The new year often means resolving to make lifestyle changes that focus on your physical and mental health. Creating a list of resolutions is typically not the hard part. Keeping them is what can be difficult.
Kirsten Dunn, MD, internist and primary care physician at Washington University Complete Care, located on the campus of Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, offers insights into common resolutions that may be easier to keep depending upon how you approach them.
“Think of lifestyle change as a reward that is desirable,” Dr. Dunn says. “If you think the reward is ‘cheating on a diet’ or ‘being bad’ by skipping exercise, that may suggest, internally, that healthy habits are considered suffering or self-deprivation, and that will make it much harder to succeed.”
Dr. Dunn says resolutions are often about making choice after choice to become the best you. To succeed, she recommends you “keep the long-term wins in mind.”
Here are six resolutions and advice from Dr. Dunn on how to stick to them to achieve a better you.
“Exercise is the closest thing we have to a magic bullet,” Dr. Dunn says. “It helps with energy level, concentration, mood, sleep and metabolism.”
Exercise has been shown to benefit bone health, arthritis and pain, heart health, blood sugar, cholesterol and more.
Find physical activity that works with your life including:
“Something is better than nothing, and generally more is better,” Dr. Dunn says. “Everyone says they don’t have time, but you have to make time. It is an investment in yourself, and will help you be more productive and feel better.”
Don’t do crash diets. They don’t produce sustained results and may increase body fat over time. The shift has to be toward eating for the nutrition your body needs, and adopting habits you can keep for the rest of your life.
Vegetables generally provide high amounts of vitamins, minerals and fiber while being low in calories.
Protein is important to maintain muscle mass, especially as we age.
Cut back or eliminate ways you get lots of calories without nutrition — sodas, sugary drinks like teas/lemonade/juices, over-processed “junk food” like candies, chips, cookies.
Using electronic devices can take up a lot of time that you could be using to exercise or spend quality time with loved ones.
Sitting most of the day and looking at a computer or phone excessively can lead to aches in the neck and back if your posture is poor.
Not paying attention to your surroundings (even texting while walking) increases the risk of accidents like tripping or being hit by a bike or car.
“Being connected to friends and family is important for not only your mood and wellness, but for maintaining a community to share in your successes and provide support when needed,” Dr. Dunn says. “Exercising together is a great way to combine goals.”
“Prevention can really help you keep up your quality of life for the long term, and many problems don’t have symptoms early on, but can be detected by a clinician or simple tests,” Dr. Dunn says.
Many preventive services are covered fully by health insurance, along with an annual preventive primary care appointment. Also, some employers provide additional resources for things like smoking cessation and increasing exercise. It’s also not too late to get a flu shot for the 2016-17 season.
“My advice is to try to shift to gratitude when you catch yourself in negative thoughts,” Dr. Dunn says. “Each night, try writing down three good things from the day; soon, you’ll find yourself looking for those good things all day. If stress or negativity is impairing your quality of life, work or relationships, it may be time to see a therapist for help.”
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Dunn or another specialist, call 314.542.WEST (9378) or toll-free 844.542.9378 or request a call for an appointment