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New year, new habits: 5 ways to develop a healthier lifestyle


Many people hear a common saying around this time: “New Year, New Me!” Maybe you’ve said that yourself more than one January. Throughout the years you may have even accomplished some of your resolutions, or maybe you started, then stopped, or even gave up before the month’s end. When you ‘fail’ at New Year’s resolutions, it’s easy to give up your attempts at a healthy life entirely. Sandra Bulos, MD, a board-certified primary care physician at Crystal Run Healthcare says “It’s time to have a healthier mindset about self-improvement and resolutions. Better yet, ditch the resolution mindset entirely and focus on adopting healthy habits instead.”


  1. Identify three healthy habits you can adopt


Instead of focusing on an end goal or finish line, try to identify three healthy habits you can adopt. Try walking 10 minutes a day, reading a page in a novel, or switching out one bag of chips for a healthier snack each week. These actions may be small but they can help push for improved, long-lasting habits that can be built upon.


“Any progress is good progress,” says Dr. Bulos, “Start with small improvements, even if it is just exercising 10 minutes twice a week, and build on it. The goal is always to prevent a medical problem rather than wait for it to happen. Lifestyle and diet modifications are key to the prevention and control of many chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.”


  1. Incorporate changes one at a time


“What many people who stop trying to achieve their resolution do is to tackle too much of the problem at once,” says Dr. Bulos, “This is especially discouraging if you’re now missing too much of comfort foods, couch time, etc. and it makes it easy to fall back into worse habits than you originally had before you started your resolution.”


Making small, incremental changes that don’t feel like a sacrifice are easier to keep track of, and even have the benefit of feeling the same short-term success as you would have from the initial weeks of pushing yourself to change your lifestyle too fast. Once you have a good habit established, add in your next goal’s first step and see how quickly you can make incremental life changes.


  1. Identify one area in your life where you can make a conscious health switch


Food is one of the easiest ways to make a conscious health switch without cutting out your favorite comfort foods. Several healthier alternatives to your favorite food only require switching out a few ingredients.


“There are many flour, breading, and fried food substitutes that just require a little bit of extra creativity at the start,” says Dr. Bulos, “Pick one of your favorite meals and see if you can switch just one ingredient out for a healthier alternative. Keep doing that to the rest of your recipe book and you will see that you don’t need to sacrifice flavor in your quest to becoming healthier.”


  1. Know what to track daily and what to check in on weekly or monthly

A key component to developing healthier habits is knowing when to consciously check in on your progress while building them. Some goals, such as walking 1,000 more steps a day, can be tracked daily but others, such as improving your fitness level, take time and can be discouraging if you try and track your goals too often.


“The important thing is to recognize that your health habits are there to help you build up to your health goals,” says Dr. Bulos, “When you engage in your daily habits, focus on your daily accomplishments as opposed to your long-term goals. Checking in on said goals is fine as long as your progress does not discourage you from continuing to work on building your new habits.”


  1. Have your rewards be something that furthers your goal, not breaks from your healthy habit


After working hard to incorporate these healthy changes in your life, you might feel as though it is a perfect time for a reward. And it can be! If you do it right.


“When you reward yourself, it should be with something that promotes your healthy habits and furthers your progress to your goal,” says Dr. Bulos.


If you succeed in your steps goal every day for a month, you can choose to upgrade your fitness tracker, buy new shoes, or make a trip to a new trail over the weekend. If you are building food-based health habits, have a flour-alternative baking competition between you and friends, try and re-create your favorite fast food with healthier ingredients, or sign up for a local cooking activity.


“If you create an enjoyable experience with each incremental lifestyle change, you subconsciously give yourself permission to enjoy those changes,” says Dr. Bulos, “People who enjoy the changes happening in their life are much more likely to stick with them than those who have other factors driving their efforts.”



Our primary care providers at Crystal Run Healthcare are here to help you get on the path to your healthiest self! Whether you choose a family practitioner, an internist, or a geriatric specialist, your primary care provider at Crystal Run Healthcare will manage and coordinate all your healthcare needs; they will help you with prevention and wellness strategies, coordinating all appropriate health screenings, and coordinate any care you may need from our renowned staff of Crystal Run specialists, including surgeons, obstetricians, and other physicians to help solve complicated problems in diagnosis and treatment.


Sandra Bulos, MD, is a Primary Care physician and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine. She earned her Medical Degree at the Ross University School of Medicine in Dominica. She completed her Residency in Internal Medicine at St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton, NJ. Her clinical interests include diabetes and hypertension. Dr. Bulos is seeing patients in West Nyack.