Primary Care Jan 3, 2020

Take 2020 by the Horns

New Year’s resolutions for a happier and healthier you

Reviewed by: Emmy Feeler, MSN, APRN, FNP-C
Written by: Ashley Lawrence

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Cheers to a new year and a new you! As January rolls around, most people will reflect on the past year and set personal goals to improve the new year. This is the perfect time to recommit to your health and enhance your well-being.

We know change can be hard. In fact, researchers at the University of Scranton revealed that by February, 80% of New Year’s resolutions are put on the back burner to be reevaluated the following year. This is why it’s important to pick a change you actually want to make and to set realistic goals. Make a plan and seek support, focusing on only one change at a time. Writing out your goals can create a visual that may generate the motivation you need. Be sure to reward yourself along the way, incorporating an incentive that stays within reason of your newfound commitment. To assist you, we’ve compiled a list of sustainable resolutions as well as tips on maintaining accountability.

Schedule Annual Primary Care Appointments

While you may be in great health, visiting your primary care physician can help you stay that way. Your annual primary care visit is an important component of your preventative care. This is the ideal time to undergo health screenings to rule out any health concerns, especially those without obvious symptoms.

A good rule of thumb is to schedule your primary care visit around your birthday each year, so you don’t forget. At UT Health Austin, you can make an appointment at your convenience by calling 1-833-UT-CARES (1-833-882-2737) or visiting online here.

Keep a File of Family Medical History

Knowing which health conditions and diseases exist within your family history will help inform your own risk factors for certain illnesses. While you cannot change your genetic makeup, you can potentially reduce your risk of developing similar health problems by changing your environment, lifestyle, or habits.

At your next primary care visit, discuss your family medical history with your doctor and be sure to request a summary of your visit for your personal file after each appointment.

Be Active

2.5 hours of moderate aerobic exercise each week will reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, stroke, colon and breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, and decreased cognitive function. As a general goal, you should aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day, five days a week.

Don’t have a gym membership (or the time to dedicate to one)? Take advantage of your everyday surroundings instead. Make a conscious decision to park further away from work buildings and storefronts, take the stairs, bike around town, or even commit to a workout buddy by competing with family, friends, and colleagues for daily steps and activity. The Austin area is also known for its outdoor recreation. Check out these accessible park paths and tucked away hiking trails available to the public.

Eat Healthier

Small changes to your diet can make significant impacts on your health. You may need to change some of your daily habits or even the environment around you. To take steps toward improving your nutrition, try incorporating one new healthy eating goal each week.

Whether you decide to integrate more fruits, low-fat dairy products, vegetables, or whole grains, it’s important to plan ahead. Avoid packaged and processed foods, chemical additives, added sugar, trans fats, and artificial sweeteners. Shopping for only what you need will give you better control over mealtime and may even save on the bank.

Kick Nasty Habits

So, you don’t want to be known as a quitter? Then, replace that bad habit with a healthier one. Assess what prompts your bad habit, identifying the triggers associated with the behavior you perform. Maybe your undesirable routine is a product of stress, boredom, or even the environment you find yourself in. Seek a healthier substitute, finding a new behavior to perform, such as exercising, taking up a hobby, or exploring new spaces.

According to the UT Austin Department of Psychology, it takes 4-6 weeks to develop a good habit, so be prepared to surround yourself with a source of strength, such as friends or family who align themselves with your healthier habit.

Improve Sleep

Getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night can lower your risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes as well as lower your risk of injury, strengthen your immunity to illness, and improve your memory.

Stick to a sleep schedule, setting an alarm 30 minutes prior to bedtime to help regulate your body’s clock and ensure you’re getting an adequate amount of sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, check out these 7 tips for better sleep hygiene.

Practice Mindfulness

Be present in the now. Tune into the sights, sounds, and smells that you usually ignore, and acknowledge your thoughts and feelings objectively, without reaction or judgement. Focusing on the present moment improves mood and brain functions, reduces stress, and can even help with weight management.

Try to set aside 5- to 10-minute intervals throughout your daily routine to focus on your senses and let your mind wander. Get in the habit of taking the time to pause and breathe before answering the phone or attending a meeting.

Here’s to a happier, healthier you in 2020!

    About UT Health Austin

    UT Health Austin is the clinical practice of the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin. We collaborate with our colleagues at the Dell Medical School and The University of Texas at Austin to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to provide patients with an unparalleled quality of care. Our experienced healthcare professionals deliver personalized, whole-person care of uncompromising quality and treat each patient as an individual with unique circumstances, priorities, and beliefs. Working directly with you, your care team creates an individualized care plan to help you reach the goals that matter most to you — in the care room and beyond. For more information, call us at 1-833-UT-CARES or request an appointment here.