10 Ways to Improve Your Health in the New Year

With the New Year fast approaching, it is the perfect time to start to think about our 2020 New Year’s resolutions. Many of us see the new year as the perfect time to start fresh and think about how we can improve our health, change our lifestyle, and, let’s be real, lose weight. In 2018, 45 percent of Americans admitted that health and weight loss goals were among their New Year’s resolutions, but a much smaller percent stuck to these goals. 

To help you stick with your 2020 resolutions, our team of experts collected ten habits that will help you reach your health and fitness goals. Check them out: 

  1. Drink Plenty Of Water

    Water is fundamental for every organ system and every biochemical reaction that takes place in the body.  It helps to flush out toxins, keeps our skin healthy and glowing, and provides lubrication for all of our joints. Despite the health benefits, nearly 50 percent of people do not drink enough water.

    But how do you know if you are drinking enough water to stay hydrated? We advise our patients to aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of water daily. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, then your daily water goal should be 75 ounces. Our patients find that the easiest way to remember to drink water is to carry a reusable water bottle, like a Hydroflask, that they can refill throughout the day and help keep track of their daily ounces. That means, if you carry a 32-ounce bottle and have a 75 ounces per day water goal, then you should be filling it 2.5 times to stay optimally hydrated.

    Don’t forget to consider the quality of your water. If your water does not contain all of the electrolytes your body needs to stay hydrated, you will not receive all the health benefits water can provide. For example, springwater contains high amounts of electrolytes and is a high-quality drinking water choice. 

    Many people have reverse osmosis (RO) water systems in their homes, which are excellent at removing things like bacteria, but they also remove necessary electrolytes. It is crucial that if you drink RO water, you make sure the system adds back in electrolytes, or you are adding in Trace Mineral Drops to your drinking water.

  2. Eat at Home More 

    While exercise is a necessity for staying healthy, studies show that diet accounts for 75 percent of health and weight loss changes. The average American eats out 4 to 5 times a week. Though there are healthy options available at restaurants, eating out makes it a lot harder to keep track of your calories. Often, restaurant meals are much more calorie-dense due to the oils, butter, and sauces used to make the meals taste better. 

    To optimize your health gains, try to limit the number of times you eat out per week to special occasions. And when you eat out, take a look at the menu before going to the restaurant, so you can be better prepared and know what to expect.  

    Instead of opting for takeout, try to make it a ritual to start cooking dinners at home and prepping your lunches for the next day. Studies show that you are more likely to eat healthier when cooking for yourself and are also more likely to eat smaller portion sizes than if eating out. Invest in a fun, healthy cookbook to change things up and make cooking less of a chore. A few healthy cookbooks that our doctors love are Against the Grain and The Minimalist Baker.

  3. Count Colors, Not Calories

    Another great way to become healthier this year, while also helping to shed the pounds, is to count colors, not calories. The most colorful foods available in the grocery store reside in the produce aisle. Fruits and vegetables are not only colorful but are also nutrient-dense and contain fewer calories.  

    Pile your plate high with fruits and vegetables from all different colors of the rainbow to ensure you are getting a diverse supply of vitamins and nutrients. Often, each color is associated with high amounts of a particular vitamin or nutrient found in that food. For example, red foods like bell peppers, tomatoes, and cherries contain high amounts of antioxidants, such as Vitamin A and Vitamin C, whereas, purple and dark blue fruits and vegetables are high in quercetin which helps to decrease inflammation and boost immunity. By adding multiple colors to your plate, you ensure a nutrient-dense and nutrient varied meal.

    You can even try making it a contest between family members to see who can have the most colorful plate. This is a great way to make eating healthy fun for kids and the whole family.

  4. Everything in Moderation

    The easiest way to not be successful at your health goals in the New Year is to cut too much out at one time. Making a healthy diet and lifestyle changes are just that, a lifestyle change, and should be something that should you can manage long term. Removing everything that you enjoy in your diet too quickly can create cravings and negative feelings towards your health goals. And while crash diets can cause you to lose weight fast, they are not sustainable long term. Studies show that crash dieting has caused 40 percent of all people to gain more weight back than their initial weight loss. 

    Instead, follow an 80:20 rule, meaning that 80 percent of your diet throughout the week healthy. This rule allows you a couple of splurges during the week on things that might not be considered “healthy.” Compared to crash dieting, this rule helps you make a healthy lifestyle change that you can stick to, which will lead to more weight loss success and a healthier lifestyle long-term.

  5. Set Aside 30 Minutes a Day for Physical Activity

    Set aside 30 minutes every day to do physical activity. The intensity of the exercise will be different for everyone and can be anything from a half-hour walk to HIIT (high-intensity interval training). What is most important is consistency.  

    Often, we watch patients start with a very intense exercise program because they want to lose weight fast. But much like crash dieting, for most people, this isn’t feasible long-term. Instead, schedule 30-minutes every day on your calendar that you can commit to exercising. By making this a daily routine, working out becomes more enjoyable and as something special for you. And in time, you will find that the intensity of your exercise increases naturally.

