New Years

5 Tips for Turning Your Resolutions into Habits that Last

So how are those New Year’s resolutions going?

Last year, some of the most common resolutions included, “eat healthier,” “get more exercise,” and “get more sleep.”

And last year, just like every year, about 80% of those resolutions failed by February. So what do you do to keep your resolution alive and make those changes long-lasting habits?

1. Change Your Mindset

Sign Reading I Can

Here’s some great advice for attaining those resolutions, and everything else: keep a positive attitude. Assume you are going to reach your goals, then act like it. This will keep you energized and motivated for longer.

For example: Say you made a resolution to lose weight. You were doing great – up until that one Super Bowl party, when you ate a little of this, a little of that. Then you found it hard to get back to healthy eating.

Positive thinking can help you get back on track faster. Instead of thinking, “Oh man, I messed that up; what’s the point of continuing?” – with a positive attitude, you’re more likely to think, “Well, I slipped up but I was making great progress. I’m ready to start kicking butt again!”

2. Realize That New Behavior Doesn’t Happen Overnight

Apple on Plate

Forming a healthy habit is only part of your goal. The real measure of success is making that habit part of your life for years to come.

No matter how committed you are to a goal, it can take your brain some time to catch up. Experts used to think that amount of time was about three weeks, but now they believe it can take anywhere from two to nine months to get a habit to stick. If your goal is ambitious, it may take you more time to reach it. Have patience! Think of it as a journey, not a destination. Then pace yourself (the next step will help).

3. Break Your Goal Down into Small Chunks

Woman with Weights

Say you eat a lot of fast food and your resolution is to eat healthier. It’s probably not realistic to think that you’ll start sipping kale smoothies at every meal. But what you can do is figure out what you need to make that goal happen. Maybe it’s swapping in a few healthful meals a week or cutting down on the sugar in your morning coffee.

Breaking your resolution down into these smaller steps will make it seem easier. Even if you missed a workout or let your salad wilt and instead, enjoyed a few slices of pizza, you can return to taking those steps the next day, or whenever you’re ready.

4. Measure the Progress You’re Making

Man on Scale

Get a small notebook and regularly make notes on the steps you’re taking and the progress you’re making. If your goal was to save more money, keep your receipts and regularly check your bank balance. If your goal was to get more exercise, buy a cheap pedometer and then record your steps every day.

However, if your goal is weight loss, don’t weigh yourself more than once a week, since your body weight may go up and down. Pick the same day every week (or every other week) to step on the scale. If the numbers are moving down, keep doing what you’re doing! If they’re not, look at the notes you’ve made and see if you can make some changes.

5. Get Help If You Need It

Doctor Smiling

Set yourself up for your best chance at success. For health-related goals, your doctor is a good place to start. He or she can give you advice or offer resources that can help you achieve your goals, including some you didn’t even know existed. For example, many people are eligible to receive smoking cessation (stop smoking) programs for free – but you won’t know unless you talk to your doctor.

For some people, more than medical advice, they need accountability and an occasional cheerleader to help them reach their goals. Think about picking a relative or friend to tell about your goals and arrange to check in with them occasionally. Choose someone who is positive and believes in you; otherwise, their negative attitude might tank your efforts.

Above all, keep at it! Before long, you’ll start to see what works for you. Then, besides achieving this year’s goals, you can get a jump start on next year’s!

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Sad Woman On Bed

Mental Health Matters

Mental Health is Part of Your Health

Couple at a Doctor's Appointment

The first step is recognizing that your mental health is your health. Your mental health can also affect your physical health in some serious and surprising ways. When you’re feeling down, you may be less likely to take care of yourself: you may skip dosages of a medication or not get enough sleep. You may also engage in riskier behavior, such as drinking or eating to excess, taking drugs, or acting out aggressively.

It goes both ways: people with chronic conditions may be more likely to suffer from poor mental health. And if you have a physical condition AND you suffer from depression, you may have worse health outcomes.

Understand the Difference Between Sadness and Depression

Tired Man

You’re probably no stranger to sadness: it’s an emotion that makes you feel bad or down, usually following an unfortunate or unpleasant event, such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or ending a relationship. Sadness is a common, and even appropriate reaction to these circumstances.

But in some cases, the sadness becomes something more, and can manifest in intense and even physical symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue/loss of energy
  • Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of worthlessness

If you have any of these feelings that last almost all day, for at least two weeks, and it’s gotten to the point that it interferes with your daily activities, you may actually suffer from depression.

Depression is a serious condition. It may have its roots in an event, such as a major life change (getting fired, moving away from family and friends…even the stress from a happy event like getting married may trigger it). It can be a physical condition, or it may run in your family. Even getting less daylight can cause depression.

