New Year, healthier you

Jan 19, 2016, 16:37 PM by Gerald Cleveland
baby-onlyConsider these 10 strategies to help you get 2016 off to a healthy start. Once you review our list, make your own and share it with us at

Realize you’re in control. Lifestyle and daily habits rule. Only you can make the choices that have positive effects on your health. The recipe is simple: Make good life choices, live, repeat.

Stop dwelling on the negative. We all know that life happens—it’s how we choose to deal with disappointment that affects our quality of life. Celebrate life, lean on your support system and enjoy the experience. People who have a positive attitude not only live longer but enjoy life more fully, too.

Move often and keep track. You don’t have to be a marathon runner to get exercise. Try simple things such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Creating a daily goal or using an activity tracker may be the motivation you need to get moving. People who wear a device that tracks the number of steps they’ve taken each day are more active than those who don’t. 

Cook more at home. People who live to 100 and beyond eat at home more than in restaurants, where the menu is generally higher in fat, salt and sugar, plus food is often served in larger portions. Find new recipes that feature colorful fruits and vegetables, which are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Your body will thank you for taking the time to prepare meals at home.  

Brush and floss your teeth regularly. It’s your first line of defense against tooth decay and gum disease. Because diseases of the mouth can affect other parts of your body and lead to health problems such as heart disease, it’s especially important to maintain good oral health.

Wet, lather, scrub, rinse, dry, repeat. Using good ’ol soap and water to wash your hands is one of the best ways to keep from getting sick and avoid spreading germs. It’s helpful to carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are unavailable.

Have healthy hobbies. They add structure and meaning to your daily routine. Plant a garden, play golf or card games with friends and family.

Practice mindfulness. Being mindful means paying attention to the present moment, exactly as it is. Meditation and deep breathing can add calm to the stress of the day. Don’t forget to take time to laugh—it can be one of the best ways to relieve stress, improve mood and boost self-esteem.

Make water the drink of choice. About 60 percent of a person’s body weight is made up of water and it’s essential for almost every function, from flushing out toxins to digestion. So drink up before you start feeling parched. Replace sodas and juice with clean, pure water and you could lose several pounds this year.

Regroup after setbacks. See your health goals as ongoing and flexible, not as all-or-nothing commitments, which can be an automatic set-up for failure. If you get off track for a few days, don’t consider your resolution failed. Remind yourself of all the progress you’ve already made and regroup. Recommitting and restarting is better than giving up.

Gerald Cleveland is director of UTMB's Health Promotion and Wellness.