• Livia Ly, MS, RD, LDN

Holistically Healthy New Year's Resolutions

How to plan your new year's health resolutions in a holistic way


Holistic health follows a whole-person approach. Our human body is unique and structured

with organs and systems that are interdependent. If you want to take better care of yourself, you must manage all the areas which will determine your true wellness and healthy state.


So grab a pen and paper or open your Evernote! Start writing your to-do list so you can create goals and plans that will help you accomplish each of the three steps on all of the five health areas below:


 

1- DIET

Poor nutrition can contribute to multiple health problems, including physical, mental, and

emotional. An unhealthy diet will impact every system in our body. Over time, it can contribute to the risk of developing illnesses and chronic diseases, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and depression.


Diet | Step 1- which food group needs to be incorporated


I like to make sure that my clients eat all food groups rich in specific nutrients and polyphenols. These are grains, beans, leafy greens, non-leafy vegetables, fruits, herbs & spices, protein-rich foods, nuts, and seeds. Which of these is lacking in your current diet? Can you incorporate what is missing or deficient in a daily salad, smoothie, or omelet?


Diet | Step 2- what habits can you modify to make it healthier?


Do you do your groceries when you're hungry and end up buying unhealthy foods? Do you skip meals in the day and tend to eat your whole house at dinner time? Do you keep not-so-healthy food items at your eye level in the fridge or counter? Think about something that you do almost every day but that you could make healthier and plan to take a small step to reach your goal. For example, if you don't drink enough water in a day, especially now that the weather is cold, you may plan to keep a bottle of water near your computer and create a reminder on your phone to help you drink more often.


Diet | Step 3- which food can you cut down as a priority?


Take a look at your pantry, fridge, and freezer. What do you have stored there that you should be eating less? Plan to eat that food when you go out for dinner during a date night. Drink that soda or eat that pastry when you plan to hang out with a friend. Make that unhealthy food a treat you can have outside of your house on a more special occasion.

 

2- EXERCISE

When you have an inactive lifestyle, you tend to gain weight or lose muscle mass and strength. Your bones become weaker, and you affect your metabolism and immunity. You increase your risk for blood circulation problems, inflammation, or hormonal issues. Sedentary behavior also increases the risk of developing chronic diseases, like metabolic syndrome or diabetes, and premature death.


Exercise | Step 1- what time of the day can you commit to at least 10-minute practice?

You don't need to work out for a full hour if you plan to exercise almost every day and perform some high-intensity bouts. If you only have 10 minutes, plan each day of the week to do something at your level, maybe a jog around the neighborhood or a HIIT session from a Youtube channel. These types of short, high-intensity exercises can boost cardio-respiratory health and improve VO2 max- a measure of endurance that calculates the maximum volume of oxygen the body can use. VO2 max is one of the best predictors of overall health.


Exercise | Step 2- which equipment do you need/should you sign up to go to a class?


If you have problems with range-of-motion and would prefer to exercise at home, maybe an elliptical or cycling machine is an ideal investment for you. You should also consider purchasing free weights, an exercise ball, resistance bands, or a trampoline.

On the other hand, if you think having a gym membership will motivate you to exercise, then start researching gyms that are near you. Search for classes and pick the one that interests you the most: rowing, indoor cycle, power yoga, or a cross-fit gym.


Exercise | Step 3- what habit can you change to add more movement to your day?


Do you sit for prolonged periods? Maybe you can start taking a water break every hour, walk your dog after lunch, or just stretch and do some jumping jacks at least once a day.

 

3- STRESS

Chronic stress can disturb the immune, digestive, cardiovascular, sleep, and reproductive systems. Unmanageable stress can also contribute to serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or mental disorders.


Stress | Step 1- what time of the day can you incorporate a mind practice?

Meditation is a powerful mindfulness practice that promotes overall health. Maybe you can plan to meditate for 10 minutes before you get up in the morning or during your shower. For other people, meditating at night will promote more restful sleep. You can also consider stress-relieving yoga practice or just attending a religious place. Faith has been associated with better health outcomes.


Stress | Step 2- how can you dismiss your primitive brain acting and bring back the logical one during a stressful fight or flight episode?


This is a tricky but important skill to have to control our impulses and negative reactive behaviors. The amygdala activates this fight-or-flight response without any initiative from you. When that part of your brain senses danger, it signals your brain to pump stress hormones and prepare your body to either fight for survival or to flee to safety. Your primitive brain takes over your logical one. That's when negative impulses and reactive behaviors occur. To bring your logical brain back, you should pause and breathe. Pay attention to your surroundings (sounds, smells, physical things you see). It takes the chemicals that are released during the amygdala hijacking about 6 seconds to dissipate.