There’s a common myth that you can just snap out of it; perhaps if you just get some fresh air, talk to a friend, or treat yourself to a nice meal, you’d be able to cheer yourself up. But that’s not how depression works. It’s not a matter of will power, commitment, or positive thinking. Unless you get help, depression can last for months or even years.

Seek Out Professional Help

Woman Listening to Her Doctor

If you think you’re suffering from depression or mental illness, talk to a doctor. Under the Affordable Care Act, all health care plans are required to provide coverage for mental health care.

Your primary care doctor is a good place to start, since they already know you and your health care history. It may be easier for you, since you’re already familiar with them.

Getting Tested and Treated

Young Man Talking To Her Doctor

Once you’ve found a doctor, they can help you determine if you do have depression or another mental health disorder, its underlying causes, and the best treatment to help you feel better.

You may be given a physical exam and lab tests to help rule out other conditions. For example, if your thyroid gland isn’t producing enough hormone, you may experience depression-like symptoms, such as a low mood, fatigue, and weight gain or loss.

At this point, your doctor may recommend medication or refer you to another doctor for additional testing and treatment.

If your doctor recommends medication, you may need to try different medications before you find the one that works for you. Having bloodwork and a history of your symptoms will help your doctor tailor your treatment, but not every patient responds to every drug. If that’s the case, communicate your feelings to your doctor, be patient, and follow their advice about your prescription.

You Don’t Have to Suffer – and You Don’t Have to Do It Alone

Women Embracing Each Other

AltaMed is here for you, and we’re committed to your mental and physical well-being. To learn more about AltaMed’s behavioral health services, call 855-425-1777.

If you have suicidal thoughts and feel like you could be a harm to yourself or others, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255.

Gift of Health

Give the Gift of Health – To Yourself!

It’s that time of year again! Time for decorating cookies, counting our blessings, and starting to plan for the year ahead. This year get an early start on those New Year’s resolutions by giving yourself the gift of health. These simple tips will help you and your entire family feel great all throughout the year.

A Balanced Diet

Fruits, Vegetables & Nuts

Don’t worry, you won’t have to avoid all those holiday treats. The key to a healthy, nutritious diet is balance, both in variety and quantity. Make sure to eat vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free dairy, and proteins. A diverse diet means your body gains important nutrients, all while you get to enjoy trying new foods. For example, eating vegetables every day is great, but switching between leafy greens, colorful peppers and carrots, and legumes like beans and peas is even better. But what about dessert? As long as foods with higher sugar and fat counts are enjoyed in moderation, they can remain on the shopping list.

A Daily Dose of Exercise

Senior Woman on a Bike

It might be a bit cooler outside, but there’s still plenty of ways to get the doctor-recommended amount of exercise every week. Physical activity provides so many health benefits, including lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer. Even just taking a brisk, 20-minute walk every day will get your heart rate up while giving you fun out in the fresh air. Also, joining a recreational sports league, biking, exercising along with a video, or going to the gym provides great sources of exercise. Try this: after the big holiday meal, take a stroll outside to help yourself digest, lower your blood pressure, and make room for leftovers.

A More Relaxed Mind

Man Meditating

Just as important as a healthy body, giving your mind a chance to rest will have a profound impact on your overall well-being. Stress is bad not only for your mood, but also your immune system.

If working, cooking and cleaning, or holiday shopping starts to feel overwhelming, try some of these strategies to cope:

  • Take a break! Stepping away from the source of stress for even 20 minutes has been shown to lower anxiety.
  • Start sweating! A short walk, run, bike-ride or swim session benefits your body and your mind.
  • Smile! Research has shown that changing our facial expressions can actually improve overall mood and outlook.
  • Breathe. If you start to feel tense, take a moment to breathe deeply and collect yourself.

A Better (and Longer) Night’s Sleep

Woman Sleeping

It’s no secret that a good night’s sleep does wonders for your health. In fact, the CDC recommends that adults between the ages of 18 and 60 get at least seven hours of sleep per night, while children and teens should aim for eight or more. Getting enough shut-eye may sound wonderful, but it’s not always so easy. An estimated one third of adults in the United States report not getting enough sleep on a regular basis. A lack of sleep has been linked to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other serious conditions.

Luckily, AltaMed has a couple of tips for gifting yourself a better night’s sleep:

  • Wake up and go to bed at the same times every day.
  • Put your phone or computer away at least a half hour before you plan to sleep.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol or eating a large meal late at night.
  • Ensure your bedroom is dark and at a comfortable temperature.
  • If possible, exercise during the day.

5 Tips for Turning Your Resolutions into Habits that Last