    The key is to find something that you love and feels more like a hobby than exercise. This will make your fitness journey fun and exciting, while still allowing you to burn the extra calories. If running on the treadmill is not your thing, then look into fun dance or fitness classes that don’t feel like work. Everybody will be different in the type of exercise that they enjoy. You want to find the one that works best for you.

  6. Go Outside With Friends

    There are so many outdoor activities available this time of year in Arizona. We have beautiful hikes, lakes, and parks and we have incredible weather to go with it. Be intentional about spending a few hours outside each week, and invite your friends to hike or try something new, like paddleboarding, with you. (If you need help, here are some of the best winter hikes in AZ.) Enjoying where we live allows you to get in some healthy exercise, while also getting the added health benefits of nature.

    Sunlight has a wide array of health benefits and can help to improve energy, concentration, mood, and even stimulate healing. We also absorb a large amount of Vitamin D from the sun, which is vital for strong bones and a healthy immune system. Since studies show that 42 percent of us do not have enough Vitamin D, sunlight is crucial if you are not taking a supplement.

  7. Wear Sunscreen Everyday 

    Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. With our beautiful Arizona weather, there is no shortage of sunshine, making it critical that you take the necessary precautions and protect your skin by applying sunscreen daily. Invest in a broad-spectrum sunscreen that contains titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. A broad-spectrum sunscreen will protect you against both UV-A and UV-B rays. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are widely recommended ingredients in the sunscreen world because they provide exceptional sun protection with few health concerns. 

    For those of us who are into anti-aging, sun protection is one of the most significant preventative approaches you can take to prevent wrinkles, sun spots, and premature skin aging. Some of our favorite sunscreens are Neova DNA Damage Control and EltaMD UV Daily Broad-Spectrum

  8. Go Offline

    In an age where it’s typical to be addicted to our phones and the internet, there has never been a better time to set technology boundaries for you and your family. Studies show that the average American spends over three hours staring at a screen EVERY DAY. Computer and phone screens are wreaking havoc on our eyes and body, contributing to symptoms like eye strain, poor vision, headaches, and neck and back pain. 

    Set a goal each day for the maximum amount of screen time and stick to it. Most of our phones have a feature available in the settings that will alert you when you have reached a set amount of screen time for the day. Initially, this boundary means learning to resist the urge to scroll through social media whenever you have downtime. 

    Even just setting a few hours every week to take an “internet vacation” can lead to incredible benefits and lifestyle improvements. For you, this might mean setting a specific time every Sunday to detach from your phones, televisions, email, computers, and whatever other devices. An easy way to keep from missing your technology is by making this quality time with your family, where you do something fun. 

  9. Keep a Gratitude Journal

    There is a lot of research showing the many health benefits of feeling gratitude. Gratitude, or the process of giving thanks, have a positive effect on relationships, mental and physical health, sleep, self-esteem, and mental cognition. The more grateful you are, the more likely you are to take care of yourself and engage in healthy lifestyle choices.

    Establish a routine where every day, you write down three things for which you are grateful. We recommend either first thing in the morning or at night before bed. If you are doing this activity in the morning, then it will start your day with positive thoughts and energy. If you are reflecting on your gratitude at night, then it will set yourself up for a better, more peaceful sleep.  

    Record your daily gratitude thoughts in one place. It can be a simple journal from any grocery store or a more complex journal, specially designed for recording gratitude. Either way, by recognizing all of the things that you are grateful for, you set yourself up for better health and mindfulness.

  10. Set a Bedtime for Yourself

    While most of us have a set time that we have to wake up and go to work each morning, the same rules do not typically apply for the time that we go to bed each night. Studies show that one in three adults are sleep deprived which can contribute to symptoms like fatigue, depression and anxiety, brain fog and memory loss in addition to making you more susceptible to chronic disease, a weak immune system, and injuries.

    Some of the sleep hygiene recommendations we give our patients, include: aim to get seven to nine hours of good quality sleep each night, make sure your bedtime is before midnight, and no screen time for up to an hour before bed. How much sleep you need refers to the number of high-quality sleep and varies depending on the person. 

    The time that we go to bed significantly affects our health because we produce a majority of our hormones at night. The human growth hormone is among these and primarily produced before midnight, during our first two hours of sleep

    Make a nightly routine an hour before your bedtime each night to unwind, destress, and get ready for bed. A lot of our patients turn this routine into a nightly ritual where they will enjoy a cup of “Sleepy Time” tea, journal, or reflect on their day. 

With a new decade approaching, now is the perfect time to start working toward a better and healthier you! We invite you to schedule a free consultation with one of our naturopathic physicians and discuss how we can help get you on the path to succeed at your health goals. By looking holistically at your diet, lifestyle, health history, and symptoms, our patients often feel more healthy and vibrant than ever.