Setting realistic health goals for the New Year

Setting realistic health goals for the New Year

- in Health, Life, Opinion
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Set realistic goals this New Year! (Photo Credit: @gracedays)

After the holiday feasting, many are now making New Year’s resolutions for a healthier lifestyle. But many more are feeling that health goals are not as attainable so better leave that out of the list. Here are simple ways to set realistic health goals. Try to achieve them before it’s time to make another list of New Year’s resolutions:

For better sleep
Sleep is essential to a healthier body. Our body needs to have its well-deserved rest at the end of a workday. I used to have very poor sleeping habits that caused my body to be weak and my mind to be less alert. So I decided to do something about it. However, I knew it would be difficult for me to suddenly switch to a healthier wake up and sleep schedule. So I followed what I call “the 30-minute weekly adjustment pattern.” Every week, I adjusted my wake up and sleep time by 30 minutes until I reached my desired schedule. I used to sleep at one in the morning and wake up between 7 to 8 in the morning, making me lethargic and less productive during the day. On the first week, I slept at 12:30 instead of one o’clock and woke up at 6:30 instead of 7:00 a.m. On the second week I adjusted my schedule again by 30 minutes until I reached my desired healthy sleep schedule of 10:00 p.m. and wake up time of 5:00 a.m. In the middle of the day, I would take a 30-minute power nap to recharge. I resolved to keep the schedule for the next 90 days to cement the habit into my system. My body clock has now adjusted to this schedule and I have gained extra time and energy in my days.

What if staying up late the night before couldn’t be avoided? Just aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep. Then return to the 30-minute weekly adjustment pattern until you get back to your healthy sleeping habit. It actually gets easier every week.

For better stamina
There’s no way around a stronger body and increased stamina than to be active. If you are not the athletic type, don’t fret. You need not be a triathlete to achieve a healthier physique. Small beginnings and baby steps are also acceptable if you aim for a lifestyle change. A writer like me does not get much physical activity during the day (except for when I clean the house and do the laundry, because I am also a homeschooling stay-at-home mompreneur). What I did was start doing my exercise while on the bed at 5 a.m. as soon as my alarm clock rang! I looked for static stretching exercises on the internet. I chose simple routines that I could do while lying flat on my back. I chose stretching positions that would prepare my body for the day’s work and deal with my problematic areas (my thighs, abdomen, and back). I started doing a few repititions that lasted only 10 minutes to begin with. Then I get out of bed and did some jumping jacks before I headed for the shower. This pattern of activity is guaranteed to wake me up and jump start my day. Each week, I added a new stretching exercise and a new cardio activity extending my exercise by 10 minutes every week until I reached my desired daily exercise routine and duration of 30-45 minutes. I again did this consistently for a period of 90 days, making it a regular part of my healthy core habits. Now, my body craves this early morning stretch daily.

For better (eating) satisfaction
During one of our conversations, a mentor of mine shared the difference between adults and children when it comes to eating. She said, “You know you have matured when you begin to eat what you know your body needs rather than what your taste buds want.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that! And that could be a guidepost in making food choices. Before eating something or getting food items from the grocery racks, you can ask yourself whether it is something that your body needs or simply what your taste buds want. It will be great if both your body and your taste buds agree! So, best is to do your research of what foods are good for your body and would be palatable as well! My doctor friend Joanne Baldonado-Aguila taught me to choose living foods over dead foods. Living foods are not processed, packaged, or canned. Living foods are obviously the healthier choice because they have less salt and sugar content and they are not loaded with preservatives. Organic produce and products are also available. It is really just a matter of choice and research. My personal rule of thumb when eating is to avoid snacks (we don’t really need to eat more than three times a day) and to use the plate portion during meals: half of my plate should be for vegetables, a fourth of it would be for protein-rich foods, the remaining one fourth can be divided into carbohydrates and a small portion of dessert. I still believe in having all food groups in my diet to sustain healthy weight loss, maintain optimum body mass, and facilitate proper metabolism. Oh, and don’t forget to eat your fruits before each meal to aid digestion.

For better skin
As I turned 30, another mentor of mine (yes, I surround myself with wise people) told me to take care of my skin. Ten years since that day, I am thankful that she called me out for not paying attention to my face and skin! While there are many great skin care products out there, it is really inexpensive and easy to get started. If part of your New Year’s resolution is to take care of the largest yet least cared for organ in your body, you can start by drinking plenty of water! I remember watching Italian actress Sophia Loren on TV being interviewed because she won an award for her natural beauty (no cosmetic surgery at all!). She said that her secret was drinking plenty of water.

Another easy skin care habit is to eat fruits and vegetables. There is a reason why your grade school Science teacher called this food group “Glow Foods” and it is because they literally make your skin glow when you include them in your diet regularly.

The third easy and inexpensive skin care tip is to get enough sleep. Seven to eight hours of sleep every night does wonders to the skin!

And when you already have the budget to spare, that’s when you may start considering skin care products that would help you cleanse, tone, and moisturize it. Be wise in choosing products that you put on your skin. Remember that your body absorbs about what you put on your skin because the skin has pores. Make sure your skin care products do not have harmful chemicals. Research on what you should invest your money (yes, skin care is an investment). While I don’t endorse in this column, I am more than willing to share my own favorite skin care regimen and products to those who will seek me out personally. Good things are meant to be shared and not kept to one’s self! Invest in your skin because it will represent you for a lifetime!

For a better soul
There’s no better way to kick off a healthy New Year than to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Author Dan Luca in his book “The 5 A.M. Revolution: Why High Achievers Wake Up Early and How You Can Do It Too” explains that “gratitude has the benefit of releasing the hormone oxytocin which counters any hormones that get released due to anxiety, such as cortisol (also known as the stress hormone).” Cultivating an attitude of gratitude can be done at the start, the middle, and at the end of each day. All it takes is two minutes in the morning to breathe a prayer of thankfulness for what the day holds from as simple as the air you breathe to as great as a potential breakthrough in your business or career. At noon time, during your break, you would most likely check your Facebook or Instagram account. Before you check on other people’s posts, why not help cultivate an attitude of gratitude online by posting about something you are thankful for. It will just take you a couple of minutes. And then, before retiring for the night as you lay your head to sleep, allot another two minutes for uttering words of gratefulness for what the day brought (whether good or bad, for in the end even the bad things bring something good to our lives) and for what the next day will be. “Give thanks in all circumstances,” says the Apostle Paul, “for it is God’s will for you.”

Here’s to a healthier New Year!




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