12 Months to a Healthier You

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happy woman in open green field

Many people begin the new year with an abundance of health-related resolutions, setting themselves numerous goals that need to be carried out at an unrealistic pace.

Rather than falling into this trap, set yourself up for success instead by following these 12 healthy steps for each month of 2018.

January –  Get More Quality Sleep

January may have already begun, but this does not mean that it is too late to make a healthy change for the month.

If the festive season was a busy one for you, then it is likely that you ended up missing out on quite a bit of sleep.

Quality sleep is important for so many different reasons:

  • Strengthens the memory
  • Extends lifespan
  • Reduces inflammation in the body
  • Boosts creativity
  • Increases physical performance

So, how much sleep do you need each night?

Around seven to eight hours.

Have a hard time with this?

Try developing a sleep routine, which should start an hour or two before you want to go to bed. Begin winding down by spending ten minutes jotting down all that is on your mind, as this will prevent your mind from overworking while you are trying to fall asleep.

Create an ambience of calmness around your house, especially in your bedroom, and try a cup of chamomile tea, as this induces sleep. Soft music, dim lighting and aromatherapy are all things that can help.

You need to also put away any electronic devices, because when your brain detects light, it stops producing melatonin. This is the hormone that is naturally produced to help you to fall asleep, and is something that you need plenty of at bedtime. 

Of course, a melatonin supplement is another option, but make sure that you do not become dependent on these. Even though they may be natural, you should still be able to achieve quality sleep on your own.

benefits of quality sleep

February – Catch Up on Doctors Visits and Other Health Appointments

Now that you have gotten into the swing of the new year, it is time to really take some time to properly focus on your health.

Before you can begin to improve your health, you need to first know exactly what you are working with…

This means booking yourself in for that physical you’ve been putting off, and making that mammogram and pap smear appointment.

Depending on your age, it may also be worth going over your family’s medical history with your doctor, so you can be aware of the early warning signs for any genetic health issues you may face in the future.

A visit to the dentist, as well as the optician, would also be a good idea, as dental and eye health are so important.

March – Embrace a New Physical Activity

Embracing a new physical activity is a step that everybody should take, no matter how active you may already currently be.

For those who already love to exercise, try challenging yourself and really pushing your boundaries.

How?

There are so many ways, from adventure courses to amping up your existing workout routine.

For those who tend to procrastinate when it comes to exercise, this may only be because you have not yet found an activity that you truly love

So, how do you go about doing this?

It takes quite a bit of trial and error, but here are some starting points to consider:

  • Do you prefer being indoors or outdoors? Both of these are feasible, and each will have their own pros and cons. From outdoor skiing to indoor yoga, you need to first enjoy your environment before you can really enjoy the activity you are doing
  • How much money do you want to invest? If you have a bit of spare cash, it may be worth investing in a gym membership, or even some exercise equipment for your home. Alternatively, those on a budget may want to look into activities such as hiking or visiting nature reserves
  • Do you want to get competitive? Even if you do not want to become professionally competitive in an activity, just having some competition can add a fun edge to an exercise. If you enjoy flaming your competitive spirit, try a sport such as tennis, badminton or squash 

April – Start Batch Cooking

Also known as meal prep, batch cooking is exactly what it sounds like – cooking meals in batches rather than individual meals each day.

Why would you want to do this?

It will save you so much time throughout the week, as well as money, since you will not be tempted to opt for a pre-prepared meal at the end of a long day.

meal prepping with plastic containers

Batch cooking also gives you a better overview of exactly what you are eating, making it much easier to nutritionally balance your meals out.

Try setting aside a few hours on a Sunday night to prepare some meals for the following week.

Not sure what to cook?

Here are a few meal ideas that are just as tasty when cooked in advance:

  • Spicy braised beef with sweet potatoes and leafy greens
  • Fish pie
  • Lamb tagine
  • Thai fish cakes
  • Baked penne with spinach
  • Steak fajitas
  • Vegetarian chilli
  • Chicken, pepper and olive stew

May – Plan a Trip

Many people underestimate just how important travelling is.

However, taking a trip to somewhere new will remove you from your comfort zone, while broadening your horizons and giving you a sense of adventure. Travelling also enables you to take a look at your life from a different perspective, therefore helping you to make any necessary changes.

Planning a trip does not mean that you have to spend huge amounts of money jetting overseas…

While there is nothing wrong with doing this, simply taking a local day trip to somewhere you have never been before can have the same effect. There is likely to be so much near to you that you have not yet seen, so make the most of all that is out there.

June – Reconnect with Loved Ones

Do you have any old friends, or even family, that you have fallen out of touch with?

