Creating Healthy Habits
How to Keep Those New Year’s Resolutions!
We know that making healthy choices can help us feel better and live longer. Maybe you’ve already tried to eat better, get more exercise or sleep, quit smoking, or reduce stress. It’s not easy. But research shows how you can boost your ability to create and sustain a healthy lifestyle.
“It’s frustrating to experience setbacks when you’re trying to make healthy changes and reach a goal,” says NIH behavior change expert Dr. Susan Czajkowski. “The good news is that decades of research show that change is possible, and there are proven strategies you can use to set yourself up for success.”
Lots of things you do impact your health and quality of life, now and in the future. You can reduce your risk for the most common, costly, and preventable health problems—such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and obesity—by making healthy choices.
Know Your Habits
Regular things you do—from brushing your teeth to having a few drinks every night—can become habits. Repetitive behaviors that make you feel good can affect your brain in ways that create habits that may be hard to change. Habits often become automatic—they happen without much thought.
“The first step to changing your behavior is to create an awareness around what you do regularly,” explains Dr. Lisa Marsch, an expert in behavior change at Dartmouth College. “Look for patterns in your behavior and what triggers the unhealthy habits you want to change.”
Maybe you eat too much while watching TV or join a friend on smoke breaks even when you don’t want a cigarette. “You can develop ways to disrupt those patterns and create new ones,” Marsch says. For instance, eat meals with the TV off or join friends for healthy activities, like walk breaks.
Make a Plan
Make a plan that includes small, reasonable goals and specific actions you’ll take to move toward them.
“If you walk by the vending machine at work and buy junk food every afternoon, try walking a different way to eliminate that decision and bring healthy snacks from home,” Czajkowski says. “Whenever possible, make the healthy choice the easy choice.”
Consider what you think you’ll need to be successful. How can you change things around you to support your goals? You might need to stock up on healthy foods, remove temptations, or find a special spot to relax.
Get friends and loved ones involved. Research shows that people’s health behaviors tend to mirror those of their family and friends. Invite them to join you, support you, and help you stay on track.
It’s also important to plan for obstacles. Think about what might derail your best efforts to live healthier. How can you still make healthy choices during unexpected situations, in stressful times, or when tempted by old habits?
Stay on Track
Doing positive things for yourself can feel exciting and rewarding. But there will also be times when you wonder if you can stick with it.
“Identify negative thoughts and turn them into realistic, productive ones,” Marsch advises.
Keeping a record can help. You can use a paper journal, computer program, or mobile app to note things like your diet, exercise, stress levels, or sleep patterns. A study of people who lost at least 30 pounds and kept the weight off for at least a year found that they often tracked their progress closely.
“Even when you think you’re about to ‘fall off the wagon,’ hold on,” Czajkowski says. “Continue to track your behavior. Sometimes when you feel like you’re failing, you can learn the most.”
Marsch and others are working on digital technologies, like mobile apps, that could support you in a moment of weakness. Her team is also using technology to learn more about how to measure and increase the ability to monitor and control our behavior.
“The more you practice self-control, the better you become at it,” says Dr. Leonard Epstein, who studies behavior change and decision-making at the University at Buffalo. “You develop the capacity to act and react another way.”
Think About the Future
Epstein has found that some people have a harder time than others resisting their impulses. He calls this “delay discounting,” where you discount, or undervalue, the larger benefits of waiting in favor of smaller immediate rewards. This can lead to things like overeating, substance abuse, drinking or shopping too much, or risky sexual behavior.
“You can learn to postpone immediate gratification through episodic future thinking, or vividly imagining future positive experiences or rewards,” he explains. “It’s a great way to strengthen your ability to make decisions that are better for you in the long run.”
Epstein is now studying how to use this technique to help people who are at risk for type 2 diabetes prevent the disease.
Focusing on how a change might heal your body and enhance your life can help. When you stop smoking, your risk of a heart attack drops within 24 hours. Reducing stress can lead to better relationships. Even small improvements in your nutrition and physical activity can reduce your health risks and lengthen your life.
