Weight loss seems to always top the lists of people’s New Year’s Resolutions. This year, however, I want to encourage you to think beyond just the number on a scale. Yes, your weight can impact your health, but fixating on just that is unlikely to truly serve you, or your health. Instead, here are 5 ideas for resolutions that can really impact your health, and might even have benefits for your waistline.
- Get More Sleep – Around 30% of adults in the U.S. don’t get enough sleep each night (minimum of 7 hours!). Crappy sleep = elevated cortisol levels = poor insulin and blood glucose control = increased weight and stress. Sleep is your body’s time to recover, heal, reset. When we cut that time short, we do our entire health a disservice.
- Nurture Friendships – So much of our time is spent fixating on work, kids, the house…the list goes on and on. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “it takes a village”. Here’s the thing, that applies regardless of the stage in life. We all need support; you have to make sure you invest in those friendships so that when you need someone to call on when you’re in need of a bit of support, you’ve got them! Our emotional well-being is a huge part of our overall health. Nurturing your body and not your soul (for lack of a better word) is an essential part of your true wellness.
- Breathe – Seriously. I know, it sounds so woo-woo. But here’s the thing. Most of us don’t breathe properly in the first place (think belly breathing, not chest breathing). And so many of us actually hold our breath multiple times throughout the day. Breathing well and breathing properly promotes proper posture, sends signals to the brain that things are a-ok, improves oxygen flow throughout the body, and can help lower cortisol levels and relieve stress. Try inhaling for 4 counts, letting your entire lower abdomen expand, hold it for 4, then exhale drawing your belly button back toward the spine for 4-6 counts. Repeat for 5 breaths.
- Move More, Sit Less – Yes, exercise is important, but so is just simply sitting less. Sitting negatively impacts posture and breathing. It tightens the muscles and tendons in the front of the legs, pulling the back out of balance and often causing back pain. It also stifles blood flow. And, obviously, burns fewer calories! Aim to get up, stretch, move around, at least every 1-2 hours throughout the day.
- Get Outside – I know, it’s not exactly picnic weather much of the winter in Maryland, but find a way to get out there anyway. It’s so important to breathe in fresh air, experience nature, and be exposed to sunlight regularly and, hopefully, daily. Sun exposure is key to proper circadian rhythms and good sleep, as well as helping maintain vitamin D levels. And, fresh air tends to automatically encourage you to BREATHE! Go for a walk at lunch. Shovel a neighbor’s driveway to get out a bit more. If it’s nice weather, park far away and walk to wherever you need to go. Getting some fresh air doesn’t have to be a stressful event.
And remember, it’s great to make resolutions at the New Year, but you can start making changes any day of the year. Each day is an opportunity to make choices that support your health and happiness.
Aubrey Phelps MS RDN LDN