Resolution season is approaching fast, and with it, busy gyms and new year diets, but for how long will it last?
The end of the year is a time for reflection of the year that has passed and a fresh start and blank slate to refocus on getting back on track with your personal health goals.
Perhaps you would like to start eating healthy, committing to exercising regularly, or prioritizing sleep.
While these are all great goals, they are often forgotten and set to the side before we know it.
So often resolutions don't stick because they aren't sustainable due to unrealistic expectations that are made and which make it more difficult to change our behaviors in the long-term. This is why resolutions may repeat themselves year after year without any progress being made.
And because we are creatures of habit, if a resolution is anywhere outside of our comfort zone, our brain will want to go back to what is familiar.
So how do we actually stick to the changes we are after?
Setting realistic goals or intentions is key to actually following through with them and celebrating little milestones along the way will help to keep the momentum, and you, going. This will often mean taking baby steps instead of quantum leaps towards what you want, because transformation happens day by day, one action at a time.
Today we are sharing some simple habit changes that can create quite an impact on your health and wellbeing, and that won't take all of your willpower to achieve.
Take a daily walk to reduce stress
When we've been drilled into high intensity workouts and chronic cardio, low intensity movement like walking can feel like a waste of time. However, the effects of walking are highly underrated and may include lowering the risk of chronic disease such as diabetes and heart disease, maintaining a healthy weight, boosting energy and immune function, improving your mood, and last but not least, extending your lifespan (2)(3)(4)(5).
Better yet, if you combine walking with the outdoors you receive even more benefits from daylight exposure and connection with nature.
Meditate for 5 minutes
The benefits of mindfulness meditation are becoming increasingly evident as research now confirms that it can reduce stress and inflammation, improve emotional wellness, reduce blood pressure, and improve sleep (6)(7)(8).
Meditation can seem daunting at first due to the common presumption that it will require sitting in silence, cross legged, for hours at a time. Now that's a sure fire way of putting it off indefinitely!
The truth is, you get to decide what meditation looks like for you.
Cultivating a mindfulness practice for even 5 minutes in the morning, during your day, or before you go to sleep is enough to start noticing the benefits.
Sit less and move more
Many people are spending more time sitting than being active during their day due to sedentary jobs and other lifestyle shifts in our modern day and age.
In fact, we are sitting more now than ever as one third of the global population over the age of 15 is said to engage in insufficient physical activities (9).
This is disruptive to human health as a sedentary lifestyle has been associated with increased mortality, and has even been referred to as the new smoking, in regards to its health consequences (10).
Though you may have a job that requires you to sit during long periods of time, you can still make little changes that allow for more movement during your day.
For example, taking a walk on your lunch break or getting up every hour for a quick stretch or walk around will help to break up your day.
Get natural light in the morning
We've spoken about the importance of aligning the circadian rhythm via light exposure before.
Research now suggests that lack of natural light exposure during the day can increase the risk of sleep troubles at night while sufficient morning and midday exposure can improve sleep but also mood and energy levels by impacting the body's internal clock (11)(12).
Even if you live in a location that rarely receives sunlight, you can still receive benefits from exposing your eyes to the natural light of the day despite cloud coverage.
You can increase your light exposure by going for a morning walk, sitting outside, or opening up the curtains and blinds to let natural light into your home.
Though natural light is the best option you can also choose to invest in a light box to receive the benefits from light inside your home no matter what.
Create a bedtime routine
How you choose to spend your night is just as influential on the course of your day, especially the last few hours before bed.
The arrival of artificial lights and electronics in society have impacted sleep quality and quantity as well as overall health by disrupting the sleep wake cycle, aka circadian rhythm.
The best thing you can do before bed is to turn off electronics and allow your body to wind down by creating an environment that promotes a relaxed state as well as melatonin production.
Orange light can actually support the proper hormone production in the evening so watch a sunset, light some candles, or get the fire place going to promote a good night's sleep.
Instead of watching TV or scrolling on your phone, experiment with a bedtime routine that is calming to you and allows you to settle into sleep more easily.
Stick to a sleep and wake up schedule
The body loves routine, and you can support your circadian rhythm even more by going to bed and waking up around the same time every day.
By following a predictable pattern of wake and sleep times, you not only make it easier to fall asleep but you also support a multitude of functions and systems in the body including mood, heart health, and metabolic function.
Try to follow your sleep schedule and routine as close as possible even on weekends and you will find with time that it gets easier as your body will naturally start to feel sleepy and wake up at the same times.
Remember habit forming takes repetition so stay consistent from day to day by picking a schedule that works for you and start with baby steps if you need to.
Adopt a sustainable way of healthy eating
New year, new diet? Listen, you may think you need to eat boring bland foods and pick salads as your go to meal in order to be healthy but that's really not the truth!
In order to create sustainable change its essential to adopt sustainable habits that you can keep up, and that includes the food you eat.
Restricting and depriving yourself of foods that you actually enjoy and adopting a diet that doesn't satisfy you is a recipe for falling off the wagon and calling it quits by the end of the month.
Instead, focus on healthy alternatives and additions to your diet instead of everything that you need to cut out.
A healthy long-term diet should be largely focused on whole, nutrient dense foods and avoiding processed foods while also being adaptable and easy to follow no matter the circumstances.
Maybe you start by adding more servings of vegetables to your meals, trying a new fruit or vegetable, drinking an extra glass of water, finding healthier alternatives to your favourite snacks and meals, or cooking at home more often to start creating little shifts in your day to day diet without creating overwhelm or increasing the likelihood of throwing in the towel.