Every week, we’re bringing you a roundup of the latest health and wellness news to hit the wire. This week, we look at a handful of resolutions doctors would prioritize, the influence gratitude has on your food choices, and why people procrastinate. 

If doctors were in charge of your resolutions

While you’re digesting all those holiday cookies and thinking about New Year’s resolutions, the doctors at the American Medical Association have some very specific ideas to get you started. Here are a handful of their resolution suggestions, from Time Health:

  • Learn your risk of Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is one of the most chronic health conditions in the U.S., with almost 30 million people affected. Yet almost a quarter of Americans who have Type 2 diabetes are undiagnosed and not getting the care they need. Even more may have pre-diabetes without knowing it. The AMA recommends taking a self-screening test at orgto find out if you’re at risk.
  • Be more physically active. You knew this was coming. Most people don’t meet the federal movement guidelines that call for 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. The good news is that cleaning, dancing and walking all count toward this goal.
  • Eat less processed food. It’s time to pull the plug on all those cookies, crackers and soda that are guilty pleasures. Resolve to cook more at home and base meals around produce.
  • Drink in moderation, if at all. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that women consume no more than a drink per day and men no more than two. Above this threshold—and potentially even below it, according to some recent research—drinking is associated with health issues, including cognitive decline and cancer. How about embarking on a dry January?
  • Know your blood pressure. High blood pressure is linked to a greater risk of heart disease and stroke, so it’s important to keep tabs on your reading. The AMA recommends visiting heart.org to learn how to manage your blood pressure through strategies, including diet, movement and stress relief.

The emotion that can help you eat healthier

If one of your resolutions this year is improving your eating habits, here’s an unlikely tip that just might put you over the top. Start a gratitude practice.

New research in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology featured in Greater Good Magazine shows that the practice of expressing gratitude has a positive impact on the food choices you make.

Researchers split up more than 1,000 ninth- and 10th-grade students into groups that either wrote gratitude letters and journals each week or simply listed their daily activities. At the end of a month, researchers tracked the eating habits of all the teenagers studied and found that the gratitude groups reported eating healthier than those who simply listed their activities. In fact, they had marginally better eating habits up to three months after the study concluded.

Why does gratitude have such an impact on what you eat? Researchers found that the practice of gratitude reduced negative emotions, which consequently lead participants to eat less fast food and other junk. Gratitude alone won’t overhaul your diet, researchers say, but it’s a good complement to a sensible plan.

And as a bonus, gratitude also has been shown to promote a stronger immune system, lower blood pressure and improve your sleep.

Why you spend so much time putting things off

Are you a task delayer or a chronic procrastinator? This piece in The Atlantic explains the difference and why we wait so long to do something that takes so little time like doing dishes, prepping meals or taking out the trash.

Knowing how to get around the tendency to procrastinate can help with your goals. You might consider moving dreaded tasks from the end of the day when you are worn out and have “decision fatigue” or try lumping a dreaded chore such as housecleaning into something else you find positive such as having a monthly dinner party.

How could you tweak the chores you hate to make them more palatable?

Photo credit: Javier Diez, Stocksy