2021 can still be your best year yet, and by focusing on cleaning up your health habits, you can enter 2022 as a whole new person. While no one is perfect, especially when it comes to healthy habits, you can begin to make small improvements. We recommend focusing on only changing one healthy habit at a time, as this helps avoid feelings of being overwhelmed, which can quickly lead to discouragement and abandonment of creating or sticking to healthy habits. Instead, go slow and take on one new habit every few weeks. What healthy habits should you consider? Let’s take a look!
1. Stick To A Regular Sleep Schedule
Sleep deprivation can lead to reduced cognitive and motor performance, similar to that associated with alcohol intoxication . But a regular sleep schedule can help you fall asleep and stay asleep, ensuring you get the rest you need. Getting a full night's rest also helps you stay at the top of your game, leading you toward success in your endeavors.
Research shows that the average person needs about 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep per night to function at their peak capacity . This means you need to plan your sleep schedule for at least 8 hours or so a night, accounting for the time it may take you to fall asleep - especially when first adjusting to your sleep schedule. For example, if you need to get up by 7 am, you may want to consider heading to bed around 10:30 pm. While you can tweak and fine-tune your new schedule, going to bed and getting up at the same time each night can make a huge difference in your life. You will find you have more energy throughout your day, are able to fall asleep faster, and even perform better in your day-to-day tasks. Try it out, and stick with it for a few weeks. It will likely take more than a few nights of the same schedule for you to really notice any difference.
2. Meditate Regularly
Meditation isn’t just a fad. It’s been around for thousands of years, and for good reason. Research has shown meditation to have various health benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety, decreasing your risk of depression, improving attention, focus and memory, helping you sleep, and reducing pain .
So, how can you get started with it? The important part to remember when it comes to meditation is that to notice any improvements, you have to be doing it consistently. This often means performing a meditation session each day. Essentially, meditation involves focusing attention on your breathing or a particular object. If you are new to meditation, you can always opt-in for a meditation app with guided sessions, such as Insight Timer or Headspace. If you decide to forego the app, use a timer. Start with a minute or two, close your eyes, and focus on your inhales and exhales. If thoughts enter your mind, accept them, and then always bring your attention back to your breath. It may seem hard at first, but it does get easier! It just takes a little bit of practice. After a few weeks, you may begin to notice changes in your awareness, as well as an improved mental state.
3. Refine Your Nutrition
With temptations everywhere, good nutrition is a tough habit to stick to, but it is entirely possible to refine your eating habits and create healthy ones. Nailing down your nutrition may come down to simply being more prepared. Studies indicate that meal planning and prepping are associated with a higher quality diet and a lower risk of obesity . When your meals are already planned and prepped, you have healthy go-to's that can help you avoid unhealthy temptations.
Taking into consideration what types of foods to eat and avoid is of utmost importance. But to do this, you will need to start learning a bit more about nutrition, which can be something as simple as reading the labels of the food you eat, making yourself more aware. Research shows that a healthy diet emphasizes unsaturated fats, whole grains, quality protein, and fruits and veggies; while limiting trans and saturated fats, refined grains and sugary beverages . Find your balance with healthy and nutrient-dense foods. Your nutrition is your foundation, and what you put into your body is what you get out of it.
4. Take Monthly Digital Detoxes
We live in an age of technology, so it is safe to assume most of us are overstimulated by cell phones, social media, video games, television, etc. Technology has become so embedded in our daily lives that we forget we once had a life without it. Mobile phone use has even been associated with increased stress, sleep disturbances and depression . By participating in a digital detox, you can relieve some of this stress, which may improve your overall mental state.
Start with a digital detox for a few hours every month. Eventually, you may even want to do a whole day or weekend. This can help give your mind the much-needed break it needs. It can also help you focus on other more important parts of your life outside of social media or the news.