Chances are, your answer is yes.

Although you may not realize it, social ties are actually extremely important when it comes to your health…

Research shows that those with strong social bonds live for longer than those without.

Why?

Because social isolation increases the production of stress hormones within the body, which leads to premature aging and, therefore, premature death. 

In fact, a lack of these strong social bonds can damage a person’s health even more than alcohol, smoking, obesity and a lack of exercise.

Reconnecting with loved ones is easy to do, especially thanks to social media. However, make sure that you follow this up with face-to-face visits, as this is the only way to really strengthen your bond.

July – Focus on Sun Protection

July is one of the hottest summer months, which is why now is the perfect time to really focus in on sun protection.

Many people think that this just means using sunscreen, but protecting your skin from the sun goes much further than this…

In addition to using a sunscreen everyday, which you should also be re-applying throughout the day, you should also try to stay away from direct sunlight during the hottest hours of the day, which are usually between 11am and 4pm.

Make sure that your clothing also offers you protection from the sun.

Remember…

If you can see light through a fabric when you hold it up, this means that the sun’s UV rays can also travel through that fabric.

August – A Random Act of Kindness Every Day

Kindness is so underrated, but making the effort to be kind to others not only makes you so much more compassionate, but also gives your health a huge boost.

How?

Kindness does a number of things for your health:

  • Good for the heart
  • Eases anxiety
  • Reduces stress
  • Prevents illness
  • Extends lifespan

Need some ideas for kind acts to carry out?

Everything from picking up litter on your local beach to baking some cookies for the elderly to volunteering at a homeless shelter counts.

September – Cut Back on Alcohol Consumption

There is absolutely nothing wrong with drinking small amounts of alcohol. In fact, this can even have quite a few health benefits.

However, over-consumption of alcohol is becoming quite a widespread problem…

Drinking too much alcohol can lead to:

  • Liver and heart disease
  • Depression
  • Memory loss
  • Hypertension
  • Stroke
  • Certain types of cancer 

Not only will cutting back on alcohol help you to feel so much healthier, but it will also save you quite a bit of money in the long run.

effects of alcohol infographic

Let’s begin with how much alcohol you should be drinking…

14 units a week is the recommended limit, but different alcohols, from beer to wine to spirits, actually vary in how many units they count for, making this quite confusing.

Nevertheless, the key here is to make a healthy change in your life. This means, no matter how much alcohol you may currently drink, you should try to cut back on this.

How can you do that?

Here are a few tips:

  • Don’t stock up on alcohol at home
  • Set alcohol-free days with your friends
  • Rather than drinking alcohol throughout the evening, swap every other alcoholic drink for a soft drink, mocktail or juice
  • Come up with a few delicious non-alcoholic drink recipes, so that you can still have something special when the occasion calls for it
  • When planning to drink, set yourself a limit for the night in advance, and have a friend hold you accountable to this. Come up with a reward for yourself for sticking to your limit, perhaps using the money you have saved on drinks to buy yourself something small but special

October – A Kitchen Cleanse

A common new year’s resolution is to eat healthier, as well as to lose weight.

However, when your kitchen is stocked with chips, sodas and a number of other processed foods, this is such a tough resolution to stick to.

Taking the time to do a kitchen cleanse will really benefit you in so many ways

What exactly is a kitchen cleanse?

It simply consists of you sorting through everything edible that you have in your kitchen. Remove everything that is unhealthy, and then replace these with healthier versions, whether this may be air-popped popcorn, carrot sticks or granola bars. Try to keep your healthy snacks within easy reach, packing some up to place in your car and office as well.

November – Give Meditation a Try

Meditation is something that many scoff at, but actually has numerous benefits:

  • Reduces stress, as well as stress-related conditions, such as PTSD and IBS
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Boosts mental health
  • Extends attention span
  • Increases self-awareness
  • Could potentially help to reduce age-related memory loss
  • Can potentially help to fight addictions

benefits of meditation

Never meditated before?

It does not require anything complicated. There are plenty of tutorials online to help you to get started, and many exercises simply require certain breathing techniques, only taking five to ten minutes to carry out.

December – Schedule in Some “Me Time”

Some people are great at ensuring that they have time for themselves each day, but others find this so much more difficult.

December signals the start of the festive season, which tends to bring with it a diary jam-packed with seasonal events.

It is so easy to find yourself caught up in all of the celebrations at this time of the year that it does not take long for a person to feel stressed out and overwhelmed.

To ensure that you keep your sanity, schedule in a bit of “me time” every day. Even if this is only ten minutes in the morning, make sure that you spend this time doing something that you really love, and that makes you feel good.

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