Sometimes when you’re trying to adopt healthier habits, other health issues can get in the way.
“When you’re really struggling with these behaviors, ask yourself if more is going on,” Czajkowski says. “For example, mental health conditions like depression and anxiety can be tied to unhealthy behaviors.”
A health professional can work with you to address any underlying issues to make change feel easier and to help you be more successful.
You’re never too out of shape, too overweight, or too old to make healthy changes. Try different strategies until you find what works best for you.
“Things may not go as planned, and that’s okay,” Czajkowski says. “Change is a process. What’s most important is to keep moving forward.”
Coping with Stress During the Holidays
Aurora Vista Del Mar Reopens
On the night of Dec. 4, 2017 the Thomas Fire razed two key structures at Aurora Vista del Mar Hospital – our sister hospital just north of Ventura. For ten months, 75 percent of Ventura County’s psychiatric beds were shut down. On October 16, 2018 the Ventura County facility reached a long-awaited landmark — opening a refurbished building with 25 patient beds.
Because the hospital served as a regional center for adolescent psychiatric care, the fire shut down most of Ventura County’s space serving that population. While the building’s opening doesn’t restore all beds, it represents a critical improvement for the region. Work included demolishing damaged structures and adapting existing ones for inpatient use, staff member Haley Kiger explained. “It was a big job — it’s gratifying to cross this finish line,” Kiger said. Work will continue to restore more capacity. Outpatient services will remain, for now, at a temporary site in Ventura, about four miles from the main facility.
According to CEO Jenifer Nyhuis, “We plan to rebuild the structures destroyed in the fire to regain, and potentially increase, the number of inpatient beds. “The process is projected to take at least two years.”
Audra Strickland firstname.lastname@example.org
Aurora Charter Oak and The Jason Foundation Provide Suicide Prevention Education to Local Community
Suicide is a national health problem that is also one of the leading causes of preventable death in our nation.
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death for middle and high school age youth (12 – 18).
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death for college age youth (18 – 22).
The California Youth Risk Behavioral Survey reported:
- Over 1 out of 7 young people seriously considered suicide in the past twelve months
- Almost 1 out of 11 young people attempted suicide in the past twelve months
The Jason Foundation and Aurora Charter Oak Hospital are partners in raising awareness and providing education in our local community about youth suicide.
The Jason Foundation, Inc. (JFI) is a national leader in youth suicide awareness and prevention programs targeted to address the “Silent Epidemic” of youth suicide. Aurora Charter Oak Hospital is the affiliate office for JFI in Covina, CA. Affiliate offices serve as a hub where parents, teachers, guidance counselors, students, churches and other community organizations can obtain educational materials and learn about training programs available through JFI. All programs, services, and materials are available to the public at no cost.
Todd Smith, CEO of Aurora Charter Oak Hospital, said, “We are proud to be affiliated with The Jason Foundation. Aurora Charter Oak Hospital recognizes how serious the problem of suicide is among adolescents and young adults. Every day, we work with individuals who are at-risk for suicide. The Jason Foundation has developed excellent awareness and education materials and we are very pleased to have these additional resources for our community.”
Clark Flatt, President of JFI said, “Awareness and education are the foundation for prevention. We are very proud of our work with Aurora Charter Oak Hospital in helping to provide communities across California with programs and resources to help build this foundation for prevention.”
JFI is a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting “The Silent Epidemic” of youth suicide through educational programs and resources for young people, educators, parents, and other community groups. JFI, headquartered in Hendersonville, TN, was founded in 1997 after the tragic death of Jason Flatt, the 16-year-old son of Clark Flatt. For more information, please visit JFI’s website, www.jasonfoundation.com
The Jason Foundation representative at Aurora Charter Oak Hospital is Steve Jennings, who may be reached at 626-214-2029 or email@example.com
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