Did you live the healthiest year possible? Maybe you have some regrets about 2017 and want to make next year richer, fuller, happier and healthier? Then make some strategic moves to boost your mental or physical health. Even one small change can trigger other, subtle changes and help you live life to the fullest.
Book some leisurely strolls or intense snowshoe sessions outside whenever you can.
If you don’t have much time for wellness, then schedule it right into your calendar, suggests Kasandra Monid, wellness coach with Toronto’s ThinkLife Coaching. “When you make it concrete and put it in your schedule, it will eventually become engrained in your routine,” she says.
Also, commit to new activities you actually enjoy. “Otherwise, how are you going to stay motivated?” she asks.
Here are six things you can try in the New Year to maximize your quality of life.
Spend time outside
A 2011 study concluded that outdoor physical activity has a bigger impact on mental well-being than indoor workouts. In Japan people do something called forest bathing, says Monid. People spend time outside, having a picnic or gently walking, just to be around trees. Book some leisurely strolls or intense snowshoe sessions outside whenever you can. And, if all you can fit in is a quick moment outside at lunch, go for it — but leave the headphones inside.
Move around – even a little
While Health Canada recommends two-and-a-half hours of exercise a week, that can be a lot of working out for some people. Instead, go for a brisk ten minute walk, which still has significant health benefits, says Monid. Have even less time? Then just get up and move around. One study found that moving around for two minutes every hour increases your lifespan by 33 percent.
Get to bed
Only 64 percent of Canadian adults get their recommended seven-to-nine hours of sleep per night, but not getting enough sleep impacts almost every aspect of your health. Sleeping fewer than five hours a night increases your risk of premature death by 15 percent. “During sleep, the body and mind rejuvenates and restores itself,” says Monid. You’ll be sharper when you’re awake, plus sleep builds the immune system and regulates the hormones that impact weight gain.
Do some meditation
Having a traditional meditation practice, doing a meditative exercise like yoga or Tai Chi, or simply clearing your mind on a regular basis while you walk or do another gentle activity can have a myriad of benefits. It may reduce anxiety, depression and irritability. It could impact our pain tolerance and lower blood pressure, too.
Savour your food
Restricting your diet often leads to cravings and overindulging later. Diets are also difficult to follow and often you regain lost weight later. Instead, have that brownie or helping of mashed potatoes, but take the time to enjoy it. We feel full only after 20 minutes, so eating slowly and really tasting your food will help you consume less and enjoy what you did eat.
Do something different
“The best thing for your brain is to go outside of your comfort zone,” says Monid. Trying something new like a different type of exercise or game or learning a new language builds neural pathways. When we get out and try a novel activity, we meet new people as well. Challenging your brain and having strong relationships are both good for your mental health now and your cognitive health in the long term.