Stress | Step 3- plan nature time, even if it's too cold, snowy, or rainy.


Time in nature is a remedy for stress: It can lower blood pressure and stress hormone levels, boost immunity, reduce anxiety, and improve mood. You can start with simple modifications to your routine, like starting an indoor garden, running outside with adequate winter clothing, or having a hot drink at a park near you.

 

4- SLEEP

Short-term consequences of sleep disruption include increased stress responsivity, somatic pain, reduced quality of life, emotional distress and mood disorders, and cognitive, memory, and performance deficits. Long-term consequences of sleep disruption put you at risk of many medical conditions, including obesity, coronary heart disease, and diabetes – and it shortens your life expectancy.


Sleep | Step 1- how many hours of sleep do you need? what can you modify in the morning or at night to accomplish those hours daily?


It's recommended that adults get between 7 and 9 hours of uninterrupted restful sleep daily. Deciding how much sleep you need means considering your overall health, daily activities, and typical sleep patterns.


Body clock patterns and health conditions run together. A chronotype, like a 'night owl' or an 'early bird', that is out of sync with your actual schedule, has a major factor in sleep deprivation. If you naturally have an evening chronotype, you have a higher risk for sleep disruption and sleep deprivation, which gives you a higher risk of health problems. The ideal solution would be to have a work/school schedule that aligns with your natural chronotype. In reality, most evening chronotypes would need to rely on tips to help push their circadian rhythm a little earlier, like using a sun-spectrum lamp in the morning.


Sleep | Step 2- if you have the opportunity to work from home or be in the car during a lunch

break, it would be helpful to include a 20-min coffee nap


When you drink coffee, its particles dissolve in your blood to finally enter your brain. It takes about 20 minutes for caffeine to hit your brain cell receptors that are meant for adenosine - a chemical neuromodulator which when accumulated in high quantities makes the body feel tired.


Naps clear adenosine from the brain. If you nap for 20 minutes after drinking your coffee, you are effectively clearing most of the adenosine from the brain. But if you nap longer than 20 minutes your body could wake up more tired.


Sleep | Step 3- what can you change in your sleeping environment to improve your sleep hygiene?


Many people will find it helpful to avoid caffeine, alcohol, or a heavy meal a few hours before going to sleep. It is also important to avoid screens and bright lights before bedtime. If it takes more than 15 minutes to fall asleep, get up and do something relaxing for a few minutes or write down your thoughts in a journal. Plan to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Open all shades when you wake up. Make sure your mattress and pillow are adequate and that your room temperature is slightly cold. Take some tart cherry, chamomile tea, passion fruit juice, or eat bananas, milk, oats, and turkey at night and use one drop of lavender essential oil on an eye mask or pillow to help you sleep.

 

5- SELF-CARE

Self-care means paying attention and taking steps to support your physical, emotional, and mental health to the best of your ability. Self-care can help to improve your ability to focus, handle stress, and be happy.


Self-care | Step 1- plan to have at least 1 hour to relax or do something just for you - avoid being on your phone during this time



You can start with 15 minutes a day and work towards a goal of 1 hour of self-care.

Let family and friends know you need some “me time.” Work with your partner to cover some of your responsibilities so you can enjoy your alone time. Most of us have free time but don’t spend it wisely. Stop watching TV or scrolling on social media.


Self-care | Step 2- schedule things for the weekend that you love doing

What are your passion and interests? Do you have a hobby? Somewhere on the path to adulthood, we stop trying new things and spend less time on our non-career interests. Reclaim your childhood interests or take a class or lesson to sparkle an old interest or to find a new one. Hobbies can make an impact on your quality of life and happiness.


Self-care | Step 3- delegate some errands so you can free up time for you


Delegating tasks to your kids or other family members can help them gain more confidence in their abilities and communicate a level of trust and respect. You can also pay someone to clean your house, start having your groceries delivered to you, prepare dinners for the week ahead of time and freeze them, or alternate playdates with other parents. Think about ways you can dedicate more of your time to focus on yourself.

 

Holistic health should be a priority for everybody.

Without health, we live poorly and miserably. But with planning and simple tasks, you can save hours each day and have time to focus on yourself. Find where you are and plan to move forward by setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound goals.

You will be more successful at changing your habits if you take one step at a time.







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