With every turn of the calendar year comes a slew of pledges to sleep more, get moving, and shape up. But longevity and aging experts are looking at the old-school concept of New Year’s resolutions differently. The key to a longer, healthier life isn’t reaching a number on a scale. Instead, they say, to focus on building the habits that contribute to slowing the aging process and improving your overall well-being. Here, eight leaders in longevity share their 2024 health goals and their best advice for how to reach yours.
What goals do you have for the New Year to prioritize your health?
More ‘me time’
“Balancing the roles of an entrepreneur and mother to two boys, my daily priorities include integrating mindfulness and meditation practices to manage stress, optimizing sleep quality for effective rejuvenation, and introducing more strength training into my routine,” says Melanie Goldey, CEO of Tally Health. “While maintaining social relationships is also important to overall well-being and longevity, I am also prioritizing ‘me time’ to ensure I have opportunities to relax and recharge.”
Prioritize social connection
“This year, I’m focusing on cultivating habits that enhance my well-being, like meditation and spending quality time with the people we love,” says Dr. Shoshana Ungerleider, an internal medicine physician and founder of End Well, a non-profit focused on end-of-life care.
Break out of a workout rut
“I am prioritizing improving my diet. No one eats a perfectly healthy diet, and I’m definitely one of them, but I strive to be healthier,” says Dr. Anthony Youn, author of Younger for Life. “I am prioritizing more diverse exercise in 2024. I can get stuck in a rut with exercise, doing some of the same things over and over (like running) so I’m going to mix it up more this year and support all different muscle types. And I am prioritizing doing more yoga.”
Use biomarkers better
“A major habit I will be focusing on in 2024 is prioritizing better use of my own biomarkers in order to understand my body, catch problems early, and be more effective in making optimal choices for diet, supplements, and workouts,” says Leo Grady, founder and CEO of Jona, a a microbiome testing company. “Understanding my own biomarkers will enable me to create personalized diets and workout plans to improve my longevity and age in a beneficial way.”
Slow the aging process
“This year, my approach includes using aging clocks as a tool to track how lifestyle changes and habits affect my biological age. This data-driven method allows for more personalized and effective health strategies,” says Alina Su, Harvard Medical School Ph.D. candidate in aging and rejuvenation. “It’s not just about adopting new habits but understanding how each habit specifically contributes to slowing down the aging process.”
“I do like to start the new year by looking at what I could do differently to enjoy life more. I imagine a process that is put in place and try to set reasonable expectations to accomplish,” says Dr. Florence Comite, founder of the Comite Center for Precision Medicine & Health. “I will continue to prioritize sleep … Making sure I get outside in the mornings. Another activity that I plan to prioritize in the new year is exercise, usually to start the day. Not only does morning exercise wake you up and boost your metabolism, it lifts your mood and improves mental clarity.”
Learn from the Blue Zones
“When it comes to longevity, there’s no better blueprint than the Blue Zones, the regions where the world’s longest-living people reside,” says Ellen Rudolph, CEO of WellTheory, a company supporting those with autoimmune diseases. She plans to do the following.
- Incorporating daily movement
- Prioritizing restful, high-quality sleep
- Eating an anti-inflammatory, plant-forward diet
“I’m going to try to worry less. For me, that process involves writing down what I’m worrying about, determining whether it’s something within my control, and if it is, doing something about it. I’ll need to go through this process every day,” says Maddy Dychtwald, author of the forthcoming book Ageless Aging: A Woman’s Guide to Increasing Healthspan, Brainspan, and Lifespan.
Block off self-care time
“Life has so many competing priorities, between work and family and friends, that it is easy to neglect self-care without even recognizing it,” says Dr. Scott Braunstein, national medical director at Sollis Health. “In the new year, I am going to block off time each day for time for myself: going for a walk outdoors, exercising, meditation or yoga, or watching my favorite tv show. Prioritizing this every day has both mental and physical health benefits.”
What is your advice for creating and sticking with a habit?
Use habit stacking
“While New Year’s resolutions can provide a symbolic starting point, the key is cultivating a mindset that values continuous improvement and well-being throughout the year, fostering lasting habits rather than relying solely on annual resolutions,” says Goldey. “Start small, be consistent, and anchor your new habit to an existing routine. Gradual integration into your daily life increases the likelihood of success while connecting the habit to an established behavior helps reinforce the routine.”
See them as intentions over mandates
“Regarding New Year’s resolutions, I see them as a valuable opportunity for self-reflection and growth, rather than strict goals. It’s important to approach them with a mindset of self-compassion and flexibility,” Ungerleider says. “I believe we should view New Year’s resolutions as evolving intentions rather than rigid mandates.”
Try new tech
“We should view New Year’s resolutions as an opportunity to try something new in our lives. If you’ve had the same resolution for years now and don’t have the results you desire, it’s time to look at the tools that emerging technology is providing us with,” Grady says.
Get an accountability partner
“Have someone who is your accountability partner. We can’t go through life alone. It’s much easier to keep habits if you share these with others and have your own cheerleaders,” Youn says.
Form a support system
“It’s not just about setting a resolution but integrating it into daily life for lasting impact,” says Su, who recommends starting small, being consistent, tracking progress, finding a “why,” and having a support system.
Find new paths to health
“A lot of people take on new diets as part of their New Year’s resolutions. That creates extra pressure, so typically I advise more concrete paths to optimizing health—focusing on changing patterns and food choices that impact weight, fat loss and muscle gain,” Comite says. “Meditation, for example, has been documented scientifically to lower cortisol, the stress hormone, and that will stop fat accumulation around the waist.”
Set yourself up for success
- Break it down into bite-size habits: “Set yourself up for success by making it easy,” Rudolph says.
- Never miss twice: “It’s okay to make a mistake and miss a day. The key is to not let it become a pattern.”
- Make it your identity: “Ask yourself: ‘Who is the type of person that could get the outcome I want?’ For example, if you want to be less stressed, become a person who meditates every day. Then prove it to yourself every day with small wins—even if that’s just meditating for 1-2 minutes a day,” Rudolph adds.
Prioritize your new habits
“Once you’ve started to create a new habit, prioritize it. Write it down, schedule time for it, and even put it in your calendar with a reminder. Don’t expect perfection because none of us are perfect but stay committed. If you fall off the wagon, just get back on. Hang in there because things that feel hard and new can become effortless over time. And don’t forget to celebrate your progress along the way.” says Dychtwald.
“Studies show that over 90% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the middle of February, and many people will wait another whole year before trying to make healthy changes. Viewing New Year’s resolutions in this way can actually limit you from making healthy changes throughout the year,” Braunstein says. “If you slip on your New Year’s resolution, choose another date or event to try again. Your birthday, the start of a new season, an anniversary, favorite holiday, or even the Super Bowl, can be used as motivation to try achieving your goals again.”