The beginning of the new year is an ideal time to reflect on the past year, cherish relationships, and start healthy habits. Anything you do–from getting enough sleep to staying on top of routine vaccinations–opens the door to a healthier you. It’s also a busy season, and it’s easy to overwork ourselves. Whether traveling or hosting family and friends, remember to pause, take time for yourself, and tell someone how grateful you are.
Give yourself the gift of optimal health with gratitude and healthy behaviors. Read on for helpful tips to set yourself up for success in the new year.
1. Take baby steps, not giant leaps
New Year’s resolutions don’t work if you don’t stick to them. First, your desired behavior changes should be meaningful to you. Otherwise, your motivation will wane over time. Whatever goals you set for yourself, do it for yourself. Think about how those changes will affect your ability to do what you love.
Second, you must start small and stay consistent. Reaching a healthy weight or quitting smoking cold turkey are great resolutions, but remember, it’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon. It’s all in your consistency and the work you put in every day.
And last but not least, track your progress. In doing so, you will stay focused and get back on track if you catch yourself slipping. For example, if your New Year’s resolution involves more sleep, you can use a smartwatch to track your sleep patterns. For everything else, a smartphone app or journal might do.
2. Make time to unwind
Make time for yourself and try taking deep breaths or meditating when life gets busy. Pick activities you enjoy and keep them interesting. Mix up your workouts or other activities, so you don’t get bored. The trick is to carve out alone or quality time with your loved ones each day. Think of activities like listening to music, reading a book, or riding a bike. Equally important is connecting with others. Did you know? Showing appreciation could help lower blood pressure and improve your immune system. Catch up with a friend this holiday season, and if you’re feeling the holiday stress, talk with people you trust about your concerns.
3. Remind yourself to move
Staying active this time of the year can help boost your immunity during cold and flu season. According to experts, just a few minutes a day can help prevent simple bacterial and viral infections. There’s also the fact that you won’t have to deal with the heat or humidity when exercising outside. In fact, the winter chill can make you feel energized, which means you could work out longer and burn more calories. It’s also a great time to soak up the rays (in small doses). Sunlight can help improve your mood and get you a dose of vitamin D, but don’t skip the sunscreen. If you forget or life gets in the way, set up an hourly “move reminder.” Bottom line: There’s no reason to take a break from exercising when the temperatures drop. Talk to your doctor if you’re starting a new routine, haven’t worked out in a while, or have a chronic condition. Your physician or advanced practice provider can offer tips to avoid health issues or injuries.
4. Catch more Zzz’s
Different people need different amounts of sleep. But as a rule, try getting at least seven hours a night as it can help your body recover from a stressful day. After a good night’s sleep, you may also feel more alert and optimistic. And according to research, your risk for obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure may be lower when you consistently get a good night’s sleep. As life becomes more hectic, remember the benefits of a restful night and what you can do to stick to a consistent bedtime routine. Start with creating a bedtime routine that includes silencing electronics. The email and text alerts throughout the night are disruptive and make it impossible to unplug. The takeaway is that you will function better after a good night’s sleep. Not enough sleep will cause your brain to struggle to do basic tasks, such as concentrating and remembering things. Talk with your health care provider if you feel tired often during the day or if lack of sleep makes it hard to do daily activities.
5. Choose water over sugary drinks
You may think water is only essential in the sweltering heat, but the truth is that it’s important all year round. And its benefits will surprise you. Dehydration; for example, can cause unclear thinking, changes in your mood, and cause your body to overheat.
At this time of the year, thirst is not necessarily the best indicator of dehydration, so try carrying and refilling a water bottle. Not a fan of the taste? Add a wedge of lemon or lime to improve the flavor. Also, make it a habit to serve water during meals. When you substitute sugary drinks like tea or soda, you’re reducing your calorie intake–which can help manage your weight.
6. Eat a healthy diet, and cook together
Resist the temptation to eat too many pies or pumpkin spice lattes. Reach for fruits and vegetables instead. Spend time together in the kitchen this holiday season. It’s an excellent way to bond and create memories. Avoid sugary drinks and eat in moderation. Try making new recipes with healthy ingredients and colors. Incorporate lean proteins in your diet. Fish, skinless chicken or turkey, non-fat dairy, and nuts are lean and ideal for a balanced diet. Keep it lean, and your heart will thank you later.
7. Stay on top of checkups
You can modify many behaviors to help improve your health, but those habits don’t replace routine visits and screenings. The annual flu shot and COVID-19 vaccines are recommended for most adults and children. Older adults may need additional vaccines.
The holidays don’t have to be stressful. Be kind to yourself to make the best of your holiday time. Give yourself the gift of optimal health with gratitude and healthy behaviors. If you haven’t visited your doctor or advanced practice provider in a while, it may be time to schedule an appointment.
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Healthy Sleep Starts Before You Hit the Sheets - National Sleep Foundation (thensf.org)
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Sleep and your health: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia
Make Health Your Resolution | Health Equity Features | CDC
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Thankfulness: How Gratitude Can Help Your Health | American Heart Association
Set yourself up for success with heart-healthy tips for making New Year’s resolutions | American Heart Association