that eating a diet rich in produce helps protect against various illnesses, such as diabetes, heart diseases, certain cancers, and obesity, as well as overall mortality.
16. Cut Back on Alcohol
Though alcohol can certainly fit into a healthy diet, imbibing too often can negatively affect your health. What's more, drinking alcohol frequently may keep you from reaching your health and wellness goals.
If you think cutting back on alcohol may be helpful for you, set a reasonable goal to keep yourself on track, such as limiting drinking to weekend nights only or setting a drink limit for the week.
If you need a non-alcoholic beverage idea to replace your usual cocktail of choice, try fruit-infused sparkling water, kombucha, or one of these fun mocktails.
17. Be More Present
Research shows that being more present may improve life satisfaction by decreasing negative thoughts, which may thereby improve psychological health.
Making a New Year's resolution to be more mindful and present may help you feel more content in your everyday life.
Spending less time on your phone, stopping to notice your environment, and listening intently to others are simple ways to be more present.
18. Take a Vacation
Taking a vacation — even a short one — may have significant and immediate positive effects on stress levels and may enhance well-being.
In the new year, make a resolution to take a vacation with friends or family members, or on your own. Whether you travel to an area you've always wanted to visit or simply plan a staycation at home, taking some time for rest and relaxation is important for health.
19. Try a New Hobby
It's common for adults to let once-loved hobbies fall by the wayside as they get older due to busy schedules or lack of motivation.
However, research shows that partaking in a hobby that you love can help you live a longer, healthier life.
Make a resolution to try out a hobby that you've always been interested in — or pick back up a hobby that used to bring you joy.
20. Stop Negative Body Talk
Talking negatively about your body can lead to feelings of body shame. In fact, research shows that engaging in and hearing negative body talk is associated with higher levels of body dissatisfaction and decreased self-esteem in both women and men.
Make a healthy New Year's resolution to engage in positive self-talk regularly and reduce negative body talk. This may not only help improve your relationship with your own body but also encourage others to stop talking negatively about themselves.
21. Visit Your Doctor
Getting examined regularly by your healthcare practitioner is important for many reasons. Having regular blood work and necessary screenings can help spot potential problems before they turn into something more serious.
Though your pace of doctor's visits depends on many things, including the type of medical care, your age, and your medical history, most experts recommend seeing your primary care physician at least once a year for a checkup.
22. Take Care of Your Teeth
Maintaining your oral health is a New Year's resolution idea that can and should be sustained for life.
Brushing and flossing your teeth regularly can help prevent oral conditions like gum disease and bad breath.
What's more, some research suggests that gum disease may be associated with serious health conditions, such as Alzheimer's and heart disease, making oral care all the more important.
In addition to regular brushing and flossing, most dentists recommend a checkup and cleaning at least once a year.
23. Create a Sustainable, Nourishing Diet
You may be making a resolution to eat healthier or lose weight year after year because you're prioritizing short-term changes over long-term health benefits.
Instead of making a plan to follow yet another restrictive fad diet, this New Year, make a resolution to break the dieting cycle and create a sustainable, nourishing eating pattern that works for you.
The healthiest diet is one that's rich in whole, nutrient-dense foods and low in heavily processed, sugary products. A healthy, long-term diet should not only be nutritious but also adaptable, meaning you can follow it for life — no matter the circumstances.
A sustainable eating pattern can be maintained on vacation, during holidays, and at parties because it's unrestrictive and suited to your lifestyle. Check out this beginners' guide to healthy eating to get started.
The Bottom Line
Though most New Year's resolutions are only kept for a short period, the healthy resolutions listed above are sustainable ways to improve your physical and emotional health that can be followed for life.
Creating a healthier relationship with food and taking better care of your body and mind can drastically improve your health in various ways.
This New Year, try out a few of the resolutions in this article to help make this year — and the years that follow — the healthiest and happiest possible.
- 10 Achievable Resolutions to Protect Your Family's Health - EcoWatch ›
- What Will Be the Top Health Issues for 2020? - EcoWatch ›
In 2010, world leaders agreed to 20 targets to protect Earth's biodiversity over the next decade. By 2020, none of them had been met. Now, the question is whether the world can do any better once new targets are set during the meeting of the UN Convention on Biodiversity in Kunming, China later this year.
