Healthy Habits: Simple steps for a healthier year

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It is harder for new healthy habits and positive behaviours to stick long term if we try to do too many. Have a think about what simple changes would have the biggest impact on your health and wellness. For the month of January, focus on that one new behaviour, making it part of your daily or weekly routine. 

Once that new habit has become the norm, then consider focusing on a new one! Here are some ideas of goals you could focus on for 2023.  

Make good quality sleep a priority

One of the simplest healthy habits you can introduce is allowing yourself a 7–9-hour sleep opportunity every night. If you must get up at 7am, aim to get to bed by 10pm and lights out by 11pm!

Take time out to relax daily

In today’s hectic world, juggling work and home life, it might seem like a luxury to take some time out during the day.  And when you get that window of opportunity, many can feel guilty about doing nothing!

Relaxation is so important when it comes to our health.  

When we are constantly on the go our body is in the state of “fight or flight”.  Hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are constantly released.  These hormones are beneficial in certain amounts giving us that “get up and go” to get things done.  However, if they are constantly released their role changes to one of inflammation.   And inflammation is like throwing petrol on a fire, which can then trigger a health issue.

Think of rest as restoring your body systems and bringing them back into harmony.

Small micro moments of rest all count.  Start with giving yourself permission to take a 5-minute break and then you can work up from there

1)     Walk outside – morning light is best

2)     Focus on your breathing whilst looking out the window

3)     Do some gentle yoga exercises.  Have a yoga mat beside your bed and when you wake up each more spend 5 minutes stretching

4)     If you are working from home, sit out in the morning light with your cup of tea or coffee (once the weather gets warmer of course!) to help raise your cortisol levels. The morning light helps to increase cortisol which in turn helps to raise melatonin in the evening for better quality sleep.

5)     Download a meditation app such as ‘Calm’ or ‘Headspace’ and take a few minutes to calm your thoughts.

Dr Chatterjee’s book  “Relax, Eat, Move and Sleep your way to a longer, healthier and happier life” is worth checking out to give some more insights into the benefits of prioritising relaxation in your life.

Practice gratitude daily

Feeling grateful can improve mental health by increasing brain chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. Gratitude shifts our thinking from negative to positive and not only supports mental health but also physical health!

Start the day with thinking about 3 things you are looking forward to or finish the day with a gratitude diary and write down 3 things you are grateful for in your life. 

Add in “mindful moments” throughout your day

Even stopping for 1 minute at a time can help to calm your nervous system, making this a healthy habit even the most time poor of us can try to introduce. Some ideas are fully focusing on daily activities such as brushing your teeth, stacking/unstacking the dishwasher, washing your face, drinking a cup of tea etc.  Also taking a few breaths in between activities (e.g. before starting the car, when stopped at traffic lights, when first sitting down at the computer, whilst making a cup of tea….). 

Be aware of “how” you are eating

Often our digestive systems can be upset by “how” we eat rather than “what” we are eating.  

  1. Try to eat without distractions
  2. Eat as mindfully as possible (even for the first few mouthfuls)
  3. Avoid drinking too much with meals
  4. Give yourself the time to eat without rushing. 

Take time to connect with other people  

Feeling connected to other people is very important for our wellbeing at any age. Take the opportunity in the new year to join a walking club, sports club, active retirement group, art or cookery class or start up your own book club! Take time to talk to a neighbour who lives alone, or chat to the checkout person at the supermarket. A simple friendly conversation can make someone’s day!

Healthy Habits: Join a walking club for connection

Include some “green” on your plate at least a few days a week. 

Green veggies contain immune supporting compounds, support liver detoxification, and contain vitamin C, fibre, folate amongst other beneficial nutrients. Aim to include more greens throughout the week:

  1. Add spinach to scrambled egg or a smoothie
  2. Enjoy cabbage and bacon
  3. Have sprouts or broccoli for dinner a couple of times per week
  4. Mix spinach and rocket through a salad

Minimise snacking

Aim for structured meals at similar times each day and only enjoy a snack if you are going too long between any of your meals. Allow about 4 hours between meals without snacking if possible. Avoiding grazing allows regulation of blood sugars and insulin levels which helps with weight management. 

12-hour food fast

Allowing a gentle overnight fast gives our digestive system a well-earned break and can help with digestive discomforts while also supporting healthy blood sugar & insulin regulation to support weight management.

Simple Steps for Healthy Habits

  1. Choose one goal
  2. Plan towards what you need to do to achieve this goal (add spinach to your shopping list, buy good walking shoes, sign up to a class)
  3. Put a reminder up on your fridge
  4. Schedule the behaviour into your diary
  5. Show Up!

Here’s to a Healthier 2023! What healthy habits will you introduce?

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