As we approach the new year, it’s valuable to pause and reflect on our health and wellbeing over the past 12 months. Taking stock empowers us to celebrate progress made while also thoughtfully considering areas for growth in the months ahead.
Looking Back at 2023
Achievements Along the Way
First, acknowledge all the positive strides taken in 2023, whether small or large. Give yourself credit for developing healthier habits and sticking to them amidst life’s inevitable obstacles. Progress comes slowly with lifestyle changes, so have patience and compassion with your journey. Think back to the goals you set last year - did you accomplish what you hoped? Even if the answer is no, look for the small wins like going to the gym twice a week or having one extra serving of vegetables a day. Every step forward is meaningful.
Insights on the Health of Americans
Statistics from the CDC provide an interesting backdrop about the wellness habits and chronic disease rates currently seen across the country. For example, adult obesity rates have plateaued in recent years after decades of steady increases. So while still very high at 42.4% in 2018, the pace of growth has tempered, suggesting public health initiatives may be taking effect. So while a few metrics are moving in the right direction ever so slightly, most lifestyle-related chronic conditions require ongoing public health efforts to create change.
Where We Can Improve
Next, honestly assess areas where you struggled or want to enhance behaviors in 2024. Reflect on common goals like weight loss, reducing stress, increasing physical fitness, improving nutrition, and getting more sleep or quality time with loved ones. What changes feel most important for your health right now? Make sure your assessment of the past year includes both analytical thinking about where you objectively fell short as well as emotional reflection on frustrations, barriers, or lagging motivation that got in your way. Meet yourself where you’re at while still stretching for meaningful progress.
As you analyze successes and shortcomings over 2023, resist comparison to the journey of others. We all start from a different place with unique constraints and realities that impact our health behaviors. Comparison breeds shame and erodes self-compassion which is essential for lasting change. Your path ahead should build on your baseline with reasonable stretch goals personalized to your current lifestyle and responsibilities. Seek input from healthcare providers or a health coach to tailor a plan that sets you up for sustainable progress.
Looking Forward to 2024
Being SMART with Goal Setting
As you turn your sights to 2024, ensure your wellness goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Break larger ambitions down into smaller milestones that incrementally move you forward. Develop thoughtful action steps that motivate ongoing effort. And schedule periodic check-ins to stay accountable, track progress made, and modify plans if needed based on what works versus what proved challenging.
Connecting with Your Purpose
Also reflect on your core motivations and values around leading a healthy lifestyle as you look ahead. Your “why” gives inspiration through life’s ups and downs while helping new behaviors stick long-term rather than falling into old habits when self-discipline wanes. Connect regularly with the emotional, intellectual and spiritual drivers fueling your wellness journey.
Key Wellness Stats to Inform Goals
As you craft goals for the year ahead, leverage key statistics on lifestyle factors protecting against chronic disease to inform your targets. While the uniqueness of your circumstances should steer the ship, having clear metrics to aim for based on public health research lends helpful guidance.
For example, only 23.9% of American adults currently meet physical activity recommendations of at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity. Anything short of this threshold sharply increases risks of cardiovascular events, diabetes, and premature death. So if your current baseline falls short of this research-backed target, increasing moderate physical movement enough to hit 150 active minutes per week could be life changing.
Other stats worth informing goals include:
- Only 10% of Americans eat the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables. Target at least 4-5 total servings across both daily.
- 70% of US adults are overweight. Aim for a BMI under 25 and body fat % measures in healthy ranges.
- Just over 1/3 of adults get the recommended 7+ hours of sleep per night. Prioritize getting enough sleep.
- Over 20% of adults smoke cigarettes. If you smoke, make a firm commitment to work on quiting.
The Power of Relationships and Resilience
On your path ahead, also remember human connections and inner resolve will support your quest for improved wellness. Research confirms relationships provide meaning, combat anxiety/depression, lower blood pressure, and correlate to longer lifespan. So connect regularly with close friends and family as part of caring for mental wellbeing. Start conversations about health goals for accountability while also leaving space to just enjoy time together.
The road of progress includes missteps and milestones in equal measure. Assess the past year while approaching 2024 with grace around where you’ve been and where you’re headed next. Stay connected to purpose and people buoying your aims. Most importantly, take the next step from where you stand, then keep stepping forward with compassion. Each small move made over time culminates into measurable positive change. Here’s to health and happiness in the year ahead!