- Ocean Scientists Create Global Network to Help Save Biodiversity ... ›
- 5 Reasons Why Biodiversity Matters - EcoWatch ›
- 26 Organizations Working to Conserve Seed Biodiversity - EcoWatch ›
- The Top 10 Ocean Biodiversity Hotspots to Protect - EcoWatch ›
- New Platform Shows How to Protect Biodiversity and Save Planet ... ›
- These Scientists Are Listening to the Borneo Rainforest to Protect ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Andrew Rosenberg
The first 24 hours of the administration of President Joe Biden were filled not only with ceremony, but also with real action. Executive orders and other directives were quickly signed. More actions have followed. All consequential. Many provide a basis for not just undoing actions of the previous administration, but also making real advances in public policy to protect public health, safety, and the environment.
- Here Are Biden's Day One Actions on Climate and Environment ... ›
- UCS Offers Science Advice for Biden Administration - EcoWatch ›
A first-of-its-kind study has examined the satellite record to see how the climate crisis is impacting all of the planet's ice.
- 'Ghost Forests' Are an Eerie Sign of Sea-Level Rise - EcoWatch ›
- Sea-Level Rise Takes Business Toll in North Carolina's Outer Banks ... ›
- Sea Level Rise Is Locked in Even If We Meet Paris Agreement ... ›
By Ana Maldonado-Contreras
- Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria that are vital for keeping you healthy.
- Some of these microbes help to regulate the immune system.
- New research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, shows the presence of certain bacteria in the gut may reveal which people are more vulnerable to a more severe case of COVID-19.
You may not know it, but you have an army of microbes living inside of you that are essential for fighting off threats, including the virus that causes COVID-19.
How Do Resident Bacteria Keep You Healthy?<p>Our immune defense is part of a complex biological response against harmful pathogens, such as viruses or bacteria. However, because our bodies are inhabited by trillions of mostly beneficial bacteria, virus and fungi, activation of our immune response is tightly regulated to distinguish between harmful and helpful microbes.</p><p>Our bacteria are spectacular companions diligently helping prime our immune system defenses to combat infections. A seminal study found that mice treated with antibiotics that eliminate bacteria in the gut exhibited an impaired immune response. These animals had low counts of virus-fighting white blood cells, weak antibody responses and poor production of a protein that is vital for <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1019378108" target="_blank">combating viral infection and modulating the immune response</a>.</p><p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0184976" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In another study</a>, mice were fed <em>Lactobacillus</em> bacteria, commonly used as probiotic in fermented food. These microbes reduced the severity of influenza infection. The <em>Lactobacillus</em>-treated mice did not lose weight and had only mild lung damage compared with untreated mice. Similarly, others have found that treatment of mice with <em>Lactobacillus</em> protects against different <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/srep04638" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">subtypes of</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-17487-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">influenza</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008072" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">virus</a> and human respiratory syncytial virus – the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-39602-7" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">major cause of viral bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children</a>.</p>
Chronic Disease and Microbes<p>Patients with chronic illnesses including Type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease exhibit a hyperactive immune system that fails to recognize a harmless stimulus and is linked to an altered gut microbiome.</p><p>In these chronic diseases, the gut microbiome lacks bacteria that activate <a href="https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1198469" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">immune cells</a> that block the response against harmless bacteria in our guts. Such alteration of the gut microbiome is also observed in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1002601107" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">babies delivered by cesarean section</a>, individuals consuming a poor <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nature12820" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">diet</a> and the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nature11053" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elderly</a>.</p><p>In the U.S., 117 million individuals – about half the adult population – <a href="https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">suffer from Type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease or a combination of them</a>. That suggests that half of American adults carry a faulty microbiome army.</p><p>Research in my laboratory focuses on identifying gut bacteria that are critical for creating a balanced immune system, which fights life-threatening bacterial and viral infections, while tolerating the beneficial bacteria in and on us.</p><p>Given that diet affects the diversity of bacteria in the gut, <a href="https://www.umassmed.edu/nutrition/melody-trial-info/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">my lab studies show how diet can be used</a> as a therapy for chronic diseases. Using different foods, people can shift their gut microbiome to one that boosts a healthy immune response.</p><p>A fraction of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, develop severe complications that require hospitalization in intensive care units. What do many of those patients have in common? <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6912e2.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Old age</a> and chronic diet-related diseases like obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.</p><p><a href="http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2008.12.019" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Black and Latinx people are disproportionately affected by obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease</a>, all of which are linked to poor nutrition. Thus, it is not a coincidence that <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6933e1.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these groups have suffered more deaths from COVID-19</a> compared with whites. This is the case not only in the U.S. but also <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/blacks-in-britain-are-four-times-as-likely-to-die-of-coronavirus-as-whites-data-show/2020/05/07/2dc76710-9067-11ea-9322-a29e75effc93_story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">in Britain</a>.</p>
