By Robert Walker, Program Director at ‘Ekahi Ornish Lifestyle Medicine
Content adapted from Ornish Living Magazine, available online at

For those of us who want to start leading a healthier life, New Year’s resolutions seem like the perfect jump-start. In fact, over half of all New Year’s resolutions involve a healthier diet, weight loss, and improved fitness. But health and fitness related resolutions are statistically the most likely resolutions to fail – with only a small handful achieving their goals. This is often especially disheartening for the many Americans who suffer from chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. We want to live longer, healthier lives – so why do we fail?

Often we fail because we force change by setting into motion large and sweeping resolutions. Perhaps we’ll sign up for a gym with the belief that we’ll be there for hours each day – or we’ll start restrictive and unnecessary diets. When we strong-arm ourselves into big changes, we risk physical and emotional fatigue. Feeling defeated, we lose sight of our original goal and fall back into old patterns.

But years of research by Dr. Dean Ornish at the Preventative Medicine Institute in California showed that there’s a simpler, more compassionate way to wellness – even for those of us that suffer from chronic conditions exacerbated by our genetics and lifestyle. We are worthy of sustainable choices that contribute to healing our bodies, calming our minds, and revitalizing our relationships. Dr. Ornish outlined four “elements” that contribute to a healthier life: nutrition, stress management, moderate exercise, and love and support. Dedicating just a few minutes to each element per day can have a profound effect on our health.


Plant-based diets may seem intimidating at first, but it’s more about what you include rather than what you exclude. Variety is key, and delicious vegetarian options are more plentiful than ever.


Moderate, regular exercise is key to achieving heart health. We might not all have time for an intense workout after we get home, but walking just 20 minutes each day – not necessarily consecutively – can lower your risk of heart disease by over 30%.

Stress Management

Yoga and Tai-Chi are well known forms of stress management, but the key is taking time to yourself! Finding a quiet place – whether it’s on the beach or in an empty room – and meditating for a few minutes each day can have a profound effect on your mood and emotional well-being.

Love and Support

When you communicate feelings from the heart, you begin to learn that vulnerability is not a liability. Negative emotions can damage the heart, but we can manage our emotions by maintaining strong relationships with our friends and family.

We are worthy of sustainable choices that contribute to healing our bodies, calming our minds, and revitalizing our relationships. As we welcome a New Year filled with this promise, it is the perfect time to step out of past choices of deprivation and into present choices, filled with compassion, abundance, and healing.