New Year, Healthier You
Time for a mental and physical re-boot? Resolutions won't get you there. But setting some intentions can lead to change for good.
Written by Peg Moline
This year it might make more sense than ever to make some healthy changes — to your diet, to your emotional well-being, to the exercise you do, to your spirituality. If you’re like most of us, the past 20 months have been eye-opening.
Some of us have come to even greater appreciation of the people in our lives, how important our connections are, and how much we love to hug and miss touch in general. Not being able to do much of what we were used to also taught us how to be more selective in the way we spend our time.
2022 just might be the time to look at what we have learned about our choices and how to make healthier ones, for good.
While research suggests only about 8% of people who make resolutions actually keep them, experts suggest setting intentions instead. Start with small, specific goals such as cooking a meat-free meal every Monday or walking for 45 minutes after dinner three times a week. Here are a few suggestions:
Make change a priority and be realistic
Trying to become a more healthful eater, for instance, might mean forgoing the Sunday afternoon ice cream outing. When you’re embarking on your quest for a healthy diet, recognize the reality of your lifestyle. If you are planning a move or change of job, it might not be the best time to deprive yourself of something you enjoy. Instead, identify one or two behavioral changes and just stick to them for now. If you want to eat ice cream, try working out a bit more. Experts also believe exercise can make you feel better both mentally and physically.
Pack a lunch
Now that we’re getting out of the house more often, focusing on your midday meal makes good sense. Making your own lunch — whether you are packing it for work or staying home — not only saves money. A satisfying lunch gives you energy for the rest of the day and helps you feel less apt to gobble up a big supper. Include a combo of interesting shapes, textures and temperatures, and at least one new food like a ripe persimmon, fresh fruit leather or disc of dark chocolate. Look for inspiration at your farmer’s market and in the New York Times food blog.
Update your fitness routine
We know those Zoom yoga classes have been a lifesaver, not only to keep you active and limber, but also for the slice of social connection they give you. Look around now and try something new. You can take advantage of our mild California weather and join a rowing club (usrowing.com) or try stand up paddle boarding (supindustry.org). Both team you up with like-minded folks and offer companionship and accountability, and the rhythmic nature of both is downright meditative.
If you’re more of a solo exerciser, joining a running or cycling club gets you out of your comfort zone, but still gives you a tribe to hang with. Check into Meetup hiking groups, if you are looking for camaraderie. Studies show one benefits not only from the activity of hiking, but also from being in nature on a regular basis.
Research shows regular meditation practice can reduce stress and anxiety, promote creativity and clear thinking and improve overall health. Perhaps you’ve tried but have not been able to tune out the thoughts in your brain.
We’ve got a couple pointers: First, give walking meditation a try. The key is to synchronize your footsteps with your breath, inhaling to a beat of four steps, holding for four and exhaling for four steps. You can even add tapping each of your fingers in time with each step, silently chanting “Sat Ta Na Ma” with each tap. Or use an app such as Calm and listen to the mindful walking segment. You can also join groups such as Torrance Memorial’s weekly meditation support group (see page 19 for details).
Reduce the alcohol intake
Health experts noticed people’s alcohol intake was up during lockdown. The habit of daily drinking can be tough to break. A recent study found the risk of premature death may increase by 20% with the consumption of one or two drinks four or more times a week. If this is one of your intentions, start by cutting back to drinking only three days per week, and abstain for at least three days in a row, which gives your liver time to detox. Don’t worry, it might take a while to change this habit, but you will feel better.
Phone a friend
Humans are a social lot, and we care about what people think, especially those close to us. To help you stick to your goals, enlist a friend or family member. It will take a certain amount of accepting vulnerability (a worthy goal in itself), but research shows people who write down their goals, share them with friends and send regular progress reports succeeded in attaining those goals 75% of the time. And if you can plan workouts, meals, meditation sessions and classes with someone you love, you are more likely to achieve your intentions, and you boost your social connections as well.