It’s that time of year again. The new year is upon us. It’s time to refocus, reflect, and resolve to better ourselves. For 2017, let’s strive for health and wellness. Above all, let’s quit smoking, spend less time online, get more sleep, be more active, and start eating healthily.
On average, a smokers lifespan is about 10 years less than a non-smoker. Moreover, it’s been long understood that cigarettes contribute to cancer, and they’ve also been connected to heart disease. Mortality rates for both cancer and heart disease – the two leading causes of death in America – could be significantly reduced if America collectively gave up smoking.
Luckily, cigarettes are so heavily stigmatized for their health risks, that less are taking up the habit and more are attempting to quit. However, people are turning away from traditional cigarettes to electronic cigarette smoking. The growing popularity of e-cigs may be due to the misconception that they are a safer alternative. This is simply not true. E-cigs contain nicotine and several other carcinogens. Even the surgeon general has dubbed e-cigs a public health risk.
Breaking a habit is never easy, especially when it’s as addictive as smoking. Start by picking a quit date and resolve to stick to it. Then surround yourself with friends and family who can support and encourage you. Lastly, ask your doctor about drugs and behavioral therapies that may be able to help you quit.
Reduce Time Spent Indoors and Online
Author and speaker Simon Sinek recently did an interview in which he discussed the dangers of social media and the growing attachment people, especially Millennials, have with cellphones. Having been so inundated with social media and technology, people are struggling to engage with the real world. Sinek even cites a study conducted by Harvard in 2012, which revealed that texting and social media releases dopamine. The same chemicals that are attributed to smoking, gambling, and drinking are connected to social media activity. People are literally addicted to their smartphone. So when people encounter stressful situations, they’re turning to a device same as an alcoholic turns to the bottle.
In order to fight the addiction, the temptation must be removed. As Sinek argues during the interview, job satisfaction, deep meaningful relationships, and innovation all happen in the real world, not online. Therefore, turn your phone off when you’re with your friends and family. Simply leave your phone at home and go for a walk.
Get Some Sleep
Did you know the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) considers sleep a public health crisis? It’s true! Sleep deprivation and disorders, like insomnia and sleep apnea, have serious physiological consequences. The medical community is recognizing sleep as a necessary part of human health. More recently, sleep deprivation has been connected to obesity, heart function, mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression, as well as cognitive performance, stress, and accidents. Adding a few more hours of sleep every night may actually add several years to your life.
If you struggle with sleep, here are some helpful tips:
- Take a warm shower or bath to relax before bed.
- Turn off the television and cellular device at least an hour before bed.
- Use a non-digital alarm clock rather than a smartphone alarm.
- Avoid sleeping with your phone by your bed.
- Charge your phone in another room.
- Read before bed to make your eyes and mind tired.
- Try engaging in a daily physical activity to exhaust your body.
Starting January 1st, many have an aggressive mindset about losing weight and getting in shape. For that first month, gyms overflow with an influx of attendees, but by February the gyms return to the baseline of regular gym goers. Most people that resolve to lose weight typically burn themselves out because they adopt a strict regimen of workouts 5 days a week. Remember: slow and steady wins the race.
Start a weight-loss resolution by taking baby steps towards being more active. Leave behind your keys and ride your bike. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk to your coworkers desk to ask them something instead of calling them. In addition to these lifestyle changes, begin adding workouts. But again, start off slow, not gung-ho. YouTube is a great place to go to find short, 5-minute workouts. Having a long-term goal to be healthy or have a certain waist size is good, but make sure you have daily, weekly, and monthly goals that are attainable as well. With this approach, you’ll grow confident and motivated, not discouraged.
Incorporate Good Eating Habits
The best dietary advice is simple and may even seem trivial, but start eating breakfast. Adding breakfast to your morning routine starts your metabolism and helps you burn calories. On the other hand, skipping breakfast causes frequent snacking throughout the day. Since most snacks contain a lot of calories and saturated fats, substituting breakfast for snacking can lead to health problems like obesity and diabetes.
Convenience is one of the biggest contributors to unhealthy diets. Rather than packing a lunch, students and employees opt for cafeteria food or frozen, microwavable meals. Instead of making dinner at home, people pick up fast food. With such busy lives, Americans struggle to find the time to make meals. Unfortunately, the quick solutions that many defer to – fast food and frozen dinners – are loaded with calories, sodium, and preservatives. One solution to this problem is meal-prepping. During the weekend, you can plan your weekday meals so you don’t have to worry about it after school or work.