Discovering Microbes That Predict COVID-19 Severity<p>The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired me to shift my research and explore the role of the gut microbiome in the overly aggressive immune response against SARS-CoV-2 infection.</p><p>My colleagues and I have hypothesized that critically ill SARS-CoV-2 patients with conditions like obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease exhibit an altered gut microbiome that aggravates <a href="https://theconversation.com/exercise-may-help-reduce-risk-of-deadly-covid-19-complication-ards-136922" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">acute respiratory distress syndrome</a>.</p><p>Acute respiratory distress syndrome, a life-threatening lung injury, in SARS-CoV-2 patients is thought to develop from a <a href="http://doi.org/10.1016/j.cytogfr.2020.05.003" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">fatal overreaction of the immune response</a> called a <a href="https://theconversation.com/blocking-the-deadly-cytokine-storm-is-a-vital-weapon-for-treating-covid-19-137690" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cytokine storm</a> <a href="http://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(20)30216-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">that causes an uncontrolled flood</a> <a href="http://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(20)30216-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">of immune cells into the lungs</a>. In these patients, their own uncontrolled inflammatory immune response, rather than the virus itself, causes the <a href="http://doi.org/10.1007/s00134-020-05991-x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">severe lung injury and multiorgan failures</a> that lead to death.</p><p>Several studies <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trsl.2020.08.004" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">described in one recent review</a> have identified an altered gut microbiome in patients with COVID-19. However, identification of specific bacteria within the microbiome that could predict COVID-19 severity is lacking.</p><p>To address this question, my colleagues and I recruited COVID-19 hospitalized patients with severe and moderate symptoms. We collected stool and saliva samples to determine whether bacteria within the gut and oral microbiome could predict COVID-19 severity. The identification of microbiome markers that can predict the clinical outcomes of COVID-19 disease is key to help prioritize patients needing urgent treatment.</p><p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.01.05.20249061" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">We demonstrated</a>, in a paper which has not yet been peer reviewed, that the composition of the gut microbiome is the strongest predictor of COVID-19 severity compared to patient's clinical characteristics commonly used to do so. Specifically, we identified that the presence of a bacterium in the stool – called <em>Enterococcus faecalis</em>– was a robust predictor of COVID-19 severity. Not surprisingly, <em>Enterococcus faecalis</em> has been associated with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2011.05.035" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">chronic</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S0002-9440(10)61172-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">inflammation</a>.</p><p><em>Enterococcus faecalis</em> collected from feces can be grown outside of the body in clinical laboratories. Thus, an <em>E. faecalis</em> test might be a cost-effective, rapid and relatively easy way to identify patients who are likely to require more supportive care and therapeutic interventions to improve their chances of survival.</p><p>But it is not yet clear from our research what is the contribution of the altered microbiome in the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection. A recent study has shown that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.12.11.416180" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">SARS-CoV-2 infection triggers an imbalance in immune cells</a> called <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/imr.12170" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">T regulatory cells that are critical to immune balance</a>.</p><p>Bacteria from the gut microbiome are responsible for the <a href="https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.30916.001" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">proper activation</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1198469" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">of those T-regulatory</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nri.2016.36" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cells</a>. Thus, researchers like me need to take repeated patient stool, saliva and blood samples over a longer time frame to learn how the altered microbiome observed in COVID-19 patients can modulate COVID-19 disease severity, perhaps by altering the development of the T-regulatory cells.</p><p>As a Latina scientist investigating interactions between diet, microbiome and immunity, I must stress the importance of better policies to improve access to healthy foods, which lead to a healthier microbiome. It is also important to design culturally sensitive dietary interventions for Black and Latinx communities. While a good-quality diet might not prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection, it can treat the underlying conditions related to its severity.</p><p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ana-maldonado-contreras-1152969" target="_blank">Ana Maldonado-Contreras</a> is an assistant professor of Microbiology and Physiological Systems at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.</em></p><p><em>Disclosure statement: Ana Maldonado-Contreras receives funding from The Helmsley Charitable Trust and her work has been supported by the American Gastroenterological Association. She received The Charles A. King Trust Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. She is also member of the Diversity Committee of the American Gastroenterological Association.</em></p><p><em style="">Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/a-healthy-microbiome-builds-a-strong-immune-system-that-could-help-defeat-covid-19-145668" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" style="">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
By Jeff Masters, Ph.D.
The New Climate War: the fight to take back our planet is the latest must-read book by leading climate change scientist and communicator Michael Mann of Penn State University.
- 12 New Books Explore Fresh Approaches to Act on Climate Change ... ›
- Dr. Michael Mann on Climate Denial: 'It's Impaired Our Ability to ... ›