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10 Best Health Resolutions to Make in the New Year

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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  • Overhead of view of desk with notepad of New Year's Resolutions

    What makes a healthy resolution for the new year rank the best? When it’s one that you actually achieve! Experts from Harvard believe you’ll get success by mapping out a 12-month plan to gradually reach your New Year’s resolution goals. Try choosing just one goal or theme to focus on for the year, then set small achievements for each month. It’ll all add up to lifelong positive changes by the end of December.

    What theme are you focusing on this year? Vote up your number one goal and see how it stacks up.

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    Exercise Regularly
    senior woman hiking with dogs

    Resolving to get in shape, join a gym, and get a fitness tracker is so last year. This year make it easy by building physical activity into your daily routine. Take the stairs when possible, play with your kids or pets, do a chore each day, sprint to the mailbox, and walk as much as you can. Aim for moving your body in a multitude of ways for 30 minutes a day and you’ve done it. You’ve exercised regularly!

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    Watch Your Weight
    Close-up of weight scale with blurred woman in background

    Lose it, gain it, maintain it. No matter what you want to do with your weight, it all depends on how many calories you consume and burn. Get a baseline of how much you weigh now and how much more or less you’d like to eat and exercise. Then measure your results each month with whatever tools you prefer, from pen and paper to electronics. It sounds simple, but it’s a tried and true weight management plan that works.

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    Get Outside
    woman sitting at cafe table with newspaper

    The beauty of this healthy New Year’s resolution is that it can help you achieve most of your other ones. Studies show that being outdoors in nature improves your health by lowering blood pressure, reducing stress hormone levels, boosting your immune system, and improving mental health. Getting outside also provides the perfect opportunity to move your body with friends, family and pets or enjoy a solo stroll and meditative moment. Heck, you could be reading this list outside.

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    Protect Yourself from Illness
    Overhead view of Asian American woman sick on couch blowing nose

    Cold and flu season is usually in full swing as the new year rolls around. Which makes it a great time to resolve to get immunized, schedule annual exams and tests, wash your hands more often, and consume foods and vitamins that boost your immune system. Even better, remind your friends and family to do the same and book their appointments if they need your help. Then you’ll all have a healthier new year.

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    Cut Sugar from Your Diet
    Bubble gum machines

    This is a tough one if you have a sweet tooth, but eating dessert every night can wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels and cause inflammation. For 10 days, try to go without sugar and see if your body feels different. The first three days are the hardest. If you can keep going for 21 days, you have a better chance of breaking the habit for good. Then you can add a little sugar back in with minimal impact.

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    Sleep More

    It’s tempting to skimp on sleep when your to-do list is long, but not getting enough rest can raise your blood pressure, cause inflammation, and make you hungrier. You’ll fall asleep sooner and faster if you practice a pre-bed routine one to two hours before bedtime. Put your phone down for the night, take a hot bath or shower, turn the thermostat down to 66 degrees, and then drift away to enjoy eight hours of better health.

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    Stop Complaining

    Positive vibes can improve your health, so adopt an upbeat mindset for 30 days and see how you feel. It can be hard to catch yourself complaining, so enlist your friends, family and coworkers to call you out when you get negative. See if you can flip your complaint into a positive statement like “I love waiting in line because it gives me a chance to move my body.” Then do a crazy move to make people wonder.

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    Give Your Devices Some Space
    Male Using Smartphone

    Had enough mindless scrolling? Feel blue after seeing what everyone is up to? Make this the year you put down your devices. Going cold turkey may be too drastic, so carve out small amounts of device-free time and see how it feels. Tuck your tablet under your couch cushion while you watch one episode of a new show. Flip your phone over and focus on a homemade meal. Play a game of cards or solve a puzzle. Work up to an entire screen-free day of fun with friends.

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    Avoid Tobacco
    Close-up of Caucasian man's hand holding cigarette with smoke swirling around

    This resolution makes the list every year and for good reason. Smoking and using tobacco can lead to cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses. Even if you don’t smoke, you can resolve to avoid secondhand smoke and to support loved ones who are trying to quit. If you do smoke and you’ve tried to quit before, make this the year to get help in a fresh, new way. If you succeed, you’ll never have to make this resolution again!

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    Reduce Alcohol Consumption
    Red wine toast

    After months of holiday indulgence, the new year is the ideal time to dial back your drinking and take moderation for a trial run. Most guidelines recommend only one alcoholic drink per day for women and two for men. See if you can have at least one alcohol-free day a week. Or if you already have one, make it two. If it’s a challenge, try replacing your usual with kombucha or a non-alcoholic beverage that still tastes like a treat.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Dec 15
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Make Health Your Resolution in 2020. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/healthequity/features/newyear/index.html
  2. Making New Year's resolutions that stick. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/making-new-years-resolutions-that-stick
  3. 5 New Year’s Resolutions to Boost Your Heart Health. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/5-new-years-resolutions-to-boost-your-heart-health/
  4. 5 (relatively) easy New Year’s resolutions for healthier, happier kids (and families). Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/5-relatively-easy-new-years-resolutions-to-help-your-child-and-family-be-healthier-and-happier-2016122010902
  5. New Year's resolutions for health. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/new_years_resolutions_for_health
  6. 12-step guide to keeping those resolutions. The Harvard Gazette. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/12/a-step-by-step-guide-on-how-to-choose-make-and-keep-new-years-resolutions/