As a new year approaches, it might be time to look ahead and invite positive changes into your life. Not sure where to start? Here are 5 things that you can do to ring in a healthy New Year:
1. Set Aside Time for Yourself Each Day
As we go about our busy lives, it can be difficult to remember to stop and take a moment for ourselves throughout the day. When we don’t take the time to check in with ourselves we can end up ignoring our needs and feeling run down, irritated and stressed. Researchers conducted a survey on over 800 U.S. medical students enrolled in training programs, which are known for being a highly rigorous and stressful experience. They found that students who engaged in regular self-care reported lower levels of stress and an overall higher quality of life than in students who did not engage in regular self-care.
The good news is that even just 15 minutes a day spent focused on yourself can be beneficial to your health! A study conducted by Harvard scientists reported that people who set apart just 15 minutes a day to focus on clearing their minds showed significant decreases in their blood pressure levels. This can be done with a practice known as "mindful meditation." The website Mindful provides a helpful guide for those who want to learn how to start practicing mindful meditation.
2. Eat a Healthy, Well-Balanced Diet
One of the most common New Year’s resolutions for Americans each year is to lose weight. Many times, people will start the year off with a new diet but, as the months roll on, find it difficult to stick with it. In order to maintain a healthy weight and eat a sustainable diet, stay clear of any “fad diets.” These are typically any diets that you see claiming significant weight loss in a short period of time (i.e. “Lose 10 pounds in one week!” etc.). People tend to have difficulty sticking to these types of diets for long periods because they are very restrictive. Restrictive dieting will oftentimes impact your ability to meet your daily nutrient intake requirements and, over time, this can lead to long-term health complications and rebound weight gain.
So how can you maintain a healthy weight through your diet this year? You can choose to incorporate a variety and balance of foods into your diet. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, this means that half of your plate should be made up of fruits and vegetables and should contain sources of healthy fats, lean proteins, and whole grains. Eating in this way can keep us fuller longer and provide a variety of nutrients needed for our health. You should also try to limit foods high in sodium (salt), saturated fats and added sugars to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
3. Get Active
Another way to help maintain a healthy weight and improve your mental health is to start getting active! Physical activity can increase the release of endorphins in your body, which helps promote feelings of happiness and well-being. The recommended amounts of physical activity for most adults are as follows:
Muscle strengthening exercises (such as lifting weight, using resistance bands, or using your own weight by doing push-ups, pull-ups, planks, etc.) at least 2 days each week.
4. Cultivate Strong, Healthy Relationships
As humans, many of us thrive on some form of social interaction. Several studies have been conducted on the correlation between a person’s perceived sense of isolation and their health outcomes. Researchers found that people who experienced feelings of loneliness and isolation were at higher risk for depression, anxiety, decreased cognitive functioning, impaired immunity, stroke, cardiovascular disease and the list continues.
So, this year, be sure to reach out to the people who add meaning to your life. Spend time strengthening healthy relationships with people who make you feel safe, loved, and supported. You can also try making new connections this year too; find people who engage in similar activities as you or try meeting people who can help you experience new things! That brings us to #5:
5. Learn Something New
When we choose to push away opportunities to get involved in fulfilling activities it can lead to burnout, chronic stress or depression. Plus, learning new skills is one way to help keep our brains sharp and increase our memory as we age. Aim to kick off the New Year by taking up a new hobby or enrolling in a class that you’ve always wanted to take. Choosing to spend your time on activities that you enjoy is a form of self-care and can greatly improve your quality of life throughout the year!
Learn more about healthy lifestyle choices and other programs offered by Wellness Workdays.
Written by: Onycha Carlson, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern