The Weekly Check-Up Atlanta

Eight Health Resolutions for 2014

time at the gymAt the beginning of each year, we adopt resolutions to make us bigger, better, faster, and stronger. This year, I challenge you to try out these eight resolutions and improve your health, physically and mentally.

1. Eat a healthy breakfast.

There are numerous benefits to packing in nutrients during the early hours of the day, including reduced risk of obesity, increased energy, and even improved memory. According to a study released by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who eat breakfast are more likely to retain information than those who fast.

For an added bonus, include antioxidants in your breakfast to help fight heart disease and the effects of aging. Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and apples all provide a great source of antioxidants and can be easily added to your morning meal—just toss a handful into a smoothie, a bowl of oatmeal, or eat a handful on your way out the door.

2. Focus on the road when behind the wheel.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than two million people were injured in automobile accidents in 2013 alone. Unfortunately, many of these accidents involve alcohol impairment or a distracted driver.

Remember, when you’re behind the wheel, you’re responsible for a 4,000-pound machine. Prevent a possible accident by limiting the number of distractions while in the car and hiding your phone so you aren’t tempted to answer calls or text.

3. Make family dinner a priority.

If you are fortunate enough to live close to family, make dinner a nightly tradition and your children will thank you for it.

The Family Dinner Project, an initiative of Anne Fishel, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology at Harvard, believes children who enjoy regular family dinners are less likely to experience substance abuse, teen pregnancy, depression, obesity, and eating disorders. They are also more likely to have higher grade-point averages and self-esteem. So, set a time each night for everyone to prepare dinner together. Encouraging everyone to help out in the kitchen will also bring the family closer.

4. Catch some Zzzs.

Do your mind and body a favor, and try spending an extra hour or two in bed each night. Numerous studies have linked sleep to improved memory and immune function, as well as reduced risk of depression and a number of other health problems, including heart disease.

According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, sleep plays a critical role in reducing stress, and we all know the toll stress can take on the mind and body. Sleep better tonight by drinking less caffeine in the afternoon, turning off the TV and cell phone an hour before bed, and crawling under the covers an hour early.

5. Pick up a new form of exercise.

“Exercise more” usually tops the list of New Years Resolutions, but performing the same exercise routine day after day can feel tedious.

Boost your motivation to work up a sweat by doing something new and exciting. Most gyms offer a variety of classes, like pilates, kickboxing, and boot camp, to keep you interested in working out. If you don’t belong to a gym, jog on the city’s scenic trails, join a running or hiking club, or get a bicycle and explore your city. Who knows—maybe you’ll discover a new favorite hobby.

Child with phone app

6. Kick the electronics out of the bedroom.

Powering down all electronics an hour before bed may sound like a huge sacrifice to some people who are conditioned to falling asleep to the glow of their Twitter feed, but doing so can improve your health. The blue light emitted from televisions, laptops, tablets, and smartphones disturbs the melatonin production in the brain and can keep you awake long after device is turned off.

7. Quit the chronic calorie counting and weekly weigh-ins.

For many people, calorie counting becomes an unhealthy obsession. Focusing on the number on the scale will also do more harm than good. The obsessions can lead to stress, poor self-esteem, and even depression.

Instead, emphasize how you feel rather than what you weigh. This will lead to healthier results and a happy you.

8. Stop striving for perfection and embrace your flaws.

For many people, the start of the New Year means a clean slate, an opportunity to start over and forget all about last year. It has also become a time to dwell on all of the flaws and mistakes of last year.

New Year’s resolutions shouldn’t be about trying to change who you are and become the perfect person. Instead, they should encourage you to grow and develop mentally and physically, while nurturing the unique qualities you already possess. So, alter your perception of what the 2014 means for you. Think of it as a chance to embrace yourself, rather than change yourself. You might never have a supermodel’s figure and the charitable track record of Mother Theresa, but maybe you’ll discover that a healthier mindset and improved self-worth is even more fulfilling at the end of this year.