5 Tips for a Healthier New Year
The start of a New Year usually brings about ideas of change, personal improvement, and new habits. One of the most common things that people want to change or improve is their health. Here are five tips to think about when planning healthier changes to make this year.
1. Start with The Basics
Before you start any elaborate plan to improve your health, go back to the basics. Without having the basics down, it will be tough to see much improvement in your overall health. Sleep and hydration are the top two basics to me. They really affect your health overall in many ways.
Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Numerous studies show how necessary adequate sleep is for our health. The Harvard School of Medicine summarizes some of this research and concludes, “sleep experts say there is ample evidence that shows that when people get the sleep they need, they will not only feel better, but will also increase their odds of living healthier, more productive lives.” One of the many things sleep does is helping your recovery from your workouts. Without enough quality sleep, you may not see all the results from your hard work.
Drink enough water. Water is essential to keep your body functioning properly and feeling healthy. Water makes up about 60% of our body weight and water works in many ways in our bodies. Here are just a few examples (courtesy of The Mayo Clinic):
- Carries nutrients & oxygen to cells
- Lubricates joints
- Flushes out waste products
- Dissolves minerals and nutrients to make them accessible to your body
- Protects body organs and tissues
Oftentimes you may feel hungry, but you are really dehydrated. Drink a glass of water when you wake up and before every meal. In general, men need at least 12 cups of fluid daily, while women may need a minimum of nine cups. Some of that may come from food. That is hard to track though, so a good rule of thumb is to drink at least 8 cups of actual water. (If you don’t like it, add fruit!)
2. Create Healthier Habits
Why a habit? Habits free us from decision making and from relying on self-control. According to researchers at Duke University, habits account for about 40 percent of our behaviors on any given day. Once something is a habit, it becomes almost automatic, and you do it without thinking. A habit is formed through a habit loop consisting of a cue, an activity, and a reward. Something cues you to complete a certain activity like a location or time of day. When that activity is complete your brain releases chemicals (like dopamine) that signal pleasure. Because of the reward, your habit loop is reinforced. This reward can feel like stress relief or happiness or another benefit that feels good to you at that moment. Your brain will want to complete that activity again next time it is cued so you will receive the reward. This works for all habits, healthy ones and bad. For example, say whenever you get ready for bed (cue), you brush your teeth (activity), which results in clean feeling teeth that makes you feel good (reward). Or a bad habit, whenever you drive to work (cue) you stop by Starbucks and get a Venti Mocha Frappuccino (activity) on your way in and you are rewarded by that rush of sugar (reward).
Do you have some unhealthy habits you want to break? Think of the habit loop. A habit starts with a cue. Because bad habits serve you in some way, it’s very difficult to simply eliminate them. Instead, the activity you would like to stop needs to be replaced by a new habit that provides a similar benefit or reward. Let’s say you want to quit smoking. What cues you to smoke? Identify your triggers and replace the bad habit with a healthier one whenever that cue comes up that will elicit a reward/similar benefit. If you normally go outside on your work breaks (cue) for a cigarette, ask a coworker to go for a walk with you instead. Or, if possible, remove those cues that make you want to smoke. Another example, if you would like to stop snacking in the evening after dinner, think of what cues signal you to do so. If it is sitting and watching tv, switch the mindless munching to knitting or doodling. Or remove the cue of watching tv and meet up with a friend instead or talk on the phone. Cut out as many cues as possible. If you can’t remove the trigger (cue), replace the unwanted activity with a healthier option.
James Clear said, “When you learn to transform your habits, you can transform your life.”
3. Set Small Goals
Think about the things you'd like to achieve this year. Be realistic. If you think of a large goal, like running a marathon or losing 100 pounds, think of the milestones along the way. If you are not currently running regularly, a marathon is a huge task to undertake. A first goal could be to train for a 5k, the next step would be a 10k and then a few more steps until a marathon. Breaking down a large goal this way not only better prepares you, it gives you wins along the journey that should be celebrated and will keep you motivated.
If you have weight you’d like to lose, break it down into manageable goals and keep them realistic. Everyone is different, but in general, a good rule of thumb is to lose one pound a week. Don’t set yourself up for failure with an unrealistic goal. For example, if you want to lose 20 pounds in a month, you may not achieve that goal and then will be frustrated and may not continue with your weight loss journey. That’s a lofty target. Start with a goal of losing five pounds a month and be proud each time you reach that monthly objective. Before you know it, 20 pounds will be lost.
4. Make good choices for YOU!
The reason why you are making any change should be because YOU want the result. Making changes to our nutrition and exercising more (or at all) takes a lot of self-discipline and without your own intrinsic desire to eat more vegetables and take that group exercise class, you will probably go back to what you were doing last year as soon as a stressful situation hits. If you are trying to lose weight or get healthier because your doctor or spouse or someone else told you that you should, you most likely won’t keep up your new healthier habits.
Really think about why you want to make this change. Do you want to stop taking medication for high blood pressure? Do you want to have more energy to be able to play with your kids or grandkids? Make sure it is something meaningful to you. Whatever the reason, post it everywhere. Write it down. Remember it when your motivation lags. Because you will not always be motivated! Especially when everyone stops talking about resolutions in February and March and it is cold and dreary outside, you will probably have less motivation. This is when the people who made resolutions fail. But not you! You are making new habits and you know why. You must have the discipline to keep up with your healthier habits. The good news about self-discipline is that it can be made stronger like a muscle. The more things you achieve using your own willpower, the more self-discipline you will have in the future. It is easier to be disciplined when you know WHY you are making these new habits and are passionate about that reason.
5. Throw Out the All or Nothing Mentality
Something is better than nothing. This applies to healthier eating habits as well as exercising. Even if you have found the workout you usually do enjoy, there are still going to be days when you just don’t feel like doing it. Expect those days and be ready for them. You may have originally planned for a thirty-minute run but it turns into a ten minute walk instead. Or you planned to go to a workout class, but your work schedule changes and you’ll miss the class. Go for a walk instead or hit the elliptical. That is ok. You got movement in, and you will be ready to go for your next workout. Sometimes when you aren’t feeling it, you just do it anyway and know in the end you will be glad you did. There will also be days when life gets in the way and a workout just doesn’t happen. No matter how many workouts you missed, all is not lost, get right back to it the next day. (Of course, there should be rest days, or less active days, built in any workout plan too!).
I hope these tips help you with any of the areas you might be looking at to improve upon this year. If you are unsure where to start, schedule a complementary fitness assessment with a personal trainer at LivRite today!
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
– 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Topics: LivRite News