After the confetti settles and your holiday accoutrement is put away, it’s a perfect time to push pause, take a moment to reflect and consider ways to improve your health and wellness in the new year.
Looking for some inspiration? Here are six resolutions to help you boost your health and wellness in 2019.
1. Go to the doctor
This may be an unexpected New Year’s resolution, but hear us out. A recent study showed that 44% of Americans have not visited their primary care physician in the last year. Some of the top reasons Americans avoid the doctor include not wanting to spend money, thinking nothing is wrong with them, the hassle of scheduling appointments, fear over what they might be told, and preference for self-diagnosing using websites like WebMD.1
If it’s been a while since you’ve visited your doctor, we urge you to resolve to set an appointment as soon as possible. Seeing your primary care physician at least once a year helps you keep up with preventative checks (like blood pressure and cholesterol), as well as stay current on your vaccinations.
Plus, if your Washington National supplemental health insurance policy includes benefits for doctor office wellness visits, now’s the perfect time to take advantage of this valuable benefit! After reviewing your risk factors, your doctor can help you develop a plan to help improve or maintain your health.
2. Develop an exercise regimen…that you can actually maintain
You probably aren’t surprised to hear that the No. 1 New Year’s resolution is to lose weight.2 As a result, every January, gyms everywhere bulk up with new members who are looking to shed a few pounds. Yet despite good intentions, statistics show that anywhere from 80% to 90% of people who join gyms in January typically quit going within five months.3
So how can you develop an exercise regimen with staying power? Our first tip is to start slow with small goals. Not only will starting slow help you avoid sore muscles and injuries that come along with a full-blown workout, but it will help you avoid the burnout that often comes with jumping into something too quickly.
Studies show that simply walking or cycling just three times a week can improve your heart health while also boosting your brain health, helping reduce your risk of both heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease with results after just six months.4
Our second tip for developing an exercise regimen you can maintain is to make it fun. If running on a treadmill every day for an hour sounds like torture, find a new way to exercise that you can look forward to. Whether it’s swimming, taking a dance class or hiking nature trails, you’re more likely to exercise if you have fun while doing it.
3. Adopt healthy eating habits
Dieting is another popular New Year’s resolution—and people often start the year with a crash diet that helps them lose the weight, fast. However, studies show that rapidly losing a lot of weight can result in a weakened immune system, dehydration, and cardiac stress.5 And oftentimes, the weight creeps back after the crash diet ends.
Rather than crash dieting, why not adopt healthy eating habits that you can practice for the entire year and beyond? The Centers for Disease Control6 recommends staying within your daily caloric needs and emphasizing:
- Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy.
- Lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts.
- Foods that are low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars.
4. Drink more water
One of the easiest ways to improve your health and wellness is by simply drinking more water. Here are just a few of the many reasons your body needs water:7
- It lubricates your joints.
- It delivers oxygen to your body.
- It cushions your brain and spinal cord.
- It regulates your body temperature.
- It flushes body waste.
- It helps maintain your blood pressure.
- It makes minerals and nutrients accessible.
- It prevents kidney damage.
- It helps with weight loss.
- It keeps your skin healthy and youthful.
So how much H2O should you be drinking? That varies from person to person, but according to the Mayo Clinic, the old adage to “Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day,” is a reasonable goal.8 If you struggle with hydrating enough, consider getting a motivational water bottle that reminds you to sip your way through the day.
5. Sleep more and sleep better
Professionals say adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep per night, yet a recent sleep index conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that 40% of Americans are getting six hours of sleep or less per night.9 And there are many health, safety and mental wellness issues that can arise from sleep deprivation.
Headaches, fogginess, moodiness, inability to concentrate, impaired job performance, inability to drive safely, high blood pressure, heart disease, and a suppressed immune system are just a few issues associated with lack of sleep. A recent study even found a link between sleep deprivation and Alzheimer’s disease.10
So how can you catch more Zzzs at night? Here are some simple ways to improve your sleep habits:11
- Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake time every day.
- Exercise regularly, but not too late in the day.
- Ensure your bedroom is quiet, dark and maintains a temperature between 60 and 67 degrees.
- Sleep on a comfortable and supportive mattress and pillows.
- Avoid blue light exposure before bed from your phone, TV, computer, and tablet.
- Don’t consume caffeine within six hours of bedtime.
- Avoid alcohol.
- Avoid eating before bed.
- Relax and clear your mind in the evening.
- Talk to your doctor to rule out a sleep disorder and discuss supplements that may help.
6. Reduce your stress
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, 60% to 80% of all primary care doctor visits have a stress-related component.12 Frequent stress can put your health at risk, causing headaches, insomnia, heartburn, a weakened immune system, risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, fertility issues, stomach ache and more.13
Practicing effective stress management will help you feel happier, healthier and more productive, and the first step in the right direction is identifying the sources of stress in your life. One way to identify your stressors is to start a stress journal in which you document: what causes your stress, how it makes you feel physically and emotionally, how you act in response, and what you do to make yourself feel better.14 Once you’re able to identify what causes you stress, you can begin to increase your resistance to stress.
For a great resource on managing stress, check out HelpGuide.org.
Small changes = big benefits
Are you feeling inspired to make changes that will help boost your health and wellness in 2019? If your Washington National policy includes membership to Health AdvocateSM, let their Wellness Coaches guide you along the way. they are available via telephone, email or secure web messaging. Learn more about Health Advocate here: https://members.healthadvocate.com/home