10 Simple Resolutions to Be Your Best Self in 2018
by Rebecca Jennings, ND
The new year usually starts with good intentions and big resolutions to improve ourselves. But come spring, those good intentions have often flown out the window. This year instead of making lofty resolutions you probably won't keep, why not try some simple ones? Here's a list of 10 easy resolutions that will nourish your mind, body, and spirit for a happy and healthy 2018.
Get more (and better quality) sleep.
The majority of adults are sleep deprived and getting more sleep is the easiest thing we can do to increase our energy levels and feel better. Lack of sleep can decrease the effectiveness of our immune systems and increase stress hormones, which can lead to overeating and weight gain. Sleep is also essential to memory, mood, and mental performance. Quality of sleep is also important, so be sure to sleep in a dark, quiet, and cool room. The goal is to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. To make reaching this goal a little easier, try adding an additional 15 minutes of sleep every few weeks until you reach your goal.
We've all benefited from the help and support of our communities, so make this the year you give back. It doesn't have to be a lot, even a few hours of your time can make a big impact. Choose an activity you enjoy, like working on a community garden or at a soup kitchen, supporting a cause you believe in, walking dogs at a local shelter, or coaching a local sports team. Volunteering helps keep our communities strong, and the simple act can greatly increase your feelings of self-worth and accomplishment.
Add colorful veggies and fruit to your diet.
Diet overhauls are a common theme of new year's resolutions, especially after the over indulgences of the holidays. Instead of focusing on cutting foods from your diet, try adding more veggies and fruit to your diet. Make a goal of filling half your plate with vegetables. This will increase your intake of fiber and antioxidants and decrease the amount of other more processed foods you may have been consuming. Eat the rainbow of colors to maximize the nutrients you are getting from your food. Berries are the best fruit as they contain lower sugar and more fiber and are rich in antioxidants.
Do more weight bearing exercise.
Doing weight bearing activities is one of the most important steps we can take to build bone mass and density. It can help to prevent and reverse bone loss, as well as increase muscle mass which not only increases our metabolism so we burn more calories, but also improves coordination, balance and strength. We lose about a half a pound of muscle each year if no preventive measures are taken, so in 2018, protect your bones and muscles by lifting light weights, walking, jogging, and doing yoga a few times a week.
Many of us are not getting adequate amounts of water our body needs each day. Water is important to clearing our bodies of toxins and waste, keeping us regular (very important!), and the functioning of our kidneys and liver. Drinking enough water will increase your energy levels and decrease hunger sensations, helping you to stay lean. Water also helps keep your skin clear and supple. The standard recommendation is to drink 8 glasses of water a day, but this may not be enough. Another way to figure how much you need is to take your weight and divide it by 2; that's the number of ounces you should get every day.
The benefits of meditation have gotten a lot of press. Meditation has been shown to decrease blood pressure and stress, while also increasing attention span, empathy for others, and feelings of well-being. One study found that people who meditated 30 minutes a day for 8 weeks had an increase in gray matter in the hippocampus of the brain, which is important to learning and memory, and a decrease in gray matter in the amygdala region, which is associated with anxiety and stress. The control group did not practice meditation and did not see any changes in their brains. This year, why not give meditation a try and see how it makes you feel.
When things aren't going well it can be easy to fall into the cycle of negative thoughts and feelings; this only perpetuates stress in our already abundantly stressful lives. Acceptance and a positive attitude allow you to move on more quickly and live a more satisfying and happy life. So this year, don't sweat the small stuff, why not laugh it off; it will increase endorphins, decrease stress hormones, and strengthen your immune system. And smile, it's contagious.
Practicing gratitude and thinking positively go hand in hand, so numbers 7 and 8 are really a twofer. Being grateful even just for little things in your life can help shift your mindset to a more positive outlook on life, even through trying times. Focusing on the positive and feeling gratitude for everything you do have will increase your feelings of well-being and reduce stress hormones and depression. How can you start incorporating gratitude into your daily life? Take moments throughout the day to find something you can appreciate in the moment. Keep a gratitude journal and record three things you are grateful for from your day. What would be a better way to end 2018 then by being able to look back on everything that you appreciated each day of the year!
Try something new.
As creatures of habit, we all often fall into routines that we follow day after day after day. This year break the cycle. Do something that you've always wanted to do, whether it's starting a garden, taking a cooking class, or learning to dance. Trying new things not only increases your quality of life and feelings of accomplishment but is also good for your mental health. Learning something new challenges the mind and keeps the brain healthy by creating new pathways and protecting it from atrophy.
Take time for yourself
With our hectic schedules and busy lives, the first person we often neglect is ourselves. We often feel guilty and selfish when we need some time for ourselves. But remember, you'll be better able to take care of your loved ones and succeed in your career when you are at your best. So, in 2018 take some time to take care of you; you'll not only be helping yourself but those around you.
Rebecca Jennings, ND