It’s a new year. Are you ready to create a new, healthier you? So many of us make resolutions, only to give up mid-January and feel like a failure. In fact, only eight percent of us actually succeed with resolutions each year. The Boise Healthy Living Examiner has already discussed the practice of setting goals rather than making New Year’s resolutions. You can read her thoughts on that by clicking on this link. But if you want to be healthier in 2013, without the risk of failing, here are 13 ways you can improve your health over the next 12 months, with simple modifications to your daily routine. There’s no pressure. Just try them out for a week or so, not all at once, and see how it feels. These are all things we can integrate with just a little effort. Follow along in the slide show.
- Get some sleep. Yep, you read that correctly. With every gym hawking their January specials and commercial diet ads everywhere you look, you’d think those were your only options. But sleep is just as important as good nutrition and regular exercise. Insufficient sleep prevents our bodies from functioning properly, and increases our risks for obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and shortened lifespan. Take a good look at your schedule to see where you can cut back and then turn in early.
- Take the stairs. By just adding a little more exercise to your daily routine, you’ll reap cardiovascular benefits. Not only will it help you lose weight and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes, burning those extra calories will boost your mood, improve your energy level, and help you sleep better. It might even improve your sex life. So, park a little farther from the store, walk your cart back inside, or better yet, walk or ride your bike up to the market, bank, or post office instead of driving whenever you can.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Your mother-in-law criticized your holiday dessert again? Some guy yapping on his cell phone cut you off on I-84? Your family didn’t say anything about how nice the house looked after you spent half a day cleaning it? Let it go. Although it’s easy to get upset about these things, and we all do it from time to time, the resulting stress can have a very negative impact on your overall health. It may manifest itself in various forms, such as headaches, an upset stomach, higher blood pressure, sleep issues, and chest pain. But it can also increase your risk for certain diseases and conditions, such as diabetes, heart problems, arthritis, asthma, and depression. When you feel yourself getting worked up, put the situation in perspective. Does it really matter what your mother-in-law thinks of your cooking? Let it go and move on. You’ll be healthier for it.
- Stick with water. Soda has been the subject of numerous studies over the past few decades, and although there’s a lot of research out there that says it’s not healthy, we can’t seem to break our habit. Whether you drink regular sodas full of sugar, or diet sodas full of chemicals, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Juices, energy drinks, and flavored waters often contain some of the same harmful ingredients, especially if they’re sugar free. Try swapping one serving of soda a day for a glass of water instead. Water helps boost your metabolism and gives you a feeling of fullness, so you’re likely to eat less. Also, when we get dehydrated, we feel rundown and tend to get stressed more easily. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day prevents that from happening, and it also keeps your skin and muscles healthy.
- Try Meatless Mondays. If you’re a carnivore, you may be at higher risk for cardiovascular disease. Some red meats are high in saturated fat, which can raise your cholesterol levels and increase your risk for heart disease. On the other hand, red meat provides protein, iron, B12, and zinc, so choosing a lean cut can be beneficial. But why not give your body a break once in a while and give up meat for one day a week? If you’re like most Americans, you don’t get enough vegetables or whole grains in your diet. Dedicate one day a week (it doesn’t have to be Monday) to choosing non-meat entrees. Not only will you get a wider variety of plant-based foods and nutrients in your diet, you’ll also give your wallet a break.
- Taste the rainbow. No, that doesn’t mean you need to go out and buy a bag of Skittles. It means making your plate more colorful. When’s the last time you ate something purple? Orange? Yellow? Red cabbage, eggplant, plums, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, and banana peppers are all great options, and chances are you’re not getting enough of them. That rich color means they’re high in antioxidants and will help you live longer. Don’t forget red and green foods, like berries, peppers, kale, spinach, and broccoli, just to name a few.
- Reduce processed foods. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, chances are they’re not healthy. Chemicals and additives give color and flavor to our foods, but they do little for us nutritionally. In fact, there are numerous studies which show that processed foods increase your risk for obesity and a host of chronic diseases. Most processed foods are high in sodium, which can raise your risk of hypertension and stroke. Give up just one processed food that you regularly eat, like a box of cookies or crackers. Replace it with a whole food such as an apple, pear, or a handful of baby carrots. It may take a while to make this transition, but if you get in the habit of reaching for whole, natural foods first, you’ll be much healthier.
- Get moving. You knew this was coming, right? Daily exercise can help you live longer and healthier. Chances are, your physical and mental health will improve with the simple addition of daily exercise. Aim for at least 20 minutes of exercise each day. This can vary in intensity. For cardiovascular fitness, try jogging, yoga, Zumba, cycling, Pilates, boxing, or anything that gets your blood pumping. Mix in some strength training as well, lifting weights a few days a week to help build muscles.
- Wear sunscreen. Idaho has one of the highest rates of melanoma, or skin cancer, in the nation. It’s important to protect your skin year-round, by applying sunscreen and reapplying it when necessary. Not only does this protect you from the sun’s harmful rays, it’ll help your skin look better, too.
- Get a checkup. Right now, while that 2013 calendar is still new and fresh, make some calls. Schedule your annual checkups with your doctor, dentist, and optometrist. If you need a mammogram or prostate check, schedule that, too. People who get regular checkups are more likely to detect serious illnesses in the early stages, while they can be treated effectively and successfully.
- Unplug. Are you guilty of checking your email and texts countless times a day? Is your TV on four or more hours every day? Technology can make our lives easier and more convenient, but it can also lead to headaches and all the risks that come with a sedentary lifestyle. Instead of emailing your coworker, get up and walk over to her desk. If you’re going to take a long phone call, try to walk around while you chat. Turn off your TV and laptop at least two hours before you turn in, and you’ll get better sleep.
- De-clutter. If that pile of papers and other junk by your desk has become an acceptable part of the scenery, it’s time to get rid of it. Whether we realize it or not, clutter can make us feel tired, lethargic, confused, ashamed, and depressed. Take a few minutes each day to clear off desks, countertops, and tables, and schedule time on the weekends to tackle bigger projects, like those piles of old ski gear in the garage. Give it away to someone who can use it, sell it for a quick profit, or toss it out if it’s truly trash. You’ll feel better immediately.
- Think positive. Above all, try to look on the bright side whenever possible. People with a negative attitude tend to have more stress and drama in their lives. And who needs more of that? For a longer, happier life, you need to focus on the positive. Things will never be perfect, but taking the time to appreciate what’s good in your life will do wonders for your health.
Talk it up:
How will you stay healthy in 2013?
To receive all of the Boise Healthy Living Examiner’s articles, click on subscribe or the RSS feed button. Each week, you’ll get informative articles on Need to Know, and Good for You Food of the Week, plus seasonal features like Spotlight Sport, Healthier Holiday, Broncos Challenge, and more.