Getting healthy need not be overwhelming. Here are six simple, straightforward ways to get on track toward optimum health in the new year.
1. Post It On the Fridge! Adopt the Anti-Inflammatory Diet
The anti-inflammatory diet isn't a weight-loss program (although you can lose weight on it) or a temporary eating plan. It is a lifelong guide intended to counteract chronic inflammation, now known to play a central role in the development of heart disease, many cancers and Alzheimer's disease. Poor diet is perhaps the main contributor to chronic inflammation. The anti-inflammatory diet can help you correct that: it points the way to food choices that can help you remain optimally healthy. Here's a link to the anti-inflammatory food pyramid. Print it out and post it on the fridge. Along with influencing inflammation, the diet will give you steady energy and provide all the vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and dietary fiber you need.
2. Get Smart About Snacking
Snacking throughout the day is actually a good idea, as it can help keep blood sugar levels and energy steady - which leads to improved mood, better productivity and more effective appetite control. But if you're trying to lose weight or to eat a healthier diet, that convenient bag of chips can sabotage your efforts. Processed foods contain too many calories, the wrong kinds of fat and carbohydrates, and have too much salt and too many additives. Instead, plan snacks ahead of time and make sure you always have healthy ones on hand: fresh or dried fruit; raw, unsalted nuts (pistachios, cashews or walnuts); flavorful natural cheeses and dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa solids. And don't forget to set aside leftovers from the healthy meals you'll be preparing.
3. Get Serious About Breathing Exercises
Simple breathing techniques offer a drug-free way to help lower your blood pressure, calm a racing heart, or settle an upset digestive system. Proper breathing has direct influence on emotional states and moods. When you're upset, you breathe rapidly, shallowly, and irregularly, but you can't be upset if your breathing is slow, deep, quiet and regular. At first, the effects are subtle, but they will gain power the more you repeat them. Whether you want to address health problems or just relax and reduce stress, make this the year to learn and practice these breathing techniques.
4. Fitness: Consider a Personal Trainer
If you're really committed to getting into shape in the coming year, a personal trainer can get you off to the right start. A study at McMaster University in Canada found that people who are new to exercise do better when they have some professional help. If you plan to do strength training (and you should!), you'll need a trainer to learn the correct form so that you won't injure yourself. If you can afford it, continued weekly training sessions will keep you motivated and ensure that your workouts are appropriate to your age and fitness level. If you can't afford weekly sessions, pay for one or two to set up a program. When you've achieved your initial expectations, schedule another training session to set new goals.
5. Take Time for Tea
Drinking green tea can improve your cholesterol ratio, as well as help protect against cancer and bacterial infections. The difference between green and the more familiar black tea is in the preparation: both come from the same plant, Camellia sinesis, but to make black tea, leaves go through an oxidation process that darkens them. This process deceases some of tea's beneficial compounds, including polyphenols called catechins. Green tea is unfermented, which means that it contains more catechins. But don't think of tea drinking only as a utilitarian way to imbibe those healthful compounds. Learn to appreciate the subtle fragrance of good quality green tea and use tea time to unwind, meditate and as a respite from your stress du jour. Here are nine green teas to consider.
6. Volunteer to Help Others
Service organizations always appreciate donated money, but giving of yourself, especially in a way that draws on your unique talents or skills, is more satisfying. You can volunteer to feed the homeless, help people with terminal illnesses, and help to clean up the environment. Donate clothing you no longer wear and other items you don't use. Look for ways to help those close to home: take meals to shut-ins, offer transportation to elderly or disabled neighbors and tutor or read to children. Don't focus only on the needs of strangers. Look for ways to help friends and family members, too.