Healthy Resolutions to Start Your New Year Right
It’s this time of the year again when many of us start thinking about a fresh start. The New Year is a time for new opportunities, new beginnings, new initiatives and new ways of thinking and acting. And below are some healthy resolutions you may want to consider for yourself, your family and friends.
Make Healthy Food Choices. Eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day and choose whole grains, nuts and low-fat dairy and non-dairy products. They provide vitamins, minerals, fibre and anti-oxidants that help reduce your risk for heart disease, stroke and some cancers and can help you keep a healthy body weight. Grab a healthy snack such as fruit, nuts, or vegetables with a low-fat dairy or non-dairy cheese. And choose water more often instead of juice, coffee or tea. Fill a container with 8 glasses of water and sip on this throughout your day. Replace pop and sugary drinks with water and have a glass of water before each meal.
Get Active. If you have to do only one thing for your health, this is it! Becoming more active, by adding exercise in your daily routine, will have the biggest and longest-lasting results for your health. According to research at the Mayo Clinic, for every hour you are active vigorously as an adult, you live 2 hours longer. There are few other interventions in medicine with that good of a return on investment! And it doesn’t have to take a lot of time or be difficult. You can start small. Try simple things like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking further from your destination. Consider walking indoors, in the mall, if the weather is too cold or the roads are too icy. Aim for 150 mins per week of moderate intensity physical activity.
Get Enough Sleep. Adults need 7 or more hours of sleep. Insufficient sleep is associated with fatigue, injuries and depression as well as chronic diseases like type 2diabetes, heart disease and obesity. To help you get a good night’s sleep, try to have a regular bedtime routine and ensure that your bedroom promotes sleep. Keep lights dimmed and have light blocking curtains or blinds to keep out the early morning light. Be aware of what you are eating and drinking in the evening. Caffeine may make it difficult to fall asleep while too much alcohol and eating a heavy meal could cause you to wake up frequently through the night and cause digestive difficulties. Being physically active throughout the day will help you rest well, but avoid exercise workouts in the evening. If you wake up with your mind racing and cannot go back to sleep, try writing things down so you have a record and you can deal with issues in the morning. For nights that you cannot fall asleep, try not to worry about it. Most people have occasional bouts of insomnia that usually get resolved without any intervention. Get up for a while and change your environment, have a soothing tea and then try going back to bed.
Don’t Smoke. If you are a smoker, quit! Smoking affects every organ of your body and quitting is one of the best things you can do for your health. Smoking increases your risk for a whole host of diseases including cancers such as lung, mouth, larynx and pharynx, bladder, pancreas, ovary, stomach and colon, heart disease and stroke as well as lung diseases such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Other effects on the body include risk of macular degeneration, weaker bones and immune system, gum disease, decreased taste and persistent cough.
Wash your Hands Often and Protect Yourself from Illness. Handwashing is critical to prevent the spread of infection and illness. When handwashing, lather well with soap, scrubbing to a slow count of 20, rinse and then dry your hands. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Make sure you are appropriately vaccinated and have regular dental and medical check-ups. They can help identify problems early, when chances for treatment and cure are better. Wear sunscreen and insect repellent and floss and brush your teeth frequently.
Strengthen your Social Support System. Connect or re-connect with friends and family. Friendships enrich our life and improve our health. Having good support from family and friends brings us an increased sense of well-being and confidence, boosts our happiness and gives us a feeling of belonging in the world. We are better able to cope with trauma, disappointment and loss and are not as prone to depression. A good support system makes the insurmountable seem more manageable. Research has also shown that a strong social support network can also help to keep our brain active and fight dementia. It also helps to lower our levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, that has been linked to a higher incidence of cancer, food allergies, gastrointestinal disorders and obesity with its related risks.
Strategies to Help you Keep your New Year’s Resolutions
Below are a number of strategies to improve your chances of succeeding with your new year’s resolutions, as more often than not, most of our resolutions fail by the end of January! The focus is on health, but these strategies can help with other goals as well.
Make a Realistic and Specific Action Plan. The downfall of many New Year’s resolutions is that they are unrealistic, resulting in disappointment and frustration. So start small and set goals you can achieve. For example, if your goal in 2020 is to lose 12 kilos, your objective is to lose 1 kilo per month. If some months you do not succeed, don’t give up, resume your plan and try to get back on track for the next month. If you want to increase your physical activity, just put on your sneakers and hop on the treadmill for 10 minutes and you will gradually realize that this is not as difficult as you thought and you will find the energy and motivation to keep going. So break down your weekly actions and schedule them into your calendar. Set reminders and make sure your objectives are not so rigid that they become cumbersome or overwhelming. And most important, avoid absolute resolutions. Instead of saying “I will not do something ever” resolve to say “I will do this less”.
Monitor your Progress and Reward Yourself. Your action plan will launch your journey to positive lifestyle changes and better health. Expect setbacks and allow for flexibility. Setbacks should not be viewed as failures. Be patient and remember that it took time to create the “old” habit you are trying to change, so it will also take time to create the “new” habit. Monitor your new activities, their results and evaluate your progress. Keeping a progress record in a visible place, like the fridge, will help keep you focused on your objectives. As you reach your weekly mile stones and reach your goals, reward yourself with something that makes you happy, such as putting money away for a holiday, spending time with a friend at the movies, reading a novel or listening to music.
Take Action and Enlist the Support of a Friend. Once you decide what your resolutions are, take action. Research has shown that motivation or inspiration will follow action! Don’t wait until you get motivated, you have the time or you are more rested. It doesn’t work that way! Instead of waiting for inspiration to act on your resolutions, take action and motivation will follow. And you can achieve more by pursuing goals with the help of a friend who can act in a supportive role as your “buddy”. Having a friend to walk with you and share your new year’s resolutions will help you pick up momentum and stay motivated. In fact, you will help each other stay motivated. A little friendly competition does wonders to help keep you both on track. Make sure the goal you want to achieve has meaning to you. You should feel strongly about it and you should want to do it for yourself, not because a family member or friend wants you to do this. You need to have a strong internal motivation within yourself to be successful.
Bring Gratitude in your Life and Think Positive. Lower expectations and do not aim for the top. Look at the world in a positive light and don’t be hard on yourself. Focus on what is good in your life and your work and avoid dwelling on how much we fall short of our aspirations. And this is where gratitude comes in. Learning to appreciate all you are grateful for in life can help shift your focus to what is important and put the small stuff into perspective. Practicing gratitude helps us focus on the positive. Research shows that people who practice gratitude feel happier and healthier, exercise more, sleep better, feel more hopeful and forgiving and have an overall greater sense of well-being. And these feelings can be accomplished by small acts such as saying thank you for all the good things in your life or writing down things you are grateful for. And being grateful for those special people in our lives and not taking others for granted, is an important aspect of maintaining and strengthening relationships.