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New Year’s resolutions for your mind, body and spirit

General

A new year ahead means setting goals for the next 365 days. For many people, the problem with resolutions is that they’re not specific enough. Instead of setting a goal to simply “get healthier,” brainstorm what specific actions will help you achieve that goal.

To help, we’ve put together a list of specific, measurable actions to improve your wellness—in mind, body and spirit.

Give your brain a workout

As people get older, exercising the mind regularly is linked to a lowered risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. What exactly does that look like? Any activity that challenges your brain will help you keep your mind in shape. For example, puzzles, crosswords, board games and learning new languages or instruments are all brain-challenging activities. Commit to engaging in one of these activities 3-5 times per week. Within a few weeks, brain games will become part of your everyday routine.

Care for your mental health

Another way to treat your mind well is taking care of your emotional well-being. Talking about your feelings with a trusted loved one or therapist is an excellent strategy for improving your mental wellness. A therapist can provide guidance for identifying negative thought patterns, as well as tips for how to improve them.

Move your body

Moving your body consistently is a crucial part of your physical and mental health. The American Heart Association recommends getting at least 2.5 hours of exercise per week. For many people this looks like five 30-minute exercise sessions each week.

If you don’t have an exercise habit, set a small, realistic goal such as going on three 20-minute walks each week. Over time, you will build up your stamina and can increase your duration or add more types of activity, including strengthening and stretching exercises.

Prioritize rest

Getting quality sleep is one of the most often overlooked health habits. But sleep is crucial for your health. In fact, chronic sleep deprivation is linked to a higher risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.

Your immune system also relies on sleep to keep you healthy. If you have trouble getting enough sleep, focus on incorporating one habit that can improve your sleep. For example, set up screen time limits on your phone or tablet to remind you to put your devices down before bed.

Exercise gratitude

Practicing gratitude can have a profound impact on your physical and mental well-being. Researchers have found that a spirit of gratitude is linked to better heart health, a longer life span and lower rates of depression. To start a gratitude practice, set a goal to make a gratitude list every day.

If making a list doesn’t resonate with you, consider how you can express gratefulness directly to others. For example, make a commitment to send two handwritten thank-you notes per month—these could be to thank someone for a specific kind deed, or simply to let someone know you appreciate them.

Start a prayer practice

Many people turn to prayer in times of stress, worry or discouragement. While scientists have found it hard to study the benefits of prayer specifically, there is research that people who pray regularly do not experience as many feelings of anxiety, fear or isolation. Those who pray with others also have lower rates of depression and a stronger sense of connection with others.

Prayer is personal—so you should look for ways to approach prayer that are meaningful for you. If you’re looking to cultivate better habits around prayer, you might set a goal to pray before bed each night, with your spouse in the morning or with long-distance loved ones once a week.