5. Walk Everywhere Within 1 Mile of Your Home
Walking to the nearest grocery store or walking to run an errand within a one-mile radius of your home can help you get your daily dose of movement in, as well as potentially decrease your risk for coronary heart disease . It is a simple way to help combat the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, especially since most individuals work desk jobs. Walking at a brisk pace can also help extend your life and decrease chronic diseases . Moreso, getting outside and getting natural sunlight can help with the synthesis of vitamin D, which is necessary for calcium absorption and bone health. And do not forget, proper footwear should always be worn!
6. Fix Your Posture
Technology, specifically your mobile phone, also gives way to various posture problems. In particular, forward head posture has become an increasing problem in recent decades. Forward head posture happens when your head extends past your neck, causing increased stress and strain on the cervical spine. As a result, you may experience neck or shoulder pain. According to studies, it can even create respiratory problems in more severe cases .
To help correct forward head posture, consider purchasing a postural device or even set a timer at intervals throughout the day to remind you to adjust yourself. By doing this, you can take care of your posture before it becomes a more significant issue that begins to limit your life and impact your health.
7. Start A Gratitude Journal
Gratitude refers to the appreciation of something that is meaningful or valuable to you. Several studies have indicated that by practicing gratitude regularly, you can experience an improved sense of well-being . Each day, set aside about 5-10 minutes of your time, and write down every single thing you are grateful for - no matter how big or how small it may be. It is all about counting your blessings and taking the time to appreciate them. This can help you develop better perspectives in life and turn what seems to be a negative situation into a positive one. You likely have so much to be thankful for - you just need to start noticing it more!
8. Learn Something New
While it might not sound exactly like a typical healthy habit, learning something new can have many benefits. It helps your brain remain strong and healthy by creating new neural networks and pathways. This can also aid in other cognitive functions as well, like accelerating your ability to further learn new tasks and recalling past information. Learning something new can also help combat boredom and potentially dementia .
9. Move More
Many individuals start off a new year with high hopes and expectations, especially when it comes to exercise. Undeniably, exercise has an array of benefits, such as reducing chronic diseases, decreasing the risk of premature death and improving an individual’s overall quality of life; after all, the human body was not designed for a sedentary lifestyle . Movement is necessary for obtaining optimal health and wellness. But what can you do to stick to a regular exercise routine; and if you cannot workout, how can you generally add more movement to your life? If you work a desk job, consider setting an alarm for every hour or two. When your alarm goes off, get up and stretch or go for a quick walk around the office or your home. Every little bit counts. If you manage to do 10 minutes three times a day, you are already at 30 minutes per day, which meets the recommended physical activity guidelines of at least 150 minutes of exercise per week.
The next best thing is to find a physical activity you enjoy. There are a variety of options, from team sports, to yoga or pilates and martial arts. It is all about finding something you love and are willing to stick to. As mentioned earlier in suggestion #5, picking up the habit of walking everywhere within one mile of your home can also help. Walking is an excellent form of exercise that is easy on the joints and great for an overall healthier lifestyle. Find ways to fit movement into your daily life - your health depends on it!
10. Add An Infrared Sauna To Your Self-Care Routine
A typical session often lasts about 20 to 45 minutes. On average, many individuals enjoy partaking in infrared therapy sessions about 2-4 times a week. Some individuals prefer early morning sessions, while others enjoy their sessions late in the evening. Everyone uses an infrared sauna for a multitude of reasons. We have found that a lot of people use infrared sauna therapy to wind down after a workout, particularly because they have been shown to lessen recovery time. In fact, many gyms have infrared saunas as part of their gym memberships.
If your gym is closed due to current events, it may be worth considering adding a personal sauna to your home. In the long-run, having an in-home sauna can actually save you money, as well as provide convenient and easy way to a sauna.
Improve Your Life One Habit At A Time
Remember, add a new healthy habit one at a time. Trying to initiate multiple at once will more than likely lead to a relapse. Start slow and master your new daily routine one step at a time before moving onto the next. This can translate to sticking with one routine for many weeks or months, but as long as it becomes a habit, then you have succeeded. Start taking charge of your health by acting now!
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