Photo by Ruth Roberts

The new year is here, and we all want to make it our best yet.  

But where do we start? Every January, many patients come in seeking advice on how to begin and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Improving your health doesn’t need to be overwhelming. While there are many ways to increase healthy habits, I recommend starting with a few basic steps. 

Foster a relationship with primary care doctor

It is important to establish a relationship with a primary care doctor. Your primary care doctor is essentially the cornerstone of everything related to your health. Start the year off by scheduling an appointment for your annual physical. During this visit, your doctor can determine what screenings and vaccines you may need based on your age and health conditions. After your physical, you will be better informed about your current health status and can work with your primary care doctor on the next steps.

Make time to exercise

This is one of the most common questions I receive during January. Just how much exercise is needed? I tell my patients that exercise is beneficial for many reasons. For example, it can help lower blood pressure, strengthen your bones and can even improve your mood and help with stress and anxiety. If it has been a while since you exercised, don’t worry – even 30 minutes of brisk walking three to four times a week is a great place to start.

Get Your ZZZZs

I recommend that all of my patients try to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep at night. I realize this is not possible all the time. However, many people are sleep-deprived and don’t even realize it. Sleep impacts many of the chemicals in our bodies. The positive effects of a good night’s rest include improved memory, decreased risk of dementia, lower stress levels, improved mood and increased life expectancy. Getting good quality and sufficient sleep is crucial for both your physical and mental health.

Keep stress to a minimum

Stress is something we all feel from time to time. It can make us cranky and sometimes anxious and moody. But did you know that stress can also cause physical symptoms in your body? High levels of stress can cause headaches, upset stomach and decreased energy, just to name a few. Recently, stress has been linked to a less effective immune system and more frequent colds and infections. Stress has also been associated with weight gain and cardiovascular disease. 

As I mentioned above, getting a good night’s rest and exercise are both great at combating stress. I also like to talk with my patients about the benefits of breathing exercises and meditation, which are scientifically proven to help lower stress levels. While stress is sometimes unavoidable, it’s good to have tools to help recognize the effect it’s having on you and tips for what you can do at home. If stress still feels overwhelming, come in and talk with your primary care doctor for additional help.

Plenty of us make resolutions this time of year. It’s never too early or too late to reset our habits and behaviors to live our best and healthiest selves in 2018. Following these basic steps will help launch you into a healthy new year.

Dr. Adriana Sablan, DO, is a family medicine doctor at John Muir Health in Brentwood. To make an appointment, schedule online at or call 925-308-8112.