Berkshire Health Systems - The region's leading provider of comprehensive health care services

New Year's Resolutions to Live By
By Mark Pettus, MD

Everyone wants to be happier and healthier, but New Year resolutions have a bad rap for being too ambitious and soon foPETTUS.jpgrgotten. If your resolutions have already fallen by the wayside, consider adopting some of these practices to advance your health and wellness. Each one is specific, relatively simple, and brings with it a powerful impact. Combine any two or more and feel the synergism as they work together for tremendous results. Have a happier and healthier New Year!

1: Make good fat even better
We need fat in our diet to stay healthy. In 2016, elevate the quality – and health benefits – of fat with the following additions to your diet: pasture-raised eggs, grass-fed butter, ghee, whole fat yogurt, kefir, extra virgin olive oil, extra virgin coconut oil, avocados and nuts -  especially almonds and macadamia nuts. 

2. Bid farewell to bad carbs
You can take your health to a higher level in just days by increasing good carbohydrates. Filled with fiber, good carbs include whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans.  Bad carbs are in processed foods that have stripped away the beneficial fiber, such as white bread and white rice. Bad carbs are the major contributors to obesity, inflammation, pre-diabetes and diabetes.

3. Take care of your microbiome
Your microbiome is made up of trillions of bacterial microorganisms that live in and on your body and are essential for good health. In particular, the bacteria in you GI tract digests food and helps prevent disease. Antibiotics can seriously disturb your microbiome, leading to chronic disease and even anxiety and depression. Follow your physician’s advice and only take antibiotics when absolutely necessary. 

4: Make sleep a priority
Not enough sleep is a serious health risk. In the short term, it diminishes your quality of life. In the long term, not enough sleep can lead to physical and emotional illnesses. Make 2016 the year you decide that a good night’s sleep is worth the effort. Stick to a consistent schedule, sleep in a completely dark room with a cooler temperature (around 64°), cut out caffeine after 2 p.m. and no late-night snacking. 

5: Consider Organic for the “Dirty Dozen”
The Environmental Working Group publishes an annual Shopper’s Guide about the level of pesticides in fruits and vegetables. You can download the guide at but here’s a helpful sneak preview to reduce pesticide exposure: Consider going organic with this “dirty dozen:” celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, bell peppers, spinach, kale, cherries, potatoes and imported grapes. 

6: Embrace the moment
Discover the power of the pause. Take a slow deep breath, let go of the world and focus on the moment. This is called mindfulness and those who make it a daily practice reap all kinds of benefits including improved mood and performance, and greater creativity and problem-solving skills. We make better decisions about what to eat and other lifestyle choices when we are mindful, which promotes health and lessens the risk of disease. 

7:  Laughter really is good medicine
A good laugh has the amazing capacity to reduce stress, it makes you more fun to be around, and lowers inflammation, pain and anxiety. Laugh long and hearty whenever you can. 

8:  Add music to motion
We all have an internal jukebox filled with songs that evoke great memories. Download tunes that inspire positive emotions and walk, dance, and play to music as part of a daily commitment to keep moving. When we add our favorite music to motion, our brains kick into another dimension and quite simply, we have a much better day. 

9:  Enhance the power of social connections
Our journey through life is meant to be shared. Multiple studies conclude that people who routinely interact with loved ones live longer, have a higher quality of life, are less prone to disease and stress, and are more resilient. Plan more time with those who make you feel good about yourself. 

10: Don’t be afraid of the dirt
Most of us have come a long way from the family farm, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. We’ve lost touch with nature and all of the physical and emotional benefits that come with being outside. Now, there’s increasing evidence of a connection between exposure to soil and an improved human microbiome. This year, go outside and play. Start a garden, jump in the leaves and get your hands dirty. 

Mark Pettus, MD, is Director of Medical Education and Medical Director of Wellness and Population Health at Berkshire Health Systems. He is the author of The Savvy Patient: The Ultimate Advocate For Quality Health Care, and It’s All in Your Head: Change Your Mind, Change Your Health.




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