The beginning of a new year is a perfect opportunity to refresh your routine and set health and wellness goals, but it can be difficult to follow through on these intentions in the long term: studies show that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by mid-February. If you entered January with big intentions only to find your new habits slipping, there’s no time like the present to recommit to your physical and mental well-being. Here are a few potential areas to focus on as you hit reset.
Set sustainable fitness goals
Exercising more frequently is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions every year, and for good reason: regular physical activity can lower your risk for many chronic health conditions and improve your mood and sleep, among other benefits.
To make lasting, meaningful changes, set achievable goals. Many Americans exercise less during fall and winter in comparison to warmer months. If you don’t currently have a regular routine, aiming to work out for an hour each day may not be a practical starting point. Behavioral scientist Susan Weinschenk Ph.D., outlines three critical steps for building new habits that stick: start with a small and specific action, tie it to an existing habit, and make it easy to accomplish during the first week.
Rather than trying to become a hardcore workout enthusiast overnight, resolve to enjoy your morning coffee while walking, then increase your daily walk by ten minutes the next week. When you anchor your intention to an existing action, you give your brain a natural cue to put it into practice. And since the key to solidifying your new habit is repetition, starting with an easy action will create self-trust and allow you to expand on your goal over time.
Lift your mood and combat burnout
Mental health is an important aspect of your overall health, as mental health disorders such as depression can increase your risk for numerous physical conditions, from diabetes to heart disease. For many, this is a particularly challenging time from the standpoint of mental health. Approximately 5% of U.S. adults experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression triggered by changes in the weather and reduced exposure to sunlight, while 10-20% of Americans experience a milder form of the winter blues.
To combat the effects of winter depression, try to keep your home as bright as possible by keeping curtains and blinds open and sitting closer to well-lit windows when you can. Be sure to spend some time outside every day, even if the weather is cold or the sky is gray. The morning is an especially impactful time to get outside and walk around.
For many Americans, mental health challenges persist year round. Burnout, a form of chronic stress often linked to workplace demands, has grown increasingly common throughout the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. Of the 1,500 U.S. workers who participated in a 2021 survey about burnout, over half reported experiencing burnout related to their job responsibilities. The effects of burnout go beyond missed deadlines and a lack of motivation — chronic stress influences many aspects of your physical health, from your risk for heart disease to the brain-gut connection.
To maintain emotional balance, start by learning the signs of burnout. Look out for insomnia, exhaustion, changes in your appetite, headaches, and stomachaches. Opt for healthy stress management strategies, like meditation and exercise. In addition, try to stick to your usual sleep schedule.
If you find that symptoms of burnout or other mental health disorders are interfering with your relationships or daily responsibilities, reach out to your doctor or a mental health professional. You may also benefit from free mental health apps like What’s Up?, which helps you manage stress and negative thoughts through a therapy approach called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and Insight Timer, which has a diverse library of free guided meditations.
Maintain or cultivate social connections
As you prioritize your overall mental health, focus on deepening social connections or creating new ones. Social isolation and loneliness have been growing issues in the U.S. even before the Covid-19 pandemic — a 2018 study from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Economist found that one in five Americans often or always feel isolated — and the pandemic-related rise of remote work has only solidified the trend. In a recent public opinion poll from the American Psychiatric Association (APA), nearly two-thirds of the participants said that they felt isolated or lonely at least sometimes as a result of working from home.
Having a strong social network and regularly connecting with others can improve many areas of your health, including your cardiovascular and cognitive health. Whether volunteering, exploring new hobbies, or catching up with friends or family virtually or in person, small acts of connection go far.
Strengthen your immune system
It’s challenging to keep up with health goals if you’re sidelined by the cold, flu, or other illnesses. Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to give your immunity a boost, even beyond getting your annual flu shot and staying current with vaccines.
Experts at the Cleveland Clinic recommend incorporating immune-boosting foods into your winter menu to help your body dispatch any seasonal invaders. Fill your grocery cart with a wide range of colorful fruits and vegetables to ensure you consume a full arsenal of antioxidants. Be sure to stock up on raw garlic, which contains antiviral compounds, along with vitamin-C-rich foods like citrus fruits, peppers, broccoli, and kiwis.
According to the Mayo Clinic, people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to succumb to sickness after being exposed to a virus. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep per night to support healthy infection-fighting antibodies and cells. We’ve compiled these tips for getting the nightly rest you need when sleep is elusive.
Here for your health all year long
At Alto, we believe that staying on top of your health should be as simple as possible, and we’re here to support you with exceptional pharmacy care all year long. We offer free, same-day delivery and medication management tools like reminders and auto refills in our mobile app.
Reach out any time through in-app secure messaging or by phone at 1-800-874-5881.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2021 and has been updated for accuracy and completeness.