With the New Year only a few days old, you still have plenty of time to make a wellness resolution and a whole year ahead to put it into action by making healthy choices. In every moment we make choices that immediately affect our physical, mental and emotional health. Our choices have benefits and consequences. From grabbing a morning doughnut in the office to taking the stairs instead of the elevator, we choose a path. If we are willing to commit the time, energy and effort, we can make it a healthy one. Simple life choices can boost the immune systems and investment in wellness capital. Here are seven ways to choose a healthier and potentially longer and happier life.
Choose to Make a Wellness Resolution
Making a promise to yourself to eat more nutritionally or exercise regularly improves your chances of making changes that have a positive impact on your health. And if you share your resolution with family members, friends or co-workers, you will also be more likely to stick with it and succeed. The best resolutions are easy to remember and possible to achieve. They are based in reality, not fantasy.
If you lead a fairly sedentary lifestyle, instead of making a resolution to exercise every day that could lead to failure and feelings of frustration or guilt, consider a goal of 30 minutes of moderate exercise (walking, yoga, tai chi) three to four days a week and build from there. Tracking your activities on a calendar can re-enforce your commitment and give you confidence in your ability to change your lifestyle. Health is a habit and once you stay on a healthier track for a couple months, you can review your progress and decide to continue or expand the scope of your healthy choices.
Choose to Eat Mindfully
Begin by being aware of what you are eating. Eat slowly. Be mindful of the color, texture, aroma and flavor of your food. Cut food into smaller pieces. Put less food on your fork. Eat with all your senses turned on. Check in often with your hunger level. Notice when you have had enough and stop eating when you feel full. If you are thinking about having more, wait a while. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to register that you have eaten. Avoid emotional eating.
Using food as a reward or solace is counterproductive. Not only will it not satisfy what you are actually hungry for, it may lead to more negative emotions and put more roadblocks along your path to healthier behavior. With self-discipline and practice, you can change the reasons and ways you eat.
Furthermore, make no judgments on food or yourself. If you think you have indulged in overeating or careless eating, be mindful of it and go on. Every moment is another opportunity to redefine how you live your life and how you nourish your body.
Choose to Exercise
Research suggests physical activity may have helped humans get smarter and may continue to affect our mental capacity from childhood to old age. Early humans applied their growing ability to think and reason toward more successful hunting. Being in motion made them smarter, and being smarter allowed them to hunt more efficiently. Physical activity helped mold the structure of their brains. Regular exercise, even walking, may lead to more robust mental abilities. A healthy body and healthy mind go together.
Choose to Be a Half-Full Person
Attitude affects chemistry. Our thoughts and emotions are not independent of the body. Whatever you do with your mind will affect your body and whatever you do with your body will affect your mind and mental outlook. Positive thoughts are healthy thoughts; one way to stay more optimistic is to practice gratitude. Suggest dinner table talk about a couple of good things that happened that day. Keep a gratitude journal. When you find yourself worried, anxious or down, choose to do something positive. Walk the dog, play music, do something fun or interesting, help someone. Retrain your brain by focusing on what is working in your life, not what isn’t. Your body will benefit.
Choose to Socialize
Office water coolers can be fountains of wellness. Whether we label ourselves introverts or extroverts, by necessity we live in communities with others. When we spend time with relatives or friends, or have casual conversations with co-workers or strangers, we choose engagement over solitary existence. Research shows that the fewer connections we have at home, work and in the community, the more likely we are to get sick. Friendships help us fight off viruses.
Choose to Express Yourself, Calmly
With family members, friends and co-workers, mindful expressions of your point of view can be good for your health. Studies suggest that a constructive argument with your spouse can actually increase immunity, increasing in blood pressure, heart rate and illness-fighting white blood cells, similar to the benefits of moderate exercise. But everyone has to abide by a few rules. Keep discussions short and focused on a single topic. No throwing in the “kitchen sink” of past problems. Avoid sarcasm, insults and put-downs. Couples who frequently use these negative behaviors actually manifest signs of a depressed immune system.
Choose to Go to Sleep
Skimping on sleep has a powerful negative effect on the immune system. Poor sleep is associated with lower immune system function and reduced numbers of killer cells that fight germs. Seven to nine hours of sleep will keep you on a healthy track. Wonder if you’re getting enough? Ask yourself how you feel in the morning. If you feel tired before the day even begins, make the choice to change your sleep schedule. Consider sleep as a gift you can give yourself after a busy day and as an investment for the next day. Sleep your way to wellness.
Choose Self-Care When You Are Stressed Out
Chronic stress, the day-after-day kind you experience over job insecurity or caring for a sick relative, can take a toll on your health and immunity. Periods of extreme stress can put your immune system in jeopardy. Self-care stress relievers can be as simple as 20 minutes of slow, focused breathing or any of the aforementioned healthy practices. Stress is a fact of life; how we respond to it is a choice.
In 2013, you can choose wellness. Consider making a Wellness Resolution before the end of January and try to be mindful of the health choices you make every day. If you would like to share your resolution online, post a comment on this article at syracusenewtimes.com or on the Syracuse New Times’ Facebook page.
Marnie Blount-Gowan is a member of the Crouse Hospital
Integrated Health Alliance, advocate of mind body health awareness, and
editor of Realewell.com.