10 Ways to Make 2014 Your Best Year Ever
Every year it’s the same story. January starts with good intentions and big resolutions to improve ourselves, but come spring, those good intentions have flown out the window. This year instead of making lofty resolutions you probably won’t keep, why not try some simple ones? Here’s a list of 10 easy resolutions that will nourish your mind, body, and spirit for a happy and healthy 2014.
1. Get more (and better quality) sleep.
The majority of adults are sleep deprived and getting more sleep is the easiest thing we can do to increase our energy levels and feel better. Lack of sleep can decrease the effectiveness of our immune systems and increase stress hormones which can lead to overeating and weight gain. Sleep is also essential to memory, mood, and mental performance. Quality of sleep is also important, so turn off the TV and the lights and put your cell phone on silent (or better yet, leave it in another room!). The goal is to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. To make reaching this goal a little easier, try adding an additional 15 minutes of sleep every few weeks until you reach your goal.
2. Give back.
We’ve all benefited from the help and support of our communities, so make this the year you give back. It doesn’t have to be a lot, even a few hours of your time can make a big impact. Choose an activity you enjoy, like working on a community garden or at a soup kitchen, supporting a cause you believe in, walking dogs at a local shelter, or coaching a local sports team. Volunteering helps keep our communities strong, and the simple act can greatly increase your feelings of self-worth and accomplishment.
3. Add omega-3 fatty acids to your diet.
Most people consume far less than the ideal amount of omega-3 fatty acids and too much of the inflammation-promoting omega-6 fatty acids. While our ancestors consumed about a 1:1 ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s, today we’re at a ratio of about 10:1 (and often higher). Too much omega-6 increases inflammation, which is a known precursor to many chronic diseases. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for brain health and cognitive function and also decrease triglycerides, which helps to protect against heart disease. This year, try to get closer to the ideal 1:1 ratio by increasing consumption of omega-3-rich nuts, seeds, fatty cold water fish, and grass-fed beef and lamb.
4. Eat more whole foods.
Consuming overly processed foods is one of the reasons for our increased intake of omega-6 fatty acids, as well as for the nutrient deficiencies many of us face. Eating whole, unprocessed foods helps us to avoid added sugars, sodium, preservatives, additives, refined flours, and saturated and trans fats. They are more nutrient dense, meaning you get more nutrients per calorie, making it easier to manage your weight and attain proper nutrition.
5. Do more weight bearing exercise.
Doing weight bearing activities is one of the most important steps we can take to build bone mass and density. It can help to prevent and reverse bone loss, as well as increase muscle mass which not only increases our metabolisms so we burn more calories, but also improves coordination, balance and strength. We lose about a half a pound of muscle each year if no preventative measures are taken, so in 2013, protect your bones and muscles by lifting light weights, walking, jogging, and doing yoga a few times a week.
6. Stay hydrated.
Many of us are not getting adequate amounts of water our body needs each day. Water is important to clearing our bodies of toxins and waste, keeping us regular (very important), and the functioning of our kidneys and liver. Drinking enough water will increase your energy levels and decrease hunger sensations, helping you to stay lean. Water also helps keep your skin clear and supple. The standard recommendation is to drink 8 glasses of water a day, but this may not be enough. Another way to figure how much you need is to take your weight and divide it by 2; that’s the number of ounces you should get every day.
7. Try meditation.
The benefits of meditation have been getting a lot of press lately. Meditation has been shown to decrease blood pressure and stress, while also increasing attention span, empathy for others, and feelings of well-being. One recent study found that people who meditated 30 minutes a day for 8 weeks had an increase in gray matter in the hippocampus of the brain, which is important to learning and memory, and a decrease in gray matter in the amygdala region, which is associated with anxiety and stress. The control group did not practice meditation and did not see any changes in their brains. This year, why not give meditation a try and see how it makes you feel.
8. Focus on the positive.
When things aren’t going well it can be easy to fall into the cycle of negative thoughts and feelings; this only perpetuates stress in our already abundantly stressful lives. Acceptance and a positive attitude allow you to move on more quickly and live a more satisfying and happy life. Focusing on the positive and feeling gratitude for everything you do have will increase your feelings of well-being and reduce stress hormones and depression. So this year, laugh more; it will increase endorphins, decrease stress hormones, and strengthen your immune system. And smile, it’s contagious.
9. Try something new.
As creatures of habit, we all often fall into routines that we follow day after day after day. This year break the cycle. Do something that you’ve always wanted to do, whether it’s starting a garden, taking a cooking class, or learning to dance. Trying new things not only increases your quality of life and feelings of accomplishment but is also good for your mental health. Learning something new challenges the mind and keeps the brain healthy by creating new pathways and protecting it from atrophy.
10. Take time for yourself.
With our hectic schedules and busy lives, the first person we often neglect is ourselves. We often feel guilty and selfish when we need some time for ourselves. But remember, you’ll be better able to take care of your loved ones and succeed in your career when you are at your best. So, in 2013 take some time to take care of you; you’ll not only be helping yourself but those around you.
Bowden, J., (2009). The 150 Most Effective Ways to Boost Your Energy: The Surprising, Unbiased, Truth About Using Nutrition, Exercise, Supplements, Stress Relief, and Personal Empowerment to Stay Energized All Day. Beverly, MA: Fair Winds Press.
Bowden, J., (2010). The Most Effective Ways to Live Longer: The Surprising, Unbiased, Truth About What You Should Do to Prevent Disease, Feel Great, and Have Optimum Health and Longevity. Beverly, MA: Fair Winds Press.
Perricone, N., (2010). Forever Young: The Science of Nutrigenomics for Glowing, Wrinkle-Free Skin, and Radiant Health at Every Age. New York: Atria Books.
Rebecca Jennings is currently working towards fulfilling various science prerequisites in order to gain admittance to a Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine program. Previously, her passion for nutrition and natural health had led her to pursue a Master’s degree in Holistic Nutrition; however, after a year of study, a desire for a more comprehensive study of science and natural medicine led her to change course and begin studies to become a Naturopathic Doctor.
Rebecca enjoys researching and staying on top of the latest news and trends in natural health and nutrition. She maintains an active lifestyle by practicing yoga, pilates, cycling, hiking and traveling. Her love of food and cooking, coupled with her enthusiasm for healthy living, explains her penchant for creating meals that are both delicious and nutritious! Follow Rebecca on Twitter.