PUBLIC HEALTH
January 1, 2020

Eight Baby Steps to a Better 2020

Here are some small steps you can take to stay on course for a happier and healthier 2020.

Most of us are hoping to improve our health in 2020. We thought we'd give you some pretty simple ways to get a running start on your health goals for the new year. For many people, small, easily do-able changes are the key to healthier habits. Then let your successes motivate you to do more.

Cut Back on Sugar, Even Fake Sugar

Sugar is hiding in so many of the foods we eat. Even toddlers are getting too much of it. That's why dieters and parents of kids who consider sugar a major food group turn to artificially-sweetened foods and sodas, thinking they're doing the right thing. But they're not a free pass either. Artificial sweeteners, AKA fake sugar, promote obesity and nurture kids' and adults' taste for ridiculously sweet foods. Eating foods processed with non-nutritive sweeteners also means we aren't eating foods that actually contain nutrients and fiber, like fruits.

Make Parks Part of Your Health Routine

How many places in your neighborhood do you leave happier than when you first arrived? People left parks feeling happier, after as little as 20 minutes — even those who found it hard to move around. Better mental health can be a walk in the park. Being outside does more than this, however. Spending time in nature can reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease, too.

Choose Foods, Not Supplements

Americans spend over $30 billion on dietary supplements each year in search of a quick and easy way to stay healthy. In general, pills are not going to do it. You will be much better off spending your money on fresh foods. Not only are the nutrients in them more readily available to your body, you are also far more likely to get the added bonus of micronutrients not found in processed vitamins and minerals.

Eat Breakfast a Little Later and Dinner a Little Earlier

Technically, we all fast overnight and break our fast in the morning, but by eating fewer hours each day, you give your digestive tract and metabolism a chance to rest and reset. It's called time-restricted eating. People who tried it lost weight, improved their cholesterol and took inches off their waists, proof of a healthier metabolism. Giving your body a chance to reboot itself by eating less is about more than losing weight: It cuts the risk of a variety of chronic diseases.

Understand the Difference Between Solitude and Loneliness

Loneliness among the elderly may be on the rise, but that's not the same as solitude. Withdrawing from the world or participating second-hand through social media can add to depression, but choosing “Me Time” is more likely to be a good way to do the right thing for yourself.

Fight Digital Addiction

Put down your devices. Go on a cell phone diet. As useful as the Internet and social media sites can be, too much time online interferes with our social lives, our attention and our ability get the things we need to do done. It doesn't matter whether you are a parent of child or an adult who uses online life to stand-in for real-life interactions, you need to set aside time free from digital distraction. Start with your meals, where distracted eating can also add pounds.

Take an Exercise Snack

You don't have to run a marathon or even a mini-marathon — though that's great — climbing a flight of stairs here, a walk around the neighborhood there and you've done yourself some good. People who were the most out of shape saw the biggest improvements.

Set Yourself Up to Succeed

It may seem like a contradiction, but taking a lighter approach to your health goals can make you more likely to succeed than a rigid do-or-die attitude. In fact, you are better prepared to succeed If you plan on having some setbacks. Sure, determination is great, but not if it leads you to feel defeated when you miss a day of exercise or over-indulge. You will have days when your motivation just isn't there, but keep the big picture in mind — it's one day, maybe even a few days, but going forward and persisting is what really makes the difference. Slip-ups are bound to happen. If you are feeling happier, more energetic and healthier by the end of 2020, you have had a very good year.
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