As we settle into the year 2019 and our initial New Years Resolutions start to become a little more routine to us, now feels like a suitable time to reflect on our intentions for the upcoming months to ensure that we gain maximum results from our hard work. ‘Tis the season to be plagued with quick health fixes that will magically catapult us towards our own ideals, or that big new diet that will help us immediately shed weight and miraculously perfect each of our organ’s functionalities. This article doesn’t promise either of those things. Instead, its aim is to offer a few pointers that should help you in achieving a happier, more balanced 2019.
Taking care of your brain. Our brains are important. Very important. They are the gatekeepers to our personalities, our unique approach to life, and all of our memories. We are processing an exorbitant amount of information each day through the use of social media and the internet, and are flooding ourselves with stress-inducing information each time we make the mistake of checking the news. Let’s face it: the world is a complex, messy place, and we are exposed to the uglier parts of humanity every time we go online. We know that today’s world is having a huge impact on our mental health, and with half of all mental illness beginning by aged 14, it starts early.
Meditation. Meditative techniques have been used by humans for thousands of years, and is a powerful tool to help us develop a heightened awareness of our thoughts and actions. Through this awareness we are better able to understand how and why we react to situations, and encourage positive changes within ourselves. Taking as little as 5 minutes each day to meditate can provide valuable results to the individual. The Insight Timer is an excellent resource for those starting out.
Switching off. As much as we loathe to admit it, we have an unhealthy relationship with technology. Our devices have become an extra limb to us; an appendage that we reach for, on average, every 12 minutes. Designating tech free spaces in the home or digital detox times throughout the day go a long way towards looking after our mental wellbeing.
Checking in. Taking the time to catch up with friends and family is therapeutic for both parties. Arranging a coffee date or picking up the phone to see what a loved one is up to, sharing in their highs and lows, or even discussing a terrible movie you have both seen recently, satiates our need for authentic human interaction. We are a social species, and are of immense value to one another. If there is someone you haven’t spoken to in a while, take 2019 as an opportunity to reconnect with them and see how they are doing.
Taking care of your diet. Nourishing yourself with foods that are packed with the appropriate nutrients and vitamins is essential to maintaining a healthy body. The world of nutrition can be a daunting place, so it is important to navigate it in a balanced, non-addictive way, asking for help from a professional nutritionist when needed. Here are a couple of positive changes you can make that will give you a healthier relationship with food.
Whole foods, plant-based. There is a diverse range of evidence available that shows a well planned plant-based diet to be highly beneficial for our health. A whole foods plant-based diet encourages the consumption of grains, nuts and fruit, and avoids animal products, processed foods, artificial fats and sugars. If this type of diet is very different to the one you currently follow, allow the space for transition and learning; take the time to discover what works best for your body and lifestyle. A good place to start is with Forks Over Knives.
Eat the rainbow. No one likes a beige plate. While there are a variety of reasons behind the colour differences in food, eating a diverse range of tones and colourations ensures that your nutrient consumption also varies. Foods with a red, purple or blue tone tend to offer antioxidative benefits. Orange and yellow tones commonly contain vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, folic acid and bromelain. Green tones are rich in vitamin A and calcium.
Taking care of your heart. Aerobic exercise is the best way to improve your cardiovascular health. Workouts not only increase brain function and improve mood; they boost the immune system and protect the heart. Frequent aerobic exercise will help to lower blood pressure and strengthen the muscles – especially the heart. Cardio workouts can take on many forms, including running, swimming, cycling, team sports and brisk walks. Depending on where you live, taking your workout outside in nature offers the added benefit of fresh air while enjoying the local wildlife.
Taking care of your muscles. Don’t underestimate the awesome power of stretching each day. It is not only an important action for runners and athletes; stretching protects our mobility and independence as we get older. Daily stretching exercises improves flexibility and strengthens the muscles, and reduces the risk of injury when performing other tasks. Many of us lead sedentary professional lives, sitting at desks or in the car for much of the day. Over time, our muscles tighten which can limit our movement and make certain actions painful. Frequent stretching ensures we stay limber for longer. Here is a link one of the many 5-minute stretching routines that can be found online.
Taking care of your environment. Around this time after the festive season finds many of us horrified at the sheer amount of stuff we have. The dreaded aftermath of receiving items that we really don’t need – especially if we have children. Our society is becoming more conscientious of how much waste we create, and the devastating impact our throwaway mentality is having on the environment. This year, why not take steps to change your own habits and outlook by taking greater action to safeguard the planet.
Gift experiences, not things. Physical items may be nice, but experiences mean cherished memories and new knowledge. Gifting loved ones subscriptions or memberships can provide exciting adventures to undertake and new discoveries to make. Planning a meal out or excursion somewhere offers a shared experience and valuable time spent together. Donating to an animal shelter or another charity in someone else’s name shows you care and gives your money to organisations that are in desperate need of funding.
Reducing over recycling. Opting for bamboo or metal straws over plastic ones, using canvas bags in place of single-use plastics, and carrying a reusable coffee cup in your bag are all positive steps – but they are a mere part of the bigger picture. We can do so much more for the environment. Shopping at a zero waste shop or bulk store that allows you to bring your own containers is an excellent way to reduce your reliance on packaged goods. Shopping at farmers markets ensures you support local businesses, and eating a seasonal diet reduces your demand for food that has a higher carbon footprint due to its need to travel long distances.
Here are a few pointers for any individual aspiring to minimise how much waste they create:
- Bring a reusable water bottle, coffee cup and a bamboo/metal straw with you wherever you go
- Take enough canvas shopping bags and produce bags with you when heading to the store
- Opt for shampoo & conditioner bars over bottled hair products
- Put on or take off a couple of layers before resorting to heating or air-conditioning
- Minimise food waste in the home
- Say no thanks to free samples
- Recycle as much as you can
The late great Maya Angelou once wrote, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” This 2019, be patient in your intentions, show compassion towards yourself and others, and keep learning. But, most importantly, be kind, and have a wholesome 2019.