Women, line, people

Simple steps can help you keep New Year’s resolutions to improve health

Dec 31 2014

Most wellness experts agree that the key to making successful changes is to start small. Start with what is reasonable and achievable so that you can give yourself the “I can do this!” boost, which helps us feel empowered and recognize that it’s the daily journey that matters and not the destination.

So with the small, simple steps in mind, consider the following suggestions as you head into the New Year.

  • If you smoke, start by cutting your smoking in half. Your doctor would love to help. Remember: Every cigarette you don’t smoke could add 11 minutes to your life.
  • If you’re overweight, try losing just 5 percent of your body weight. According to Weight Watchers, losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight makes a real difference, and cuts your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
  • Eat just one additional serving of fruits or vegetables every day. Have fruit on your cereal, a salad instead of fries at lunch, or an extra serving of vegetables instead of a second roll with dinner.
  • A couple of times each week, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park 10 spaces further from the door. Or after dinner, take a stroll around the block and enjoy the season. Every step counts.
  • Drink more water – a well hydrated body is healthier and happier. Order sparkling water at a restaurant instead of wine, beer or soda and you’ll save money, too.
  • Protect your skin like you would a baby’s. Too much sun ages you and invites skin disease. Use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 on all exposed skin.
  • Worry less. Find a better way to cope with or resolve just one of your worries. Living with stress invites unhealthy habits and an unhealthy heart.
  • Sleep. Your body and mind will thank you for the extra rest. According to WebMD’s reporting on studies of sleep, getting too little sleep may negatively affect your health, mood, weight and other areas of your life.
  • Play. Mental health experts agree that when adults take time to play, they feel happier, more stimulated, less stressed, more creative and are often more effective problem solvers. Take a few minutes each day or an hour once a week to do something that engages you, makes you laugh or smile, and helps you feel energized and happy.
  • Reflect. Whether in quiet thought, prayer or meditation, take a pause from the noise in a moment of peaceful reflection. Aetna’s own studies of mindfulness programs with employees have shown that increased mindfulness decreases stress, improves focus and makes people more productive.

Finally, as you work to be healthier and happier, don’t forget to take advantage of your health benefit plan. Get routine preventive care, and use the resources in your plan to learn much more about steps you can take to get and stay healthy. Take the time to see what wellness programs, discounts and incentives are available to you.

One last tip: make sure you’re familiar with how your plan works so you can avoid expensive surprises and find care that offers you both quality and value in the new year.