After a difficult 2020, the new year is a good time to refocus your priorities on self-care and your health. Getting healthier is a marathon, not a sprint - and it's important to focus on both your physical and mental health. Learn ways that you can help yourself feel better in a minute, in an hour, in a week, in a month and in a year.
IN A MINUTE…by sitting down, putting your palms on your knees, closing your eyes, inhaling through your nose, and exhaling slowly through your mouth. Relax and imagine yourself in a very serene place. Perhaps an isolated beach in Hawaii or a mountain top in Colorado? You will find your heart rate slower, your mind clearer, and you will be less anxious.
IN AN HOUR...by making a list of things you need to do today, this week, and this year. Keeping an updated list will help you to be organized, get more done, and feel better about yourself when you mark things off. Review the list daily at breakfast. A smart phone is nifty, but a folded piece of paper and a pen works best for me.
IN A DAY…by going on a walk. A 30-minute brisk walk will energize your brain, strengthen your muscles, and improve sleep quality. A daily aerobic walk (one that causes you to pant and become somewhat sweaty) will help prevent heart disease. Use a pedometer or a Fitbit to count how many steps you take in a day. Healthy young adults should aim for 10,000 steps daily.
IN A WEEK…by making a grocery list of healthy foods that you like and go shopping when you are not hungry. DO NOT buy snack or junk foods and you will not routinely eat them. Consider fruit, fresh vegetables, fish, beans, and plan more vegetarian dishes. Try to cook healthy “clean” meals. Find interesting recipes and try new spices. Double the menu and freeze half for later. Avoid drinking calories, e.g., soft drinks, whole milk, juice, and especially alcohol. Plan to only eat three times a day, or eat 5-6 small healthy snacks throughout the day, but have a plan. Maintaining an appropriate weight is helpful in preventing diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Do not just go on a diet for a week, try to change your eating habits for a lifetime.
IN A MONTH…by stopping a bad habit. Define your bad habit, e.g., smoking cigarettes, using illegal drugs, biting fingernails, cursing, watching too much TV, etc. Write it on a piece of paper. Focus on the problem. Pick a quit date and circle that date on a prominent calendar. Imagine how good you will feel if you quit. Picking a date and committing yourself to change is the most important part of the process. Most people that quit smoking did not succeed on the first try. You will feel better even if you fall short of quitting because you will have gained some insight into your problem. Replace a bad habit with a good one like reading, volunteering, stretching, or taking up a healthy new sport.
IN A YEAR…by planning and taking a vacation. Picking a date, choosing a location, defining what you and your family want to do, and how to pay for the trip may take a bit. Gather travel brochures, read about the history of a new land, and talk to friends who have visited your chosen destination. Making the arrangements may take a year, but it gives you something to look forward to and helps to ward off depression. Whether it is two days or two months, to Kentucky or Timbuktu, a vacation allows your imagination to merge into the reality of a memory.