8 Resolutions Health Experts Want You to Make

Physician John Rush sees his patients make the same mistake every year: They set New Year’s resolutions on Jan. 1 and expect to implement them the very next day. But a no-prep plan is a sure-fail one, he says. “The most meaningful goals we make in our lives take some planning, and we need to set our lives up for change and for success,” says Rush, COO of the age management medicine company Cenegenics. That’s why now’s the time to start preparing for whatever change you want to make in 2015. Buy the right equipment and clothing, find supportive friends and family, and devise a plan for when you feel like cashing in on your commitment, Rush suggests.

And if you’re stumped on what that goal will be? Steal an idea from health professionals, who shared what they’d like to see their patients and clients resolve to do in 2015.

Set a specific goal.

“Get in better shape.” “Be healthier.” “ Lose weight.” Those goals, no matter how common, are too broad, says Justin Weis, a personal trainer and owner of Summit Fitness in Richmond, Virginia. He suggests picking a specific event to prepare for instead, whether it’s something grand like climbing a mountain or something simple like running a 5K. “Having a goal that you are driving toward, rather than something like holiday pounds you are trying to get away from, makes the journey much easier,” Weis says. “It’s a change of perspective that turns it from a negative mindset to something positive, which can make all the difference.”

Commit to a ‘movement modality.’

“Don’t let exercise become another thing to check off your list,” says Angela Meyer, a yoga instructor and regional director of group exercise at the YMCA in the District of Columbia. Instead, consider adopting a “movement modality,” or a physical activity that will inspire you to be not only physically healthier, but also “mentally, emotionally and spiritually engaged and alive,” Meyer says. To find your modality, ask yourself what type of movement will allow you to express your passion and creative energy. Is it martial arts? Yoga? Dance? Rock climbing? All those activities, Meyer says, “allow you to discover something deeper about yourself, while also achieving your physical goals.”

Personalize your oral health care.

Take the typical resolution to floss regularly a step further this year by resolving to talk to your dentist about how genetics might impact your dental health, says William Giannobile, chair of the Department of Periodontics and Oral Medicine at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. Just like heart health, cancer risk and weight, oral health is influenced by your genes. Knowing where you stand can help guide how often you see your dentist and the type of care you get, he says. A bonus? You’ll improve your overall health, too. “Medical breakthroughs in genetics, genomics and risk factors for diseases and behaviors show how a patient’s oral health affects their total well-being,” Giannobile says.

Wear sunglasses.

If you’re seeking a resolution that’s both fashion-forward and healthy, Dennis Levi, a professor of optometry and vision science at the University of California-Berkeley, has one for you: “Wear shades when out in bright sunlight,” he says. Make sure you choose a pair that protects against ultraviolet radiation, which, in excess, can cause cataracts and lead to damage of the cornea and retina, Levi says.

Get more quality sleep – every night.

Want to make a resolution that will improve nearly all areas of your life – and looks? One word: sleep, says dermatologist Jessica Krant, founder of Art of Dermatology in New York and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. “Sleep is our best friend, and it allows everything to be better,” she says. “When we get good sleep, it improves our body’s ability to remove toxins at night, which improves our health overall and especially our skin.” Sleep also suppresses the release of the hunger hormone ghrelin, making weight loss and management easier. “It proves there really is such a thing as beauty sleep,” Krant says. To get more quality sleep, the National Sleep Foundation recommends going to bed the same time every night, getting daily exercise, avoiding naps and steering clear of alcohol, cigarettes and heavy meals in the evenings.

Be more mindful.

How often do you catch yourself ruminating about the past or worrying about the future? Chances are, too often, says Eric Endlich, a psychologist in Needham, Massachusetts, who works with teens, adults and couples. He suggests resolving to spend just one minute each day thinking about nothing but the present moment. “Staying mindful can alleviate stress and anxiety and help us appreciate what we have right now,” he says. Another way to improve your mental health in the new year is to recognize negative thoughts and ask yourself if there’s another way to view the situation, Endlich says. “Negative thoughts are automatic and effortless, and often irrational and distorted,” he says. “By challenging them regularly, we discover how often there are other, more helpful ways to look at things.”

Give up fad diets.

If there’s one surefire way to fail at keeping your New Year’s resolution, it’s to commit to a fad diet. “They just don’t work!” says Charlotte Markey, a psychology professor at Rutgers University who studies weight management. If your goal is sustainable weight loss, you’ll be more successful if you think long-term about healthy eating, says Markey, author of the forthcoming book “Smart People Don’t Diet.” “Don’t deprive yourself of the food you love, but make logical, moderate, realistic choices concerning food,” she says.

See your doctor.

If there’s one thing health professionals want you do to in 2015, it’s to simply pay them a visit. Women especially should schedule an annual visit with an OB-GYN or a primary care doctor, says Shelly Holmstrom, an OB-GYN in Tampa, Florida, and associate professor at the University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine. “Although Pap tests are not necessarily needed each year, many women have gynecological issues that need to be addressed,” she says.

Copyright 2014 U.S. News & World Report

by Anna Medaris Miller

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