Spring/Summer 2017 Edition

Six simple steps to becoming a healthier you this year

As adults, sometimes we make things too complicated. Take New Year’s resolutions for instance, only 8% of us end up keeping them.1 But that doesn’t mean that you can’t beat the odds. Consider these simple strategies to pursue better health—both physical and financial—in the New Year.

Step 1: Use all the crayons

61% of employees said they’ve made healthier lifestyle choices because of their company’s wellness programs.2

If you’ve ever watched a child color, you know that using all the crayons in the box is often the best way to make a masterpiece. The same can be said for your employer-provided benefits. Taking advantage of all the perks and programs that your company offers is a great place to start your wellness journey. For example, you may have access to:

  • Retirement savings plans
  • Financial education and assistance
  • Health Savings and Flexible Spending Accounts
  • Annual checkups and preventive screenings (may be covered 100% by your health plan)
  • Discounted gym memberships
  • Wellness, weight-loss, and smoking-cessation programs
  • Health coaching

“Taking advantage of your health and wellness benefits can make a big difference in your life. They may even be free of charge and available to family members as well.”

–Sylvie Feist, Director, Financial Guidance Services at Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Step 2: Be disciplined and proactive

Good habits are key to physical and financial health. Apply the same discipline towards managing your finances that you do when scheduling (and keeping!) appointments for your annual physical and health screenings. For instance, following a budget, contributing to a retirement account and reviewing your finances and investments should be part of your regular routine.

Being proactive may also help you save money over the long-term. In terms of your health, you’ll be more likely to identify issues before they become problems and prevent existing issues from becoming more serious (and costly). The same holds true with financial wellness. You’ll alleviate stress—which can often lead to health issues—and feel more secure about your financial future.

41%

Americans age 50+ that say future medical costs are their greatest financial concern.3

50

Calories burned after 10–15 minutes of laughter.5

Step 3: Make exercise fun

Find something you enjoy doing, whether it’s hiking with your dog, playing hoops with your kids, walking on the treadmill while catching up on a favorite show or jumping on a trampoline (all by yourself). Having fun will make it easier to turn fitness into a regular habit and a healthy lifestyle may help you avoid common costly health issues in the long run.

Step 4: Laugh and play with your friends

Research shows that a healthy social life can reduce stress, gives us a sense of purpose and can even help us stick to healthy habits.4 Think about ways to work your friends into your busy life—whether it’s taking a class together, jointly embarking on a weight-loss program, or simply making the effort to get together on a regular basis. Sharing a laugh with friends can be a boost for your health, too. According to researchers, laughter can help relieve stress, improve blood flow, increase immunity, burn calories and improve your overall mood.5,6

Step 5: Take little steps

The main reason many of us don’t follow through on our resolutions is that the goals are unrealistic from the start; so, try breaking them down into manageable, achievable steps. For example, it’s often easier to lose a pound a week than to set an impossible weight-loss goal for yourself. Similarly, saving for retirement (or college, or even a home) may seem like a huge endeavor. But if you start saving a little now and increase that amount over time, you’ll be well on your way to pursuing your goal before long.

Step 6: Sleep more

Sleep plays a vital role in good health and your well-being, yet 40 percent of Americans get less than the recommended amount.7 Lack of sleep can negatively impact your memory, mood and ability to concentrate. In fact, one Harvard study shows that that the average worker loses 11.3 days of productivity each year to insomnia.8 If you’re not getting the recommended seven to eight hours of shut-eye a night9, try adopting habits that encourage better sleep, such as sticking to a consistent sleep schedule, getting regular physical activity and managing stress.10

While implementing and sustaining positive changes like these can seem difficult at first, being realistic can help your resolutions stick. Remember to start small and to celebrate the small victories along the way, whether it’s increasing your 401(k) contribution amount by a percentage or two, or reaching a new personal best as you aim for 10,000 steps per day.  

1 Source: Statistic Brain Research Institute, December 2015.

2 Source: “2016 Aflac Workforces Report.”

3 Source: Merrill Lynch/Age Wave, “Health and Retirement: Planning for the Great Unknown,” 2014.

4 Source: WomansDay.com, “10 Better-for-You New Year’s Resolutions,” January 2011.

5 Source: WebMD.com, “Give Your Body a Boost with Laughter,” referenced December 2016.

6 Source: LifeHack.org, “9 Surprising Benefits of Laughter You Need to Know,” referenced December 2016.

7 Source: Gallup.com, “In U.S., 40% Get Less Than Recommended Amount of Sleep,” December 2013.

8 Source: WashingtonPost.com, “The average worker loses 11 days of productivity each year due to insomnia and companies are taking notice,” July 2015.

9 Source: CDC.gov, “How Much Sleep Do I Need?” November 2015.

10 Source: MayoClinic.com, “Sleep tips: 7 steps to better sleep,” June 2014.