Having a bedtime routine without screens can be key to a good night’s sleep. (Photo: Jens Kreuter, StockSnap)

When we get close to a new year, we see numerous ideas and advice start to pop up about resolutions. As much as I want to give readers a fresh idea or new perspective, it would be wrong to avoid what’s already on our minds. For many people, they provide a chance at really improving their lives. Still, we also know that most people who make New Year’s resolutions don’t achieve their goals.

As I was looking at the data and combing through recent health research, I saw some information that caught my eye. For instance, the age of the person who makes a resolution plays a big part in how likely they are to reach their goals. People in their 20s manage to achieve their resolutions 39 percent of the time each year, while people over 50 are only 14 percent likely to achieve their desired results.

Is it simply that things are easier in our 20s? After all, our metabolism and energy levels are higher then, and since weight loss is often at the top of everyone’s list, it does seem like 20-somethings have it easier from the start. Still, after I read another article that talked about the daily grind of life taking its toll on middle-aged men and women, I wondered if there wasn’t more to it than this.

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What did the researchers find? Basically, they believe that middle-aged men and women are in denial about their weight and lifestyle. Part of that entails poor diet, too little exercise and excessive alcohol consumption, but the problems run deeper than simply not making enough healthy choices. The real problem, I think, is that the older we get, the more responsibilities we have pushed upon us. There are more responsibilities or employees to supervise at work, more soccer or football practices to take your kids to, and more projects to finish or more meals to prepare at home. With so much to do every day, our own health falls further down the list day after day and year after year.

How can we fix this? Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer, but I would ask you to consider this: Don’t dive into 50, 20 or even 10 resolutions this year. Your life probably isn’t going to slow down on its own, so how on earth can you suddenly find the time to do all those things? Instead, pick one change you want to make this year and do it. Write it down; make a banner to put in your bedroom or office. Post sticky notes all over your house to guilt yourself into it if you have to, but commit to that one thing for the next 365 days. Make it a habit. Make it a ritual or routine you cannot live without. And then, next year, when you decide to pick another change to make, the first one will be so ingrained in your life that you’ll keep it up without missing a beat.

Here are some ideas on what to make your one thing be in 2017.

Prioritize your sleep.
Put simply, poor sleep habits make our lives much harder than they have to be. A good night’s sleep will give us more energy, a better attitude and even curb our cravings for junk food. Unfortunately, many Americans can’t fall asleep easily every night because we’re too busy worrying about our obligations tomorrow.

How can you fix this? Consistency is key. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. Have a bedtime routine that involves no screen time. Sleep will get easier and the quality should quickly improve.

Add more fruits and veggies to your diet.
Very few Americans get our daily recommended amount of fruit and vegetables, but our bodies desperately need the antioxidants and fiber they provide. My advice? Try to add them to every meal at home. If you don’t like certain foods, go to the grocery store and keep trying different options until you find one you like.

Consistently meet the weekly recommended exercise guidelines.
You don’t have to complete a marathon or the Ironman for exercise to have a positive impact on your health. It’s great if you can meet the recommended exercise guidelines every week, and it’s even better if you end up doing more. Remember, though, something is better than nothing. Customize a workout that you enjoy and have time to complete, and stick to it. Staying consistent and finding the motivation does get easier over time.

Find a way to be happy.
Whether the answer is seeking help for mental health problems, reducing anxiety or stress, or refusing to feel so lonely, make a plan to get more joy out of life. You know what your personal struggle is, but are you doing anything to ease the suffering? If not, start on it now.

Spend less time sitting.
Our bodies prefer to be in a state of motion, not sitting at a desk or on the couch for hours on end. That’s partly why some people fidget their way to a longer life. So try to stand up and walk around every hour. Your body will be more efficient (and happier with you) as a result.

Find an activity to share with your significant other and/or close friend.
Yes, a lot of what I’ve talked about have been personal improvement and changes, but we shouldn’t let ourselves be too selfish, either. Surrounding yourself with happy and healthy friends will, in turn, improve your life. So find activities you can share together. They can be as simple as taking walks together, talking more, reading the same books and discussing them after or even just saying “I love you” more. Those little moments together can make all the difference.

Jay McKenzie loves soccer, history and feeling great. He’s on a quest to eat better and exercise more, and he wants to share his experiences along the way. You can email him at [email protected] with comments or questions. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.

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