With the new year comes a focus on improvement… improving health, improving diet, improving organization, improving at work, and any number of other positive goals. Just making a general commitment to improvement can end up seeming like a daunting task and leave you stuck wondering where to start. Many will abandon their resolutions quickly.
There is a strategy that might help. If you are a person who sets huge health goals only to give up, consider another way. Look for small ways to improve your health. Then, as they are set, build upon that foundation. When BBC health reporter, Alex Therrien, asked several experts “what single thing they would recommend people do to improve their health, assuming they are an adult who is otherwise healthy and not a smoker.” The responses ranged from expected to out of the box.
Focus on the mind
It’s easy to focus on things that are easily quantifiable, weight, frequency of exercise, cholesterol, blood sugar, etc to show our physical health. However, Dr. Nadine Sammy, associate lecturer for sport and exercise sciences at the University of Exeter, says that it is also important to focus on our mind and strongly advocates for building self awareness. By learning to recognize and understand moods, emotions, one can then “begin to act more consciously in order to make better choices for yourself,” she says. This may be accomplished by journaling, meditating or just taking a few minutes to reflect on the day – whatever works for you.
Adopt a dog
One of the “out of the box” ideas submitted came from Dr. Rhys Thatcher, a reader in exercise physiology at Aberystwyth University. He suggests that people who find ways to exercise as a part of a daily routine are more likely to stick with the regimen. Some take walks on work breaks, take the stairs more often, park further from the door when shopping, etc. However, he finds that adopting a dog can have extra benefits. While keeping the routine of a 30 minute walk twice a day will help maintain physical activity levels, the companionship of the dog gives extra emotional benefits. “This way you get to spend time outside, you get to exercise, you get a loyal companion and at the same time you get to improve the life of another living thing, all of which have been shown to improve physical and mental health,” says Dr. Thatcher.
Get 30 a week
We’ve heard plenty about getting enough fruits and vegetables into our diet regularly. Dr. Megan Rossi, a research fellow at King’s College London’s department of nutritional sciences, says we should also be looking at a variety of those fruits and vegetables. Rather than eating several servings of the same fruits and vegetables, she urges people to “aim for at least 30 different plant-based foods per week.” This is thoughts to play an important role in the health of our digestive system. A number of chronic health concerns such as allergies, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, Parkinson’s, and even depression have been connected with bacteria in the gut. This does not mean you have to search out numerous exotic foods each week. Dr. Rossi states: “Instead of just buying chickpeas go for the four-bean mix. Instead of buying one type of seed buy the four-seed mix.” It doesn’t have to be complicated or drastic. Each small change will contribute to improving health.
“There are lists of specific things that you can do to actively make your life healthier, but if you are not enjoying your life you probably won’t stick to any difficult or challenging changes for the coming year,” says Dr. James Gill, a locum GP and researcher at Warwick Medical School. Rather than putting the main focus on seeing the number on the scales decrease at a certain rate, he suggests finding a single change in your life that will make you smile. Then, find a single thing that makes you unhappy and try to do something to improve that one thing. This builds your foundation for more changes and improvements. Dr. Gill says: “Get those two in the bag, and you’ll be ready to look to other things to really give your health a boost further into the year.”
Get enough sleep
We know how bad we feel after not getting enough sleep, but it truly is important for our health. Even losing just a few hours can affect how well we can think and process events the following day. Having a consistent bed time, regular exercise, and avoiding caffeine are commonly given as ways to improve sleep. However, Dr. Gavin Buckingham, senior lecturer in sport and health sciences at the University of Exeter, says his “top tip is to stop using electronic devices like phones and laptops well before bedtime or at least put on a filter that blocks the blue light in them.” Maybe taking time at the end of the day to spend with family and reflect on the day could be helping in more ways than we realize.
As you begin the new year, don’t get overwhelmed with making drastic changes that are unrealistic for your life. Focus on the small things and gradually add more and more healthy choices to your life. Resolutions to diet and exercise are no good to you if you don’t actually follow through. Remember, in the tale of “The Tortoise and The Hare” it was the tortoise whose slow but steady progress won the race.
If you have questions about diet, exercise or other health related topics, talk to your doctor of chiropractic at your next visit. They can help direct you toward resources and programs in your area that may benefit you as well as make personal recommendations based on your specific health needs. Need a doctor of chiropractic? Find a TCA Member doctor near you at www.tnchiro.com/find-a-doctor.
Therrien, Alex. “The simple tips to improve your health” posted on https://www.bbc.com/news/health-46618192 on 28 December 2018