Going in for sports, eating healthy food, getting enough sleep … In the New Year, we promise ourselves to change, and then we get upset because of another failure. Physician and medical expert Jennifer Ashton realized she needed to challenge herself and move slowly. So in 12 months she acquired 12 good habits. We share her plan from the book “A Year of Self Care.”
January: Quitting alcohol
Alcohol has become an integral part of social life, and it is also used to relax and relieve stress. Drinking is not easy to give up. But look at how it affects us: it increases the risk of cancer, promotes weight gain and loss of skin elasticity, and disrupts sleep.
How can I help myself? Tell everyone about your decision – this way you will take responsibility. Create a support group. Promise yourself a gift for the money you save. Order soft drinks in a cocktail glass or wine glass.
February: push-ups and plank
Physiologists, athletes and medical editors at Harvard University have called push-ups “the world’s greatest” and “ideal” exercise. And the plank provides a complete workout for the whole body, covering a wide range of muscles: arms, chest, legs, hips, lower back and abs.
How can I help myself? Practice in the morning. Put on some upbeat music. If you find it difficult to do push-ups from the floor, do push-ups from the wall. Start with the numbers you feel comfortable with and improve over time.
Hundreds of books speak about the benefits of meditation. It improves attention and memory. May be as effective as antidepressants. With its help, you can solve problems with sleep. Meditation can also change genes – reversing the damage to molecules in the body caused by inflammation and stress.
How can I help myself? Find the style of meditation that suits you. Change your way of thinking: many people have a negative attitude to meditation – they think that it is idleness, but it is not. Setting your alarm half an hour early and practicing in the morning will help build a habit.
Aerobic exercise is essential for health. Our bodies are built to move, and for optimal performance, they need physical activity – without running after prey or at least walking to the store, we put ourselves at risk of developing chronic diseases – cancer, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and others. Consider doing any kind of cardio exercise for a month so that your heart beat faster for 20 minutes a few days a week. Jogging, a brisk walk around the block, dancing to energetic music in the living room will do.
How can I help myself? Tell yourself something is better than nothing. Find an activity that you enjoy. Plan ahead. Diversify your workouts (on one day – dancing, on the other – a walk, on the third – a simulator). Keep records.
May: less meat, more plants
Eliminate the worst animal protein, red meat. Increase the amount of plant-based foods in your diet. Expand your range of fruits, vegetables and legumes.
How can I help myself? Focus on the addition, not the exclusion: Instead of focusing on the forbidden, think about the foods you can eat: sweet potatoes, quinoa, black beans, cashews, seaweed salad, popcorn, watermelon, nectarines. Don’t get hung up on weight. Adapt the habit to suit you.
June: prevent dehydration
Think you are drinking enough? Most probably not. Most of us are clinically and chronically dehydrated. Try to drink more clean water – this is the most effective way to hydrate your body. Remember that sugary soda and fruit juices contain sugar and calories that are unhealthy; they are difficult to digest, which exacerbates dehydration.
How can I help myself? Notice the feeling of thirst. Remind yourself constantly how good water is for your body, brain, heart, skin. Buy a filter. Drink water with every meal.
July: More Steps
Research over the past decade has shown that people do not walk much and that this affects collective health. What do you lose when you sit? The ability to lose weight, improve mood, become smarter, increase bone density. The most common health recommendation is to take 10,000 steps a day, but if you are currently not walking too much, this goal may be overly ambitious. Count your current steps using your smartphone’s pedometer or tracking device. If you are taking less than 2,000 steps a day, start with a daily goal of 3,500 steps and increase it by 500 steps a week until you reach 5,000, which is the minimum to keep fit and healthy.
How can I help myself? Find the tracking device that’s right for you. Consider any task, task, or phone call as a potential walk. Walk the dog (for real). Take time for a walk.
August: Conscious use of technology
We are constantly immersed in phones, laptops, computers, tablets, smartwatches and other devices, often for no good reason. It kills our psychological, physical, emotional and social health. Start small: put your phone away while hiking, then find new ways to live a more mindful, technology-free life.
How can I help myself? Take the time to figure out the best way to reduce your technology consumption. Are you too attached to your smartphone? Or is it a social media problem? Analyze your schedule to identify times and activities for which you can reduce or eliminate the use of technology. Turn off notifications.
September: less sugar
We read all the time about how bad sugar is for the heart, brain, whole body, and mental and emotional health. But we are consuming more sweets than ever before. Often it is the added sugar that is found in many foods.
How can I help myself? WHO recommends no more than 25 grams of sugar per day for women and 38 grams for men. Count your norm in any way you can: try the Fooducate mobile app, which has added sugar data for over 250,000 foods, or Wholesome. Choose foods that have not been processed. Find an alternative to desserts.
Most people do not stretch, although many studies have confirmed its benefits. Stretching is essential to help your muscles stay strong and healthy, regardless of the intensity of your training or whether you are training in general.
How can I help myself? Make a complex: it starts with a dynamic stretch, then goes to a static one and works with the whole body, from head to toe, and not just with the muscles that you feel are tense. Sign up for classes or browse the internet for new exercises. Buy a massage roller.
Regular sleep deprivation has a profound effect on physical, mental and emotional health. Even if you think that 6 hours is enough for you, you are definitely functioning worse than you could. Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep this month (find out your rate based on age).
How can I help myself? Establish a sleep routine and bedtime ritual. Reconsider your sleeping place: keep it cool, hang blackout curtains over the windows, and make the mattress and pillow comfortable. Do not take pills for insomnia. Are you tired? Try daytime exercise, performance, and sunshine.
Laughter lowers stress hormones and reduces pain, while a sense of humor makes you more attractive. Challenge yourself to laugh more and rediscover the childhood joy we are all born with.
How can I help myself? Look for reasons to laugh: flip through comics in the morning, watch more funny movies or TV shows, find an interesting channel on the Internet. Let yourself be fooled. Communicate with children more often.
For detailed advice, scientific evidence for the benefits of each habit, and the author’s story, see The Year of Taking Care of Yourself.
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