In order to turn your New Year’s health resolutions into long-term habits, you must first set realistic goals. Make 2022 your year for self-care and improvement with these goal-setting tips for a healthy lifestyle.
The most common lifestyle and health resolutions are usually centered around diet, exercise, mental health and substance use. Improving in even one of these categories can lower your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and other chronic conditions so you can live a longer, healthier life.
When setting your goals, make sure they’re S.M.A.R.T.: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based. Ready to kick off 2022 with a healthy lifestyle? Let’s get started!
We’ve all said it during the holiday season: “The diet starts tomorrow!”
But what if your diet didn’t have a start or end date, and it turned into a lifestyle instead? The best, long-term diets are intuitive, not restrictive. This means you eat the food that truly satisfies you when you’re hungry, but you stay mindful of moderation. For example, you control the portion sizes of your favorite foods rather than skipping meals, counting calories or cutting out entire food groups.
Strive to eat a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables each day, as well as lean proteins and low-fat dairy. Legumes, nuts and whole grains are also excellent sources of heart-healthy nutrients. As you incorporate more nutritious food into your diet, try to cut back on processed foods, sugary drinks and sodium.
Setting Your Goals
Here are some ideas for goals that will help you maintain a healthy lifestyle with smart eating habits — not unsustainable fad diets. Notice how they are centered around adding rather than taking away.
Instead of: “I’m cutting carbs out of my diet in 2022.”
Try this: “I’m going to add a serving of vegetables to my dinner every night, alongside carbs and protein, to ensure I’m eating well-rounded meals that give me the nutrients I need.”
Instead of: “I want to lose 30 pounds by June.”
Try this: “By June, I want to walk up the stairs without losing my breath and feel confident in my favorite pair of jeans.”
Have you ever noticed how full the gym is in January compared to July? That’s because most health resolutions centered around exercise aren’t sustainable throughout the year. If you didn’t work out much last year, the chances of you going to the gym every day in 2022 are slim. Don’t expect to go straight from the couch to a 5K — start slowly, increase intensity as you go and find physical outlets you actually enjoy. The more you like the activity, the longer you’ll stick to it.
Keep in mind that adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. How you get these minutes in is up to you. Start with brisk walking, casual biking or gardening, then work your way up to running, swimming laps or lifting weights.
Setting Your Goals
These goals will help you find a rhythm you can stick to year-round, especially if you’re just starting out.
Instead of: “I’m going to burn 500 calories each day on the treadmill.”
Try this: “Since I should get 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, I’m going to go for a 30-minute walk around my neighborhood each day. Once I’m ready, I’ll jog, then run.”
Instead of: “I’m joining a new gym, and I will go every day starting on Jan. 1.”
Try this: “If I can stick to my daily walks for two months, I know I’ll have the discipline to get my money’s worth out of a gym membership. Once I join, I’ll hit the gym three times per week for more intense workouts while still taking walks on days I don’t go.”
Mental Health Goals
Mental conditions, as well as too much stress, can take a toll on your body and make it difficult to live a healthy lifestyle. If you’re constantly feeling anxious or depressed, achieving your mental health resolutions may be an ongoing challenge. However, there are plenty of ways to find joy and relaxation in everyday life this year.
Setting Your Goals
Mental health problems won’t disappear overnight. Be patient with yourself, stay in the moment and don’t get too upset if you slip up. As long as you follow through on a few action items like the ones listed below, you’ll slowly start to feel a difference in your overall mindset.
Instead of: “I’m going to stop being depressed this year and just be happy.”
Try this: “I’m going to write in a gratitude journal to note all the things I am thankful for. I will also spend 15 minutes outside in the sun every day to help with my depression.”
Instead of: “I’m deleting all my social media apps for good in 2022.”
Try this: “I will take my screen time down by 25% each week and replace one hour per day that I would usually spend on my phone with a productive activity. I also won’t use my phone for an hour before bed.”
Substance Use Goals
Smoking and drinking too much alcohol are among the leading causes of preventable death and illness in the United States. These habits can damage all organs in the body and lead to cancer, lung disease, heart disease and stroke.
Strive to limit your alcohol intake to fewer than seven drinks per week. It’s okay to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, but if you often drink with the sole intent of getting drunk, you may want to re-examine your relationship with alcohol. A healthier lifestyle starts with small changes, like making weaker drinks, staying hydrated throughout the day and having several days in the week where you don’t drink at all.
Quitting nicotine looks different for everyone. Some choose to wean themselves off, some rely on medications and others choose a “quit day” so they can prepare themselves for this lifestyle change. You can also talk to your doctor and use websites, hotlines and support groups. Although quitting cold turkey is possible, research shows that only 3% to 5% of people will succeed for longer than six months.
Setting Your Goals
Keep in mind that these goals are recommended for those who simply want to quit or cut back on bad habits. If you have a serious addiction problem, talk to your doctor. Depending on your dependence level, they may suggest either total abstinence or a medically monitored detox process. Remember, about 13% of Americans meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder, so you are not alone if you find yourself struggling to moderate or control your drinking.
Instead of: “I’m not drinking any alcohol in 2022.”
Try this: “If I am unable to moderate my drinking, I will join a recovery program, seek outpatient services and talk to my doctor to find a solution that works well for me.”
Instead of: “On Jan. 1, I’m quitting smoking cold turkey.”
Try this: “I will find a counselor to help me create a plan for quitting. I will wear patches and carry gum with me at all times, too. That way, I can be nicotine free by March.”
With these tips for a healthy lifestyle, you can find New Year’s health resolutions that set you up for long-term success in 2022.