Sugar highs and food comas this Christmas? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. With the New Year looming around the corner and tins of candies and sweets still half full under the tree, it might seem too premature to think about lifestyle overhauls and extreme fitness regimes for your New Year’s resolutions. Don’t worry! This is the New Year’s Lite version: you don’t have to reconstruct a version of your life to live every January 1! Here are 10 easy ways you can begin to make positive changes throughout 2018.
1. Wake Up Well
We all know that a strong morning routine really sets us up for the day. But did you know that your bedtime routine is equally important, if not moreso? This nighttime routine is called Sleep Hygiene. Resting your brain as well as avoiding certain foods and stimuli are the keys to having a successful day. Here are some practical things you can do:
- Avoid screen time at least one hour before bed. That means no more scrolling through Facebook in bed!
- Avoid caffeine, rich, and spicy foods before bed. These can act as stimuli as well as cause indigestion.
- Try to get to bed at roughly the same time every night. This helps to train your body clock to drop into your sleep rhythm quickly, maximising your quality of sleep!
2. Sip Smart — The Importance of Clever Hydration
First of all, we need to de-bunk the idea that 8 glasses of water each day is necessary. There’s no research to prove it, however, keeping hydrated is a serious matter. Which is why how we drink is as important as what and how much we drink.
If you gulp your water quickly, it might feel good after a workout, a salty food, or in the morning when your mouth is parched, your body is less able to absorb the gulps than if you sip. Gulping causes the water to pass through your body quickly, leaving less time for absorption. Sipping water allows your body to hydrate fully, and is less likely to give you cramps. If remembering to drink throughout the day is difficult for you, try setting alarms to remind you. Or link your hydration in with the next step!
3. Pause Productively
Getting the right work-to-break ratio can benefit you and your workday. Research says that for every hour you are sitting, the last 15 minutes should be a break. Get up, stretch your legs, distract your brain — even drink a few sips of water! The exercise is good for your body, and the mental break from your desk is good for your brain. Your productivity will increase and your waistline might even decrease!
4. Protect with Probiotics
We’ve all heard about the importance of probiotics. But it’s more than protecting yourself from embarrassing flatulence or making sure you are digesting your food well. Science has called the gut a “second brain.” The enteric nervous system in the gut communicates with the bacteria inside the gut, and 90% of these cells carry information to the brain, not from the brain. We really are what we eat: as our gut communicates to our brain, the messages from that bacteria, whether good or bad, influence our moods. Be sure to eat wholesome, natural foods and take plenty of fermented probiotics, like kefir, kombucha, or even foods like kimchi.
5. Mind Your Mind
Mindfulness was the trending hashtag of 2017, but for a very good reason! More and more, people are realising the benefits of slowing life down and appreciating the now. Mindfulness is the practice of quieting your mind and being still. Some do a very light version, others recite mantras, while others listen to a guided meditation. One easy way to get started is to clear a space and set the timer for 5-10 minutes. Either sit down or lie down, close your eyes, and listen to your breathing. Try not to think about anything in particular, just be aware of the environment around you and the sound of your own breath. If you’re struggling to focus, or feel that mantras are too hocus-pokus for you, there’s an app called HeadSpace that talks you through how to quiet down. My husband and my kids use it — I usually fall asleep!
6. Swap the Sweets
By now, we should all know that sugar is linked to weight gain and diabetes. But there are more nasties that lie behind the candy stripes. Here are a few more reasons to wipe the white stuff from your diet:
- Sugar raises blood pressure, cholesterol, and risk of heart attack.
- Sugar can impair cognitive function and reduce proteins that are necessary for memory and responsiveness. It also lowers BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which puts sugar-eaters at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
- High-sugar diets are more likely to cause you to suffer from asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.
Here is a cheeky alternative to the sweet stuff, but is equally indulgent: Healthy Dark Chocolate. It’s velvety smooth and delicious!
7. Keeping Up With the KCals:
So many New Year’s diet plans focus on cutting calories and opting for light alternatives. But these light alternatives are light on the health as well. Where fats and calories are slashed, sugars and additives are increased, making your “healthy” option a serving of rubbish! Why not try to focus less on cutting calories and aim to consume more nutrient-dense calories instead? If you’re cutting things like sugar out already, add a few nutrient dense foods like:
- Leafy green vegetables (like kale, collard greens, spinach, bok choy, cabbage and romaine lettuce)
- Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussels sprouts
- Carrots, parsnips, asparagus, tomatoes, mushrooms, artichokes, and bell peppers
- Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and other berries
- Sea vegetables
8. Breathe Better
Here’s a test: exhale completely. Place your hands over your belly button. Take a big breath in. Does your belly button expand? Mine doesn’t. My breath stops at my diaphragm. I’m a shallow-breather and this is why that’s not a good thing:
Shallow breathing has been linked to increased anxiety and raised blood pressure, as well as preventing oxygen to reach the lowest portion of the lungs, where blood vessels that carry oxygen to the cells are found.
Deep breathing has been called the foundation of health. Here’s how to help yourself breathe better.
- Check your posture. Make sure you are sitting or standing tall. This allows your breath to reach the lower lungs easily.
- Breathe in slowly, relaxing your shoulders and expanding your abdomen naturally. Think of how you breath when you are almost asleep — slow, heavy, full.
- If you are going to try mindfulness this year, deep breathing is a great technique to practice with it!
9. Teach an Old Dog a New Trick
This is the art of distraction: glean the benefits of learning a new hobby or skill this year! The pace of life seems to be increasing at alarming rates. Studies have shown that with the high levels intensity you might face at work, drive that stress and energy into a hobby. Not only is simple, inconsequential productivity good for your brain and emotions, it is also beneficial for your productivity at work. When we have something to distract our minds, our subconscious continues to work without the pressure of producing results in the conscious state. Ever wonder why you suddenly have the answer to a problem the next morning after a long sleep? This is the same thing. So stop living vicariously through your Pinterest boards and Netflix binges and get out there and enjoy your life!
10. You Do You
Lastly, Don’t sign up to a health regime or diet plan if it doesn’t work for you. Pick and choose from this list. Find your balance and make healthy changes that work for you!