by Jenny Smiechowski –
Nothing is more motivating than the start of a new year. It makes you reflect on everything you’ve done over the past 365 days…and what you can do better next time around. That’s why so many people make New Year’s resolutions.
But even if you’re not a fan of making formal New Year’s resolutions (because let’s face it, most of us don’t keep those anyway) you can still be healthier and happier in the year ahead. In fact, forgoing traditional resolutions in favor of a less forceful approach to self-improvement will probably result in more success.
Instead of setting challenging and unrealistic goals for the new year, shift your focus toward taking better care of yourself in 2018. You can do that by making simple daily decisions that keep your mind, body, and spirit in balance. Start by:
Eating better…in baby steps
Eating healthier is a popular goal at the beginning of the year. The problem is, most people tackle this goal by going on extreme diets or trying crazy cleanses. But you don’t need to approach healthy eating so aggressively to reap benefits. Even simple changes in your diet can make a big difference in your health.
For example, a recent study from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago found that eating one serving of leafy greens per day can slow brain aging by as much as 11 years (1). And another study found that simply eating more fiber can boost your chance of living a longer, healthier life by as much as 80 percent (2).
So choose a simple way to make your diet healthier in the new year, like eating a serving of leafy greens daily, eating more fiber, switching from refined grains to whole grains or swapping sugary beverages for water. You’ll be amazed at the difference you see!
Never sacrificing sleep
When our lives get busy, a solid eight hours of sleep is the first thing to go out the window. But if you want to be a better you in 2018, you have to stop skimping on sleep. Because ongoing sleep deprivation not only makes you feel anxious, irritable and depressed, it comes with serious consequences—like an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s (3; 4; 5).
If you struggle winding down in the evening or staying asleep at night, consider turning to natural remedies to get your sleep cycle back on track. Melatonin supplements are a good option if you have a hard time falling asleep since melatonin can help reset your body clock (6). Herbal options like passionflower and valerian can also promote a sound night’s sleep (7; 8). Native Remedies’ SerenitePlus™ contains all three, so give it a try if you’re struggling to sleep.
Exercising more is the most common resolution people make….and abandon. But getting more exercise doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, research shows you can get your recommended daily exercise (about 30 minutes per day) by doing short ten-minute bursts of activity… and they don’t even have to be in a gym (9). Just start moving more in your day-to-day life…
Choose the stairs over the elevator. Park in the farthest parking spot away from the store. Shovel snow instead of blowing it. When the weather cooperates, you can even leave your car at home and walk or bike to do errands. You can also clean your house more often (it’s great exercise, and you’ll have a tidier home!) When you spend time with friends and family, replace sedentary activities like watching a movie or TV with active ones, like going for a walk or putting on your favorite tunes and dancing. Basically, whenever you see an opportunity to get more exercise, take it!
Of course, sometimes it’s hard to move more throughout the day because you’re just so dang tired. If waning energy levels are keeping you sedentary, consider trying Native Remedies’ Fatigue Fighter ™, an herbal supplement that supports healthy energy levels and stamina.
You’d be surprised what a bit of mindfulness can do for your mental and emotional health. Research shows that practicing mindfulness can reduce symptoms of depression, slash anxiety and stress, improve your memory, sharpen your focus, make you less emotionally reactive and make you more satisfied in your relationships (10). The best part is, you don’t even have to set time aside to meditate and be mindful (unless you want to) because you can make mindfulness a part of your daily life.
In case you’ve forgotten, mindfulness is merely the act of being present in everything you do, without getting swept away by the stream of thoughts running through your mind. So if you wanted to stay mindful while washing dishes, for example, you would focus your attention on the sensation of the warm water flowing over your skin and the glass in your hand. You’d consciously observe each movement you make. If thoughts popped into your head, you would acknowledge them, but not get caught up in them.
Like anything, mindfulness takes practice. At first, you may want to use an external cue to remind you to be mindful, like a mindfulness bracelet. Every time you see your bracelet, you bring your attention back to the present moment. In the beginning, it’s hard to stay mindful for more than a few minutes, but it will eventually get easier. And your mind will eventually become calmer and happier as a result.
If you’re eating healthier, spending more time on sleep, moving more and practicing mindfulness, chances are, you’re going to feel less stressed in 2018. But even so, it’s important to set aside time for activities that make you feel calm and relaxed because stress is no joke. Not only does it make you feel anxious and unhappy, but it puts you at risk for serious illnesses like inflammatory bowel disease, heart disease and cancer (11).
So what can you do to destress? Well, you can take a hot bath, practice deep breathing, use calming essential oils, listen to relaxing music, spend time with a friend who makes you laugh, write in a journal, read a good book, gaze out the window, get out in nature or watch fish swim in a fish tank. You can also turn to herbal support to lower stress levels, like Native Remedies’ PureCalm, which contains stress-reducing herbs such as lemon balm, passion flower, and lavender flower.
Hopefully, this list will help you start the new year off right. But remember, you don’t have to turn these tips into formal resolutions to make them work. In fact, that may even hold you back, since resolutions come with pressure, baggage, and disappointment from years past. Instead, take a moment to pause and think about how you can take better care of yourself with each small decision you make during the year ahead. The rest will happen naturally. To your health and happiness in 2018!
- “Daily Leafy Greens May Slow Cognitive Decline.” Rush University Medical Center. 20 Dec. 2017. Web 27 Dec. 2017. < https://www.rush.edu/news/press-releases/daily-leafy-greens-may-slow-cognitive-decline;.
- Gopinath, et al. “Association Between Carbohydrate Nutrition and Successful Aging Over 10 Years.” The Journals of Gerontology: Series A. October 2016. (71)10: 1335–1340. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glw091. Web 27 Dec. 2017.
- “Sleep and Disease Risk.” Harvard Medical School. 18 Dec. 2007. Web 27 Dec. 2017. <http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/consequences/sleep-and-disease-risk;.
- E. Sprecher, et al. “Poor sleep is associated with CSF biomarkers of amyloid pathology in cognitively normal adults.” Neurology, 2017; DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000004171. Web 27 Dec. 2017.
- O’Connor, Anahad. “Sleep Apnea Tied to Increased Cancer Risk.” New York Times Well Blog. 20 May 2012. Web 27 Dec. 2017. < https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/20/sleep-apnea-tied-to-increased-cancer-risk/;.
- “Melatonin and Sleep.” National Sleep Foundation. N.D. Web 27 Dec. 2017. <https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/melatonin-and-sleep;.
- Ngan and R. Conduit. “A double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation of the effects of Passiflora incarnata (passionflower) herbal tea on subjective sleep quality.” Phytotherapy Research. 2011 Aug;25(8):1153-9. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3400. Web 27 Dec. 2017.
- Bent, et al. “Valerian for Sleep: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” American Journal of Medicine. 2006 Dec; 119(12): 1005–1012. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2006.02.026. Web 27 Dec. 2017.
- Winters, Catherine. “Short Bouts of Exercise Benefit Health, Too.” Live Science. 31 Jan. 2013. Web 27 Dec. 2017. <https://www.livescience.com/26772-short-exercise-bouts-benefit-health.html;.
- Davis, Daphne M. and Jeffrey A. Hayes. “What are the benefits of mindfulness.” American Psychological Association. Jul./Aug. 2012. Web 27 Dec. 2017. <http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner.aspx;.
- Mohd, Razali Salleh. “Life Event, Stress and Illness.” Malaysian Journal of Medical Sciences. Oct 2008; 15(4): 9–18. Web 27 Dec. 2017.