As we come to the close of yet another decade, you may be thinking about ways to improve the coming year - shedding habits that didn't serve you well, and taking on practices that will bring you more contentment in the new decade.
“There is nothing magical about the flip of the calendar, but it represents a clean break, a new hope, and a blank canvas.” - Jason Soroski
The following is a list of suggestions, many of which I recommend to clients as part of their integrative well-being. Try one, two or ten of the following suggestions. Give yourself time to make them into routine habits. Change is hard. Be gracious with yourself. Each attempt you make at initiating change is a success. Recognize that success and keep at it. We are all works in progress and creatures of habit; it takes consistency and practice to replace old habits with new ones.
Let's start with food and nutrition. Food is the ultimate healer. It is nature's original pharmacy and a wonderful place to start with improving your health and well-being.
Eat greens at every meal, even breakfast! Sauté a box of greens with salt and garlic to have handy as a side for several meals.
Rethink what breakfast means. We have a tendency to think of breakfast foods as sugary, processed foods that should give you a quick hit of glucose. Instead, think of breakfast as an opportunity to nourish yourself for the day. Eat slow-burning foods such as high protein, high fat foods. Eggs, sugar-free pastured bacon, avocados, and some greens sautéed in olive or coconut oil, etc. are all sustaining foods that will keep you nourished for hours and will help you avoid the mid-morning crash-and-burn.
Focus on one meal that you’d like to revamp and improve and increase it’s nutrient density, e.g. swap out your breakfast cereal and muffin for eggs, avocado and sweet potato.
Add wild caught fish to your menu once/week. Seafood is one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat. It's a "good mood food," promoting stable moods and emotions.
Don’t drink your sugar in the form of sodas, lattes or frappes; take advantage of the large selection of flavored sparkling waters now on the market.
Reset your tastebuds by avoiding all sugar for 2 weeks. Your tastebuds will become sensitive again to the natural sugars in all foods. You'll be able to appreciate the subtle sweetness in bell peppers and even spinach. Fruits will be desserts in and of themselves. Natural foods cannot compete with the hyper-palatable processed foods chemically designed to excite your tastebuds beyond expectations. Avoiding those foods for a couple of weeks allows your tastebuds to reset and become responsive to natural sugars.
The following are some lifestyle edits that will help you become more balanced, rested, present and contented. Again, these are common recommendations I make to my clients, as they are often over-stressed, sleep-deprived and distracted. Wellness involves all aspects of your life, not just the foods you consume. Try a few of these suggestions to bring more calmness to your everyday in 2020.
Sleep is both a barometer of health and a remedy. It is one of the first indicators of internal imbalance or disruption. It will register long before other symptoms surface. Therefore, if you're not sleeping well, sleeping enough, or waking up unrested, there is a good chance that you have imbalances, whether hormonal, nutritional, stress-induced, or otherwise. It should be a wakeup call (pun intended) to assess your lifestyle, diet and other life choices. Here are some resolutions that can help you on your path:
If you sleep less than 8 hrs/night, try going to bed 15-20 minutes earlier each night. Increase gradually to 30, 40, etc. until you’re consistently clocking more sleep. This will mean prioritizing sleep over other evening habits: a favorite TV show, getting ahead on the next day's emails, or just puttering about until your usual bedtime.
Enable Night Shift/Night Mode on your phone and handhelds and install Night Shift or f.lux on your laptops so that you avoid the melatonin-depleting blue lights of screens during evening hours. Schedule these to kick in at least 2 hours before your bedtime. Turn off all excess lights in your house as the evening progresses so your body (and your children’s bodies) get ready for nightfall.
Avoid all screens 1 hour before bedtime. Ideally, remove screens from the bedroom.
Start an evening routine for yourself. Keep it simple on weeknights and perhaps a bit more self-indulgent on weekends. Some elements you can add: Have a calming tea (chamomile, valerian, "sleepy time", etc.). Take a bath with 1 cup of magnesium salts (epsom) and a few drops of lavender essential oil. Journal for 5-10 minutes before bed, it can be as simple as writing something you're grateful for or listing out things that are on your mind. Just the act of writing it down can help your mind put those thoughts aside so you can rest. Meditate for 2 minutes before bed (more on that next).
Start meditating for 2 minutes per day. Yes, literally just 2 minutes. The key is consistency. Gradually increase to 5, 10, etc. If you already have a meditation practice, aim to increase it by a few minutes. A meditation practice has a host of benefits, including decreasing stress, improving attention, decreasing anxiety, improving blood pressure, improving self-awareness, and improving sleep. The list goes on. Use the following links to help get you started: https://www.lifehack.org/759767/meditation-for-beginners and https://missionmeditation.com/learning-how-to-meditate-for-beginners/
Add 10 minutes of extra movement during your day. That can be as simple as walking through and around all the rooms of your house a few times, taking the stairs at work and the mall and parking farther away from entrances. Do squats in the kitchen while you’re waiting for the coffee pot to boil. We are biologically hardwired to conserve energy when it's not needed for hunting for food, foraging for edible berries or running away from a saber-toothed cat. Therefore implementing a healthy movement program is not easy. Setting your intentions, identifying non-scale goals (such as wanting more energy, better mood, sleeping better), and allowing for setbacks can help you push your way into a new habit when it comes to exercise.
Turn off all social media notifications on your phone. You decide when you want to focus your time on those apps, don’t let the apps constantly interrupt your day. Each beep, ding and bell has been shown to raise cortisol (the stress-hormone). Just having your phone in sight can increase cortisol levels. Chronically elevated cortisol increases risk of chronic disease and other risk factors.
As a family, set aside an hour (or 3) each day, after work/school, where everyone’s phones are collected and turned off.
Track your phone usage, most phones come with screen time tracking capability. Set limits for yourself and see how you do. Monitor how many phone pickups you have each day. Aim to decrease that number by 20%, 30% or more. Encourage your children to do the same. Enable downtime during important parts of the day such as family dinner time, bedtime routines, Sunday brunch, etc.
I hope some of these ideas make it on your 2020 Resolutions list. If you're not ready to take them on yet, that's okay too. Think about them, mull them over, experiment with some. Each day is a new life and ready to be acted upon with your best intentions. Best wishes for a healthy, peaceful and prosperous new year.