Most people typically make a health-related New Year’s resolution each year. And while resolutions like losing weight, exercise more, and quitting bad habits such as smoking are all great resolutions to have, it may be easier to keep those resolutions if you scale down your own expectations and set more manageable goals. Consider these:
Control Your Portions by Using Smaller Plates
Want to downsize your figure? Start downsizing your dishes. Studies show using smaller plates and bowls promote weight loss because they help to curb overeating.
10-Minute Strength Training Sessions
In simply 10 minutes a day you could gain more energy, stronger bones, and a faster metabolism — and you don’t even need to lift dumbbells. Do exercises such as squats, push-ups, lunges, and abdominal exercises. Adding these moves to your exercise program will help you burn more calories in less time.
Cut back on alcohol
While much has been written about the health benefits of a small amount of alcohol, too much tippling is still the bigger problem. (In fact, binge drinking seems to be on the rise.)
Drinking alcohol in excess affects the brain’s neurotransmitters and can increase the risk of depression, memory loss, or even seizures.
Chronic heavy drinking boosts your risk of liver and heart disease, hypertension, stroke, and mental deterioration, and even cancers of the mouth, throat, liver, and breast.
Get Serious About Breathing Exercises
Simple breathing techniques offer a drug-free way to help lower your blood pressure, calm a racing heart, or settle an upset digestive system. Proper breathing has direct influence on emotional states and moods. When you’re upset, you breathe rapidly, shallowly, and irregularly, but you can’t be upset if your breathing is slow, deep, quiet and regular. At first, the effects are subtle, but they will gain power the more you repeat them. Whether you want to address health problems or just relax and reduce stress, make this the year to learn and practice some proper breathing techniques.
Take Time for Tea
Drinking green tea can improve your cholesterol ratio, as well as help protect against cancer and bacterial infections. The difference between green and the more familiar black tea is in the preparation: both come from the same plant, Camellia sinesis, but to make black tea, leaves go through an oxidation process that darkens them. This process deceases some of tea’s beneficial compounds, including polyphenols called catechins. Green tea is unfermented, which means that it contains more catechins. But don’t think of tea drinking only as a utilitarian way to imbibe those healthful compounds. Learn to appreciate the subtle fragrance of good quality green tea and use tea time to unwind, meditate and as a respite from your stress du jour. Here are nine green teas to consider.
Slash Sodium Consumption
Studies show many Americans consume close to twice the recommended limit of sodium, which is a teaspoon (or 6 grams) daily. Besides contributing to water retention (think bloat!), sodium can raise blood pressure. Processed foods contain the most, so make sure to read labels. Lower sodium diets are linked to decreased risk of heart disease, but are also associated with lower hypertension and weight management.
Floss Your Teeth
Like many people, you may not know that bacteria in your mouth can lead to serious problems if you neglect oral health. You may also be surprised to learn that during routine exams, your dentist can spot indications of diabetes and heart disease. One simple thing you can do to head off bacteria is floss your teeth.
Wear Sunscreen… All Year
Sun exposure affects everyone. According to the National Cancer Institute most skin cancer develops after age 50, though sun damage starts at an early age. The sun’s rays are also behind brown spots, and can make wrinkles appear before their time. Wear a broad spectrum sunscreen, even in the winter, anywhere skin is laid bare to the elements.
Cut your stress
A little pressure now and again won’t kill us; in fact, short bouts of stress give us an energy boost. But if stress is chronic, it can increase your risk of—or worsen—insomnia, depression, obesity, heart disease, and more.
Long work hours, little sleep, no exercise, poor diet, and not spending time with family and friends can contribute to stress, says Roberta Lee, MD, an integrative medicine specialist at Beth Israel Medical Center, in New York City, and the author of The Super Stress Solution.
“Stress is an inevitable part of life,” she says. “Relaxation, sleep, socializing, and taking vacations are all things we tell ourselves we deserve but don’t allow ourselves to have.”
We tend to think our own bliss relies on bettering ourselves, but our happiness also increases when we help others, says Peter Kanaris, PhD, coordinator of public education for the New York State Psychological Association.
And guess what? Happiness is good for your health. A 2010 study found that people with positive emotions were about 20% less likely than their gloomier peers to have a heart attack or develop heart disease. Other research suggests that positive emotions can make people more resilient and resourceful.
Service organizations always appreciate donated money, but giving of yourself, especially in a way that draws on your unique talents or skills, is more satisfying. You can volunteer to feed the homeless, help people with terminal illnesses, and help to clean up the environment. Donate clothing you no longer wear and other items you don’t use. Look for ways to help those close to home: take meals to shut-ins, offer transportation to elderly or disabled neighbors and tutor or read to children. Don’t focus only on the needs of strangers. Look for ways to help friends and family members, too.
The joys and rewards of vacations can last long after the suitcase is put away. “We can often get stuck in a rut, and we can’t get out of our own way,” Kanaris says. “Everything becomes familiar and too routine.”
But traveling allows us to tap into life as an adventure, and we can make changes in our lives without having to do anything too bold or dramatic.
“It makes you feel rejuvenated and replenished,” he adds. “It gets you out of your typical scenery, and the effects are revitalizing. It’s another form of new discovery and learning, and great for the body and the soul.”