First things first, we are not jumping on the “New Year, New Me” bandwagon that people often start pushing through to the public on December 31st to make them feel bad for enjoying themselves over the holidays.
You do not need to deprive yourself of anything following the festive period. One of the most important things that people forget about when it comes to health is balance. It is not healthy if you don’t have balance between being healthy and enjoying things that might not be considered guilt-free.
Lots of the articles out there promise that if you start counting calories or promise yourself that you will finally shift those few pounds this year, you will feel better. Don’t fall into the trap, instead focus on all the things that make you feel good on the inside and out.
Instead of focusing on the fun things you need to take out of your life to achieve better overall health and wellness, let's look at the things you can do to ensure that you inject a healthy and happy mindset into your regime for the year ahead.
- Get Enough Sleep
- Practice Mindfulness
- Meal Prep
- Spend More Time Outside
- Quit Smoking, Seriously
- Stop Weighing Yourself
- Cut Down On Booze
- Make Working Out Great Again
- Don't Concentrate On The End Goal
Get Enough Sleep
Yes, we know this is the most common tip you will see on any health-based listicle, yet we still fail to prioritize our sleep. The benefits of good sleep are infinite and the detriment of not getting enough sleep is never-ending.
In 2019, make sleep your priority because:
If you don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis, your level of cognition is similar to someone who is under the influence of alcohol.
Today, hard work that goes beyond the realms of a natural circadian rhythm is praised, especially in business-focused cultures that are typified by Silicon Valley. Studies have found that sleep deprivation is connected to psychomotor and cognitive speed, vigilant and executive attention, working memory and higher cognitive abilities.
To unpack this, it means if you’re not getting enough ZZZs, you’re cognitively drunk, meaning that your level of cognition if you are regularly awake for 17 hours is the same as as someone who has been drinking alcohol.
Sleep deprivation is a social, financial and health-related cost society. It is often associated with insulin resistance, higher circulating cortisol in the blood weight-gain, and low mood.
So how can you tell if you’re not getting enough sleep? Let’s look at how much sleep you need across 24 hours per age group:
- Newborns 0-3 Months: 14-17 Hours
- Infants 4-11 Months: 12-15 Hours
- Toddlers 1-2 Years: 11-14 Hours
- Preschool Children 3-5 Years: 10-13 Hours
- School-age Children 6-13 Years: 9-11 Hours
- Teenagers 14-17 Years: 8-10 Hours
- Young Adults 18-25 Years: 7-9 Hours
- Adults 26-64 Years: 7-9 Hours
- Older Adults 65+ Years: 7-8 Hours
Remember that you cannot stockpile sleep at the weekend to make up for lost sleep during the week. A study by the Harvard Medical School study reports that if you get six hours of sleep consistently for upto two weeks, you will not be able to repair this broken sleep cycle, even if you compensate with an extra 10 hours of sleep. Your reaction times and ability to concentrate will remain the same as if you pulled an all-nighter.
Mindfulness is also often associated in health-related “New Year New You” articles but what is the biological reasoning behind those ums, ahs and deep breaths?
It all comes down to cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is commonly referred to as a “stress hormone”. Cortisol is released by the adrenal gland in response to what the mind or body may perceive as a threat or in instances where your body’s blood glucose level is dropping low.
Cortisol controls your response to stress, regulates blood sugar, acts as an anti-inflammatory, influences memory formation, controls salt and water balance in the body, influences blood pressure and foetal development.
In one study, it was found that diaphragmatic breathing can trigger body relaxation responses that overtime can change your body’s ability to deal with stress and cortisol production.
In the study which included 40 participants, 80 weeks and a focus on mindfulness, it was found that those who undertook the challenge saw a significant decrease in cortisol while the control group saw no difference in their stress hormone.
To begin the process of practicing mindfulness, you don't need to an expensive app, membership or equipment; you just need yourself, 10 minutes and a quiet room. Starting the new year by testing your cortisol levels could motivate you to find healthier ways to deal with stress, and you never know, meditation could become your new favourite hobby.
Let's clear up one thing to begin, we are not connecting meal prep to weight-loss. You are probably already seeing enough ads out there about how to “lose weight fast”. Don’t be sucked in by this new year, new me requirement that often accompanies the period after the holidays.
Think of meal prep as a way to save money, free up time during the week and hone your skills in making healthy and delicious creations all from your own home.
You might find the idea of dedicating 2-3 hours to prepare food for the week ahead a bit daunting or boring but trust us when we say that the benefits of meal prep are numerous.
Let's look at some of the benefits of preparing meals for the week ahead:
- Meal-prepping for the week ahead saves time during a busy working week.
- Meal-prepping takes away the temptation for unhealthy and quick meals.
- Meal-prepping could be your contribution to saving the planet by using reusable lunch boxes.
- Meal-prepping can ensure that you’re getting all of the vitamins and minerals you need in each meal.
Spend More Time Outside
Vitamin d is a fat soluble vitamin that is essential in maintaining strong bones and teeth. Vitamin d also maintains a good mood. We get a sufficient amount of vitamin d from spending 20-30 minutes in sunlight each day.
It has been proven time and time again that vitamin d and vitamin d deficiency are linked to a number of emotional illnesses. Conversely it has been proven that light therapy can relieve depressive symptoms, especially in cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Whatever the weather, aim to spend at least one hour outside and one hour off your screens. Artificial light can begin to chip away at your natural circadian rhythm whereas natural light and fresh air can improve your mood and vitamin d levels naturally.
If you are feeling chronically fatigued, maybe you should consider checking out your vitamin d levels, especially if you are vegan or vegetarian as certain dietary regimes can play a significant role in vitamin deficiencies.