As we approach the end of another year, many of us are looking ahead to the New Year and setting resolutions or intentions for ourselves. One area that is ripe for change is our health. One great way to set healthy intentions for the New Year is by thinking about what you want to achieve physically, emotionally, and mentally. Maybe you want to lose weight, get in shape, or eat healthier. Perhaps you’d like to reduce stress levels or boost your energy. Here are some tips for setting effective health intentions for the New Year.
. . .
WHY SETTING HEALTH GOALS IS IMPORTANT?
In medicine, we work daily with our patients and set goals we want them to achieve by their next follow-up visit. Setting these realistic goals allow for them to not only be an active participant in their health, but to create daily habits to achieve their optimal level of wellness. Similarly, you can set goals for yourself. Not only can setting health goals help you achieve your objectives, but they can also be a great source of motivation as well as encouragement as you work towards those goals on a daily basis.
HOW TO SET HEALTHY INTENTIONS?
First, you want to identify what it is that you want to change about your health.
Are you experiencing symptoms or do you want to prevent symptoms?
Are you feeling stressed out by the daily grind of life, are you not sleeping well at night, are you looking for an alternative way to manage symptoms of depression?
Do you feel like this is a good time in your life to achieve one of these objectives?
Once you have identified the things that you want to change, it is important to realize that change is a process and nothing will happen overnight. Remembering this can give you the motivation to push through those times when your progress is not as quick as you would like.
SUSTAINABLE, LONG-TERM GOALS
Once you’ve set realistic goals for your health, create small daily habits that can help you achieve your health objectives. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, schedule time each day for exercise and track your food intake. If sleep deprivation is affecting your mood or productivity at work, try to go to bed earlier or take a 20-minute nap during the day so you are more alert.
If you are struggling to stay motivated on your new behaviors, set up some accountability for yourself. For example, if you are trying to lose weight, tell a friend about your goals and ask him or her to check in with you daily on your progress.
Lastly, remember that achieving health goals is not only about the big picture of your overall well-being, but also the little things that we do each and every day. By committing to a health change and creating daily habits that can help you maintain this new behavior, you will be on your way to a happier and healthier 2022!
IMPORTANCE OF EATING HEALTHY & NOT FAD DIETS
Fad diets are common in the new year. Many of these diets can help you lose weight quickly, but it is typically not sustainable and they provide no long-term benefits.
Eating healthy does not mean that you have to go on a strict diet or eat bland food. It simply means that the majority of your foods each day should be fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains (e.g. brown rice or quinoa), lean proteins (e.g. fish, poultry, beans), and healthy fats (e.g. nuts, seeds, olive oil). While you can lose weight on these diets, they are not good for the body long-term since they do not include many of these important foods that contain antioxidants and other important nutrients that help us function optimally.
ARE YOU GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP?
Many times, when we don’t get enough sleep, we find ourselves reaching for a cup of coffee in the morning to wake up our brains and bodies. Or perhaps you have noticed that after a night without much sleep, your mood is less than stellar and you cannot concentrate as well at work.
While sleep is not the only factor in maintaining good moods or optimal energy levels, it plays an important role. Make sure that you are getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night to maintain your health and wellness!
BRAIN HEALTH & EXERCISE – ALSO IMPORTANT FOR YOUR HEALTH
Studies indicate that participating in regular exercise helps prevent dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and mild cognitive impairment. Regular exercise also has benefits for body weight, cardiovascular health, sleep quality, productivity at work, mood disorders (e.g., anxiety and depression), stress management, self-esteem and self-confidence, and the list goes on.
If you are not currently exercising regularly, start by committing to exercising 3-4 times per week for 30 minutes each time. Remember to always speak with your physician before starting any exercise program!
It is also important to note that exercising does not have to be boring or strenuous. Find activities that you enjoy, such as walking, hiking, swimming, biking, yoga or dancing. And if you love a good workout in the gym, make sure you are getting results from all of your hard work!
BONUS: TIPS TO KEEPING YOUR HEALTH OPTIMIZATION GOALS ON TRACK
– Map out your goal and the steps it will take to achieve this goal. Be specific and realistic when you set your health optimization goals so that you can identify what is needed to reach your objective.
– Determine the resources available in order to meet these goals, such as time, money, family support, etc.
– Identify a support system of friends and family who are trying to achieve positive health changes as well. Having this network of people around you will help you stay accountable on your path to optimal health!
– Stay focused and dedicated to these new behaviors by reminding yourself why you made these goals in the first place. Revisit your goal statement often, whether it is printed out and hanging near your computer or written on a notecard in your wallet. Having this daily reminder of why you are taking these steps to improve your health will help motivate you throughout the year and beyond!
– Track your progress and celebrate each success along the way. This does not mean that you need to weigh yourself every day, but rather take note of how you are feeling and how it is easier to stick with your new behaviors.
Health optimization is not an easy task, but by setting your intentions for 2022 now, you are preparing yourself to achieve these goals. So say goodbye to those FAD diets that promise quick weight loss or guilt-free eating habits that leave you feeling deprived. Instead, commit to making healthy lifestyle changes that will improve your health and wellness in the long term and make sure your friends and family are on board with keeping you accountable!
I hope that this article was helpful to you and wish you a very happy, healthy 2022.
Maryland Functional Medicine