Say “No” to Resolutions
Forget losing 20 pounds, running a marathon or quitting social media. Much smaller changes can actually have a bigger impact on your life in the long run.
Why? You’re more likely to do them and stick with them.
Here are eight easy health “fixes” that can kickstart a new year of healthy habits and less stress.
1. Replace Your Toothbrush
The CDC recommends replacing your toothbrush (or brush head if you use an electric toothbrush) every three to four months. If you keep it longer than that, the worn-down bristles make the brush less effective in clearing away plaque.
“If patients are recovering from recent illness, we may recommend changing toothbrushes sooner. This allows for optimal function and plaque removal and also reduces the development of a potentially infectious film of bacteria on the teeth.” – James Damascus, DDS, The University of Vermont Health Network – Alice Hyde Medical Center
2. Try One New-To-You Fruit or Vegetable
Healthier eating can begin with something as small as one spinach salad. Experiment with healthy foods you’ve never tried and have fun with it.
“I advise my patients to eat a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables, as each color provides your body with different vitamins and minerals. Red tomatoes contain lycopene and minerals, orange sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A and potassium, yellow bell peppers are a good source of vitamin C, green broccoli is rich in iron, blueberries and purple cabbage are rich in antioxidants, and white parsnip is a good source vitamins E, B, and K.” – Sarah Davies, MD, family medicine and emergency medicine, The University of Vermont Health Network – Central Vermont Medical Center
3. Move Your Body Every Day
Find something that makes you happy – a Zumba video on YouTube, a living room dance party with the kids, or a walk around the block. Forget weight loss or the shape of your body; movement, even for five or 10 minutes each day, creates mood-boosting endorphins that stay with you throughout the day.
“I tell my patients to utilize little tricks to move their body like setting the kitchen timer to go off every hour as a reminder that you need to get up and move around. I encourage patients to start slow and work their way up to the recommended 150 minutes per week. My favorite line is ‘if you rest, you rust, so get up and move!’” – Jennifer Gilwee, MD, adult primary care, The University of Vermont Medical Center
4. Schedule Routine Health Care Visits
Between primary care check-ups, vision and hearing exams, dental cleanings, mammograms, colonoscopies, prostate exams, it can be a lot to keep track of. But keeping up with these appointments could save your life. The American Academy of Family Physicians provides this schedule of adult health screenings.
“I use preventative care visits with my patients as a time to discuss health screenings like questionnaires, blood work and cancer screenings. Those discussions can help identify the risk of disease so we can work to keep it from ever developing. Those talks and tests can also identify a disease early in its course while it can still be treated.” – Catherine Ayers, MD, primary care, The University of Vermont Health Network – Porter Medical Center
5. Toss Old Makeup
Water-based beauty products (liquid foundation, for instance) can become a breeding ground for bacteria. Bacteria can cause skin infections, irritations or breakouts -- definitely not what you look for in a beauty product. Toss any open, water-based foundation after six to 12 months. As for eyeliner, eye shadow and mascara – replace them every three months.
“Our skin is populated with bacteria so any product applicator in contact with our skin will also become populated with bacteria. To reduce the risk of infection, ensure the eyelids and face are clean prior to application of makeup, and gently and thoroughly remove all eye makeup at the end of the day, every day. Never share eye makeup.” – Elizabeth Houle, MD, ophthalmology, UVM Medical Center
6. Check Your Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Did you know they expire? Don’t tempt catastrophe with an alarm that no longer functions as it should. Protect yourself and your home by checking these devices – and testing their batteries – now.
“Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms have expiration dates ranging from 7 to 10 years. The expiration date should be on the back of the unit. Properly working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in your home can save your life.” – Abby Beerman, injury prevention coordinator, UVM Medical Center
7. Be Suspicious Online
Few things are more stressful than recovering from identity theft. So ditch the “private” password notebook hidden in your sock drawer! Practice good "password hygiene" and change your passwords often, and don’t use the same passwords across multiple websites and services. To simplify the process, use a password manager like the one recommended by the National Cybersecurity Alliance.
“Online safety is, quite frankly, exhausting. From keeping track of passwords to managing our email inboxes to recognizing the tell-tale indicators of phishing, it takes a lot of work to protect our identities and our data while we function online. The biggest thing I tell our employees (and my own family and friends) is to slow down and maintain a certain level of suspicion while using anything connected to the Internet. It’s sad to say, but it’s the easiest way to avoid falling for a phishing scam or something worse.” – Meghan Hunt, cyber risk analyst, UVM Health Network
8. Start or Restart a Spiritual Practice
Whether it’s meditation, yoga, prayer, connecting with nature or attending traditional faith-based services, having a regular spiritual practice can boost your emotional health. It enhances self-awareness, resilience, and compassion for others. If you have a friend who has different beliefs, ask to join them in their practice. Experiencing different traditions promotes understanding and togetherness, which can feel very uplifting.
“As a Spiritual Care team we see that the better we attend to these aspects of ourselves, the better we feel and the better able we are to care for our hospice clients and families.
Every year I tend to over-promise myself what I will achieve. So, this year, I decided to make the commitments short time-wise. I’m adding just 10 minutes to my regular meditation, I will go for a walk 2 or 3 times a week and I will write down just one gratitude each day. May you find small ways to tend to your mind, body and spirits this year and may that ripple out into the world.” – Nina Thompson, spiritual caregiver, UVM Health Network - Home Health & Hospice