Recently, much of the healthcare debate has shifted from traditional corrective medicine to preventative wellness program.

Most of the discussion involves the carrot and stick approach (incentives for participation and penalties for non participation) and the acceptable parameters of such programs.

There is also some debate about the proper balance between an employer’s right to know about employee illness and employee’s right to privacy in these situations.

All this attention has had at least one beneficial effect, because many people are more in tune with their bodies and looking for ways to stay healthier and hopefully avoid much of the healthcare imbroglio altogether.

Here are some ways to improve wellness:

Set Specific Goals.

As a preliminary matter, focus on attainable changes. One reason many New Year’s Resolutions fail is that the goals are too generic, like “exercise more” or “get more sleep.” The goals are wonderful, and to reach them, you need a plan.

SMART goals usually work a lot better. Instead of pie-in-the-sky hopes, lay out a specific plan that is:

  • Specific,
  • Measurable,
  • Action-oriented,
  • Realistic, and
  • Time-based.

A SMART goal would be “I will walk for thirty minutes during my lunch hour on Wednesdays and Fridays” or “I will not consume any caffeine after eight at night.”

Eat Healthy.

Part of wellness is physical health, and for most people, that begins with diet.

Quick weight loss schemes and fad diets are so last century, because for most people, they are not nearly as effective as the paid TV ads imply. At best, such plans offer a temporary weight loss boost; at worst, they may do more harm than good.

Instead, aim for a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes vegetables and fruit, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and lean protein.

In most cases, there’s nothing wrong with caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and other indulgences, as long as you don’t go overboard.

Think Healthy.

For the most part, however, wellness is a mind-over-matter thing. To the greatest extent possible, immerse your mind in healthy habits, and your body will follow. Too many of us put the cart before the horse.

In a nutshell, stress is unhealthy.

When the “fight or flight” instinct is engaged, the body releases cortisol. This steroid-like hormone has a number of well-documented ill health effects, including:

  • Impaired mental functions, like memory and learning,
  • Weak immune system,
  • Weight gain,
  • Weak bones,
  • High cholesterol,
  • Depression.

While there is a lot of truth to the old “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” song, completely restructuring your state of mind to improve wellness is a lot easier said than done, and as discussed earlier, an aspiration to “smile more” will not go very far.

One possibility is to set limits on what you watch and read. There’s no need to watch news programs rehash the day’s headlines when you get home, because if the world was to end, you would hear the civil defense siren. Replace the talking heads with something relaxing, to help your body rest and digest.

Use Available Tools.

Another way to change the record playing in your head is to focus on what you’ve accomplished instead of your to-do list. If work stress is an issue, keep a “done” list in addition to a pending task list. If you’re concerned about physical health, invest in a good fitness tracker or other device that instantly tells you what you’ve done to stay healthy that day.

Other available tools, like a good blood pressure pump, alert you as to possible physical problems, so you can talk to you doctor about them before they become serious issues.

Gadgets like fitness trackers and blood pressure pumps give you not only encouragement to improve wellness, but also insight into your health that you can share with your doctor during your next well checkup. By working with your physician and making some small changes, you will enjoy life more.