With Christmas, New Year’s and Winter Break behind us, it’s time to embrace our New Year’s resolutions. Most resolutions typically revolve around losing weight, quitting smoking, drinking less or saving more money. So for those of you that have chosen a resolution and plan on following through with it (at least for a couple weeks), here are some helpful tips.

Most importantly, your resolution should be clear and realistic. That means all couch potatoes should not resolve to suddenly frequent the gym five times a week, give up fast food and give up TV for Steinbeck. Shoot for more modest goals, such as trying to reach a certain weight, or limiting the amount of soda you drink. Even something as simple as incorporating a little exercise – such as walking – into your everyday life can do wonders.

By choosing a realistic goal, you will be able to gradually build on it, rather than shooting for the moon right away. Experts say it takes about three weeks for a new activity to become a habit. It takes about half a year to a year for it to become a part of your personality. For people who have shunned exercise, it will take serious dedication and motivation to conquer that initial soreness, laziness and temptation to revert to old habits.

For those who do not exercise at all, the benefits of doing so are too long to list. Exercise is the single most effective tool we humans have to fight the long list of mental and physical problems common to us all. Some immediate benefits of exercise include enhanced mood, increased energy, lowered body fat and enhanced performance in work, school and sport. In several studies, regular exercise has been shown to help curb depression as effectively as anti-depressants, albeit not as quickly as the drugs.

If your path to lower weight revolves around the kitchen, there are several recipes for success. Studies have shown people who cook their own food not only eat healthier, but they eat less as well. By stocking your fridge and pantry with junk food, you are bound to eat it. So try purchasing some healthy snacks together with some of the unhealthier ones.

There are tons of easy and great ways to add healthful snacks or foods to one’s diet. Follow the doctor’s advice and have an apple a day. Apples contain Vitamin C, they prevent heart disease, cancer, tooth decay and they are low in calories. If that’s too bland, add a little peanut butter to give it more flavor and to provide you with some good fat to help retain the nutrients in the apple.

Nuts, dried fruits and easy-to-eat vegetables like carrots are great ways to increase nutrition and lower your weight at the same time. Places like Trader Joe’s and the local Isla Vista Food Co-Op provide all kinds of organic, moderately priced and healthful snacks to help squelch those daily sugar cravings.

For those people who are attempting to quit or cut back on the amount of alcohol they drink or the amount of cigarettes they smoke, don’t fret – there is hope. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 41 percent of smokers attempt to quit at least once during the year, and about 10 percent succeed. Out of those that attempt to quit cold turkey, about 5 percent succeed, while 30 percent of those who use antismoking drugs tend to succeed.

As college students, the window of opportunity for a return to health post-smoking is large. Studies have shown that fifteen years after quitting, smokers have the same risk of death as people who have never smoked. The body’s ability to heal is truly astounding.

For those who want to reduce, or eliminate, the alcohol they consume, the health benefits are huge. Alcohol causes damage to the liver, the brain and the immune system. The best idea is to reduce the amount you drink, as studies have shown that one to two glasses of wine per day can remarkably have very positive effects on your health.

Keep the resolutions short, realistic and healthy. Stay motivated and the increased vitality, well-being and healthiness will make the work well worth it.