With New Year’s right around the corner, many people are thinking of ways to improve their lives. It’s a common tradition to make resolutions for a “new beginning” and take this opportunity provided by our calendar for a fresh start. One of the most popular subjects of these resolutions is our personal health. Almost everyone wishes they were thinner, in better shape, had lower cholesterol or just felt better in general. Work, stress and family life can make it difficult to follow these goals and for one day we have a convenient excuse to pay more attention to what really matters in life. Following is a list of things to carry into the new year designed to improve the quality of that life but also to make this new lifestyle easier to maintain so that 364 days later you don’t find yourself making the same list all over again.
At the top of most New Year’s lists is dieting. What I am referring to here is less about restricting what you eat to switching to healthier alternatives. Try making permanent adjustments to your diet that become part of your routine. If you find things you enjoy that are also good for you it becomes easier to stick with it in the long term. Switch to chicken rather than beef, vitamin water over soda, etc.
This may seem self-indulgent, but in fact, getting a full night’s sleep is one of the best things you can do for your body. According to Michael J. Breus Phd, in article reviewed for WebMD people who get a full night’s rest boost their immune system, gain less weight, increase positive hormones in the brain and live longer.
They say laughter is the best medicine, as it turns out this may be true. According to a study done by the University of Maryland Medical Center, laughter is directly linked to proper function of the blood vessels and preventing heart disease. Listening to a good joke, or watching a funny TV show, if nothing else immediately increases quality living and offers a bright spot in each day.
This should be much higher on the list, but truth is most of us just aren’t very active. In our society we make appointments to exercise and all too often skimp wherever possible. It’s important to remember to get out, preferably actually outside and get your heart pumping. Go to the park, go hang-gliding, play with the kids, whatever it takes but get moving.
This one actually is self indulgent, but what’s wrong with that? It’s a perfectly reasonable thing to take time out and just focus on yourself. If you don’t who will? We need to take care of our bodies as well as our minds, get a massage, read a book, take an hour in the hot tub. These things give a chance to unwind, and release the most lethal of all health afflictions, stress, which causes everything else to fall apart. Focusing time on yourself with a little well intended pampering can go a long way to improving your overall health for many more years to come.
Michelle W. Murray, Laughter is the “Best Medicine” for Your Heart, University of Maryland Medical Center
Michael J. Breus Phd, Chronic Sleep Deprivation and Health Effects, WebMD