This year will be different. This year you will turn things around and realize your health and happiness goals. You’ve got this! How do we know? Because we’re going to work together on making sure that you know exactly what to do and how so that you can be your best self in 2020. Here’s our quick list of simple, proven tips and tactics that will make it easier to be healthier than ever this year.
It Takes Time
It’s important to start off with realistic expectations when you’re making changes like these. Remember that new habits take a while to “stick.” One study found that 66 days is the average time to establish a new habit, while other sources say it takes 3 weeks. There’s a wide variation so be patient with yourself. Don’t give up if you have little slips now and then. You’re only human, after all. Just keep regrouping. Tenacity is one of the most important success attributes.
Set Yourself Up For Success
Also, be sure to set yourself up for success by creating an environment that minimizes your distractions. For example, if you’re trying to cut back on alcohol, you might find it easier to meet up with friends on walks in a park or at a board game cafe instead of somewhere that exposes you to temptation, like at a pub. That’s an obvious example, but you can take that philosophy further by taking a good look at your routines, your companions, and your home to make sure that you’re supporting your goals. If your normal drive to or from work entails passing by a bakery that you just can’t resist, think about revamping your route. One of the best things that Starbucks ever did for me was to close the location closest to my home!
10 Health Tips For A Healthy, Happy 2020
Ready to start having the best year ever? Here’s how.
1. Keep your body hydrated
You’ve heard this many times. Despite all the urging to drink more water, did you know that many of us still walk around in a state of perpetual dehydration? It’s true. Did you also know that when we’re feeling tired or hungry, we often don’t realize that what we really need is just a big glass of water?
How much water should you drink? There’s no universal answer to this question. There’s never been research showing that we have to get 8 glasses per day. But, it doesn’t hurt to use that figure as a benchmark. Another good indicator is the color of your urine: It should be clear and the color of pale straw. Pay close attention to your thirst cues. Often by the time that we are aware that we’re thirsty, we’re already dehydrated. I find it helps people to get in the routine of drinking more water if they start their day with two cups of it first thing when they get up. It seems to prompt their thirst mechanism to cue them to drink more often throughout the day.
2. Take five minutes to meditate
If you find the concept of meditation too intimidating, focus on achieving just five minutes of stillness. Yes, just five minutes of mindful meditation makes a difference in your physical and mental health. Don’t believe me? Check out these studies:
- Following 5-minute mindfulness, meditation participants experienced enhanced both mental state attribution and empathic concern
- A brief mindfulness exercise, conducted in a routine office visit, produced a significant reduction in state anxiety for early psychosis patients, regardless of symptom burden
- Even a 10-15 minute single training session induces sustained home meditation practice (of 5 minutes duration) that helped patients in recovery for opioid addiction and was associated with a lower risk of relapse.
- A 3-minute mindfulness exercise, conducted in a routine office visit, produced a significant reduction in state anxiety for early psychosis patients, regardless of symptom burden.
Fit 5 minutes into your routine when you wake up in the morning or before you go to sleep at night. In the time it takes you to scroll through your Instagram feed, you could take an important step towards lowering your blood pressure, your risk of depression, your anxiety, and much more.
You can find many meditation apps and videos on the Internet, but here’s a short primer on how to meditate.
- Find a quiet spot where you are free from distractions or interruptions.
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
- Close your eyes.
- Inhale through your nose and all the way into the bottom of your lungs.
- Ignore outside noises.
- Set your focus internally.
- Breathe all the way into your belly, use your diaphragm.
- Focus on rhythmically breathing.
- Focus your thoughts on inner tranquility. If you have difficulty not thinking about things, try repeating a meaningless word in your mind. An easy way to come up with such a word is to take a random word and spell it backward. Repeat this word over and over in your mind and bring your mind back to it if it starts to wander.
3. Focus on whole foods
Whole Foods. The world is full of complicated diet plans, but this one step is key. Eat foods as close to their natural state as possible. For example, instead of a piece of apple pie, have an apple.
Where to Shop. Think about your average grocery store trip. You want to buy as much food from the outside edge of the store as possible. This is where the grocery store places produce (fresh and frozen), meats, and fish. By shopping the perimeter of the store, you will buy more whole foods like produce and lean healthy protein, instead of processed food like crackers, chips, cookies and pop.
Buy Local. One thing that also makes this step a bit easier is to buy local as often as possible. Check out your local farmer’s market or farm store, for example. You’ll be eating produce that hasn’t traveled from who-knows-where, so it will be fresher. Fresh, local produce tastes better because it is picked closer to when it is ripe. Plus, you’re helping to reduce your carbon footprint and protect the environment.
