When New Year’s arrives, we often think of resolutions. Especially this year, a key resolution is maintaining our physical and mental health. As we move into the new year, I will focus on five pillars of preventive health and good health maintenance. These essential building blocks to feeling well and keeping our spirits up include:
- Healthy eating
- Exposure to natural or artificial light
- Developing and sustaining resilience
Losing weight is top of mind for most people on January. While we focus on healthy eating, which is critical, a key component is developing a lifestyle that includes sustained movement. Exercise has long been associated with more than keeping fit. Exercise is essential to mental health and is an important part of lifting one’s mood, especially during the dark days of winter.
Many gyms offer specials at this time of year, and that may be a good option if you are fully vaccinated. However, if going to the gym feels uncomfortable, there are other ways to get moving. Despite popular opinion, exercise does not have to be strenuous or lengthy to be beneficial. If you are daunted by the prospect of 45-90 minutes of exercise several times a week, it is useful to remember that even 10 minutes of walking a day can help elevate your heart rate and your mood. Daily exercise can also encourage you to eat better (remembering our bodies were created to eat when we are hungry and stop when we are full). An exercise video, online yoga class, or even a pair of tennis shoes and a warm coat are easy ways to get started. If the cold is a deterrent, keep in mind that there is no such thing as “too cold,” just under-dressed” Put on a few extra layers, a down coat, and your earbuds, and get outside. Of course, if you prefer to stay cozy indoors, you can participate in an online exercise class or simply put on YouTube and dance.
For many people, the problem with exercise is not how to start—the bigger issue is how to stay motivated and stick with it. Ways to stay motivated include varying your routine, congratulating yourself for your efforts (regardless of whether they are big or small), and recognizing that every time we move we are taking a step forward.
Frequently we have a hard time getting ourselves to do the things that we know are good for us. If you find yourself in this category, it may be useful to consider individual or group counseling to get rid of the blocks that keep you from taking the best care of yourself.
Another motivating factor is reminding ourselves that exercise allows us to take control over a piece of our lives. However, taking the first step, both literally and figuratively, can go a long way to maintaining good health and a positive outlook. Happy New Year!