Top 10 ways to improve health in the new year


December 26, 2016

Our regular habits make the biggest impact on our well-being.


There is no one food, drink, pill, machine or program that is the key to achieving optimal health, and no quick fixes, either. A person’s overall health habits are most important.

Consider these top 10 health habits to achieve better health in the new year:

1. Embrace nutrition basics.

Eating right doesn’t have to be complicated. Forget fad diets and adopt a healthy eating plan including a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy.

2. Move more.

Aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity, such as walking, each week to assist in weight maintenance and overall health.

3. Be smoke free.

In this case, the best health habit is no tobacco habit. Make a plan for the challenges you will face and keep trying your best. Seek support and talk to your doctor about medications that can double your chances of quitting for good.

4. Schedule sleep.

Make sleep a priority to enjoy a more focused, energy-filled lifestyle. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Create a relaxing bedtime routine and change your electronic device settings to “night shift” mode.

5. Prioritize preventive screenings.

Many medical conditions can be recognized in the early stages by getting preventive screenings and immunizations. Ask your doctor about what screenings are recommended for you. (Here are lists of recommended screenings for women and men.)

6. Connect with others.

Building a community of people who can help you through life’s ups and downs is a vital step toward happiness and good health. Invest in relationships that provide encouragement and accountability to both parties.

7. Stress less.

Gratitude has been shown to lower stress, which prevents many other physical and mental consequences. Instead of focusing on what your body can’t do or how you wish your body looks, try expressing gratitude for where you are now and the opportunity to make improvements.

8. Work toward or maintain a healthy weight.

If you are overweight, work toward losing 5 to 7 percent of your weight to significantly reduce your health risks. Studies show that individuals who track their intake using an app, such as MyFitnessPal, lose more weight and keep it off compared with those who don’t keep track of what they eat.

9. Set SMART goals.

General goals, such as “exercise more,” are not effective. A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic and Timely. “I will walk 20 minutes over my lunch break on Tuesdays and Thursdays” is a SMART goal.

10. Stay positive.

Health goals don’t always go as planned. When you face challenges, focus on all the positive changes you have made, no matter how small they seem. Treat yourself with kindness, like you would a good friend.


This post was written by Melinda Mahoney, RDN, LDN, a health educator with Health Plus, Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s faculty staff wellness program.