The new year is a time to reflect on how far we’ve come, and how far we’d still like to go. Rather than making drastic, and often unattainable, huge changes, I think the new year is a better opportunity to make smaller sustainable changes we can work on throughout the year.
Here are 12 wellness tips to optimize your health in the new year. Make small sustainable lifestyle changes for a big impact.
Hunger is often confused with dehydration. Next time you feel like a snack, reach for a glass of water. A lack of water alters your body’s metabolism. On average, men should drink about 13 cups and women about 10 cups of water each day.
While your level of water intake can affect your health, the quality of water matters too. Understand the source of your water and how it is filtered. Remember that if you don’t filter your water, your body has to.
Cut sugar and sweetened drinks
If I have one piece of advice, it is to cut down (or out) the amount of sugar and sweetened drinks families ingest. Sugar is in many prepackaged foods and drinks, comes in many names and is often hidden behind these lesser known forms. Sugar is highly addictive and hard to kick. It causes inflammation in our body, is a factor in some hyper activity, is a mood destroyer, and imbalances our hormones.
A few easy ways to reduce the amount of sugar consumption: swap out sugar-covered cereals with an item that has five ingredients or less. Keep sugar under 10g.; focus on whole grains, vegetables and fruit when packing lunches; and limit the amount of sweetened drinks like sports drinks and soda.
Get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep
Getting adequate sleep may seem impossible with our daily grind, but sleep should be a priority. Sleep is essential to your optimal health and well-being. Your body heals, repairs and recovers from the day while you sleep. During sleep, hormones are released to help regulate appetite control, stress, growth, metabolism and other bodily functions. Sleep is also imperative for memory function. With enough sleep you will strengthen your immune system, increase energy, enable clear decision making, and improve your mood.
Eating organic foods reduces your exposure to contamination and toxins. The toxic chemicals that are sprayed on non-organic food can increase susceptibility to certain diseases or alter our nervous and immune system. However, if it is not feasible to eat all organic foods, then focus on the 12+ most contaminated foods – known as the dirty dozen .Opt for organic when you can.
Meditation works most effectively when practiced every day. Meditation can be practiced in many forms, so have fun and experiment with a few ways. For beginners, the simplest form of meditation is focusing on your breath. There is no right or wrong way to meditate. Try to slow your mind and allow thoughts to pass through. Benefits of meditation range from helping with anxiety disorders, sleep problems, high blood pressure and more.
Move 30 mins a day and take the stairs
Regular physical exercise has incredible benefits. Physical activity is beneficial to both your body and mind. Don’t feel like you must hit the gym every day. Simply walking with a friend is a great way to get your exercise. Key to regular exercise is accountability! Work out with a friend, have a goal system and track your progress. There are endless benefits to regular exercise. Lesser known benefits include improvements to your immune system, reduces risk of osteoporosis, improves cognitive function and delays loss of muscle mass as we age.
Make a gratitude list
Having a positive mindset can have a profound effect on your health and the health of people around you. After all, positive vibes are contagious. Focus on the positives elements in your life. Keep a gratitude journal and write down five things you are thankful for each day. For some inspiration: think of someone that has done something nice for you, an uplifting news article, or the way your pet shows unconditional love.
Learn a new skill or activity
Keep your mind sharp by learning a new skill or activity. If learning a foreign language is not your forte, try a crossword puzzle or learn how to cook. You can also rekindle an old skill or activity. We should not stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing. Rediscover your inner child. Laugh, play, have fun and enjoy life.
Practice portion control
It may seem hard to control the quantity of food we eat. How much we eat is often determined by how much we are served. Larger portions can cause people to eat 50% more than we should. Try using a small plate during meals, using smaller containers when packing lunches, making enough vegetables to fill half your plate, splitting an entree when eating out, and learning to stop eating when you are 70% full.
Cut personal internet use in half
A reduction in personal internet use comes with many benefits. Rediscover family time by playing games or eating together. Reconnect with friends or find more personal time. You may find it easier to focus on daily tasks with the reduction of internet information overload. Discover new hobbies, exercise or meditate.
Watch your chemical intake
Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin are just a few examples of chemicals that may adverse effects to your health. Artificial sweeteners are a foreign element to our bodies and are hard to digest. Many ill symptoms have been found to disappear once consumption of these sweeteners is discontinued.
Chew your food
Your parents were right, chewing your food is important! Digestion begins in the mouth. As you chew your food, digestive enzymes found in saliva start to break it down, preparing it for absorption. It is important to chew your food thoroughly to achieve maximum absorption of all your vitamins and minerals. A good rule of thumb is to chew 30-50 times before swallowing. Try placing your utensils down in between bites. Eat mindfully and concentrate on what you are doing. Eat with friends and family.