A new year brings the perfect opportunity to check in on your health and wellness. It’s a great time to set realistic goals you can reach in the next few months and the rest of the year to come. Health and wellness extend beyond balancing healthy meals with physical activity and include decreasing stress. Did you know that not getting enough sleep can impact your health too? Making health and wellness a priority in the new year will have you feeling great and help you live your best days.
When making changes, work on small changes over time to help them become part of a routine healthy lifestyle. Focus on SMART goals, which are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Start by creating your goal, which might be increasing the fiber in your diet. To begin, write down what you ate for the past 3 days and identify which foods have fiber. Next, determine the grams of fiber in the portion you consumed by reading the food label or using reference material and total your daily fiber intake for each day. You might find your total to be 10 grams and your goal might be 25 grams. Your goal might be to increase your total amount daily by 5 grams and increase it to an additional 5 grams every 3 months until you reach your goal. This provides a timeframe to reach your goal a little at a time which can help you stick with it and make it achievable.
Improper sleep not only makes the day drag and limit your energy to carry out tasks, but it can be linked to chronic diseases such as heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and depression. It is recommended that those age 18 and older get at least 7 hours of sleep per night, more for those younger based on age (CDC 2020) *. Research suggests adequate sleep may improve blood sugar control, how your body controls your appetite, and may decrease depression symptoms. Due to work hours and family responsibilities, the time we get to bed each day can vary. Set a goal to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day for consistency. Your sleeping environment is important so eliminate noise, create a comfortable space for ultimate relaxation, and set the temperature to a comfortable setting. Take away distractions by removing electronic devices from the room. Aim for exercise daily, avoid big meals, alcohol, and caffeine before bed to help in falling asleep.
Each day aim to balance your plate, and not just your dinner plate! When building your plate, you want to aim for half of it to be fruits and veggies and include a variety of colors. Next, make sure half your grains are whole grain to provide the biggest nutritional bang for your buck. Whole grains help with heart health and digestion. Remember to vary your protein sources and focus on lean meats, add fish or seafood twice per week, and include meatless meals for variety, cost-effectiveness, and health benefits. Don’t forget your dairy by choosing low-fat or fat-free dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt to your meals and snacks to aid in strong bones, teeth, healthy skin, and much more.
Stress can impact your health in more ways than you might realize. It may cause headaches, depression, digestive issues, anxiety, weight gain, trouble sleeping, high blood pressure, strokes, and concentration issues. So, what can you do to decrease stress before it’s a concern? First, plan your schedule out and slow down. Having too much to do at once can cause unnecessary stress. As mentioned before, create a sleep schedule, let some things go, and remember to take a breath! Remember to lean on others for the support you need. Talking with friends or family can help offer a different perspective and maybe even some laughter to lighten your mood.
Ditching bad habits and replacing them with healthy ones like physical activity or creative hobbies along with adequate sleep and stressing less can improve your mood and quality of life. Check-in on your heath often, not just after the new year. It will keep your health on track and help you in living your best life.
*Sleep and Sleep Disorders, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020.