It might feel like stretching at the end of your workout is a waste of time. After all, you’ve done the important stuff, like improve your cardio and build strength, right? However, stretching improves your flexibility and mobility, reduces your risk of injury, and reduces your stress levels. So take some time at the end of your workouts, or when you first wake up, to stretch out your muscles. Yoga is one of the best exercises because it incorporates strength, balance, and stretching for flexibility.
5. Unplug Yourself
What’s the first thing you do when your electronic device is experiencing problems? Unplug it. That’s also good advice for humans. When you’re stressed, overwhelmed, or just tired, consider putting your phone away for a while. You might be surprised by the results.
In fact, more and more research is pointing to the negative effects of screen time on our mental health, as well as our physical health. “Tech neck” is just one example. If you find device detox challenging, don’t hesitate to get help. This may be a bit ironic, but there are apps that can help you cut down on screen time. Personally, I have a timer on my Instagram. A pop-up flashes on my screen to tell me when I’ve hit my ten-minute limit.
6. Eat for gut health
Scientists are learning more about the importance of the gut-brain-axis connection. What does this mean? In simple terms, the bacteria in your gut influence your moods and vice versa. Did you know that you make more serotonin in your gut than you do in your brain?
When your gut microbiome is out of balance, you experience many health problems, including that annoying “brain fog” feeling. You also suffer from the effects of a weakened immune system.
Fortunately, the solution is simple and delicious. Eating fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and natural yogourt like kefir restore the balance of bacteria in your gut. Eating foods high in fiber helps to fuel that bacteria. Prebiotic fiber like inulin cultivates good bacteria, particularly Bifidobacteria that keep your colon healthy. Inulin is found in foods like chicory root and asparagus. You can also take inulin as a supplement. Our naturopathic doctors are the experts on rehabilitating your gut.
7. Rethink the sweet treats
The harmful effects of sugar extend far beyond damaging your teeth and your waistline. Your skin, heart, moods, teeth, immune system and hormones are all hurt by this tasty poison.
However, what makes avoiding sugar particularly tricky is that it’s often hidden. You probably know to avoid cake, but sugar is also found in everyday items like salad dressing and spaghetti sauce. So when you’re trying to cut down on sugar, start by reading the labels on all processed foods. Or avoiding processed foods altogether. It’s super simple to make your own clean salad dressing by combining lemon juice, sea salt, and olive oil or balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
The other reason that it is so hard to cut down on sugar is that it is highly addictive. Food is not normally considered to be a substance of abuse. Based on the similarities between the effects of intermittent sugar access and drugs of abuse on behavior and brain chemistry, sugar meets the criteria for a substance of abuse and may be “addictive” for some individuals when consumed in a “binge-like” manner. The effects are similar, although smaller in magnitude, to cocaine or morphine.
So how do you quit sugar? Similarly to how you would break any addiction. Read our tips for quitting alcohol. You can apply those same tips in your efforts to quit sugar or smoking or any other habit you are looking to change.
Keep your blood sugar stable to keep sugar cravings at bay. Cravings are very hard to plow through, save yourself that challenge by having a little protein and a healthy dose of healthy fats with each of your meals.
8. Help others
Looking for a way to improve your physical health, boost your overall life satisfaction, and reduce your risk of depression? The solution may lie outside of yourself. In other words, if you place more attention on helping others, you could be the one who benefits. Studies show that volunteering benefits mental and physical health, life satisfaction, social well-being, and depression.
9. Take a walk outside
Just a short walk outside every day improves your:
- Vitamin D levels
- Blood sugar
- Cortisol level
- Muscle tone
- Cardiovascular health
Just 30 minutes a day is enough to reap the benefits. Look for excuses to get outside in place of driving, or start the day with a nice stroll. Walk to work. Run errands on foot instead of by car. Having a dog makes a walk every morning a no-brainer for me.
10. Smile and have fun!
Sometimes it feels like the road to health is paved with hard work and sacrifice. However, simply choosing to view a healthy lifestyle with an attitude of gratitude makes it easier to carry out your plans. After all, things like eating well, resting, and getting some exercise add to your life. Focus on the fun aspects: try new recipes, walk with friends, find a volunteer job that lets you explore a long-buried interest. You’ll be happy that you did!
Are you ready to have a great year? We are definitely ready to help you take charge of your health for a fantastic, healthy 2020! When you are assembling your healthcare team, consider adding an osteopath, psychotherapist, acupuncturist, dietitian, naturopathic doctor or chiropractor to your health experts. We can help with ANY health issue, no matter how big or small.