Go Small to Help Realize Your Resolutions

octavio-vegaBy Octavio Vega, MD

At the beginning of any new year, we often have the inner motivation to make new year’s resolutions. This is frequently the time when people decide to make positive changes in their health and overall well-being.

However, sometimes we set ourselves up to bite off more than we can chew and, unfortunately, end up abandoning the resolutions altogether. Instead of focusing on large goals that may be difficult to attain, make smaller changes that will enable you to achieve sustainable results.

Here are some suggestions for small goals that will equal big changes in your health (and could also positively affect other facets of your life):

  • Schedule routine appointments with your primary care provider, dentist and eye doctor. These regular checkups are important for health maintenance and disease prevention.
  • Use the stairs rather than the elevator/escalator. This may seem simple, but over time this small change will have a big impact on your overall level of physical activity.
  • Plan and make (if possible) your weekly meals ahead of time. By implementing this change, you are less likely to eat out for lunch at work and/or dinner. This will not only help keep your waistline on track, but it can help keep your budget on track as well.
  • Along the same lines, plan weekly home mealtimes with your family and friends as a way to implement these changes. Sharing meals with loved ones allows you to reconnect, which in turn can decrease stress while increasing happiness and recharging your batteries.
  • Aim for a good night’s sleep and practice good “sleep hygiene.” Going to bed and waking up at consistent times helps to regulate and promote a healthy sleep-wake cycle. Try to avoid using electronics, stimulants (caffeine, nicotine, alcohol), and eating large meals within one to two hours of bedtime. These modifications will enable you to wake up refreshed and ready to take on the challenges of the day.
  • Reconnect with yourself. Life is hectic, stressful and often pulls you in many different directions. We all want to care for others around us and by doing this we wear many different hats (e.g., partner, parent, co-worker, friend, etc.). But sometimes we forget to wear our own “hat.” It is equally important to be the best version of yourself in order to tackle the challenges life brings in the healthiest way possible. Examples of this include meditating, reading a book, practicing yoga, going for a run or walk, taking a long bath, etc. Regardless of what activity you choose, the ultimate goal should be self-fulfillment.

This is a small sample of the many modifications you can do that will have a big impact in your health and overall well-being. These lay the foundation on which healthy habits can be built upon. Remember, you will never get to the finish line without taking the first step.

Octavio Vega is a primary care physician with Rush University Medical Center. His office is located at Rush River North, and he is now accepting new patients.

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