Happy Little New Year Everyone!
I don’t know about you, but September always feels like the start of a new year to me. A little “new beginning”. The start of the school year for sure, but also a time to put away summer activities and start new ones for the fall and winter months. A seasonal transition like this is a natural time to make changes in one’s health routine and I admit I go a little wild with plans for improvements. Fall is often so busy with new activities and demands, not to mention the holidays, that I often end up flailing around in my efforts to stay afloat and I lose sight of my perhaps-too-big goals. So this “new” year I am planning to go for the low hanging fruit and simply re-commit to some of the tiny positive health resolutions that have slipped a bit over the summer months.
These are the ones I am working on right now:
Spending less time in a chair/spending more time on the ground. The ability to get up from the floor is generally seen as a good indicator of hip health. Cultures that spend much of their sitting/sleeping time on the floor versus a chair have very low rates of hip and low back issues. My place mat is out, and a yoga cushion is within easy reach. So I’m on the floor not only when I read, but also when I’m having breakfast and lunch at the coffee table. Easy Peasy. The only difficulty is that my steak and eggs are now tantalizingly close to the dog’s nose.
Not bringing sugar home. This requires NOT doing something and is really very simple. One cannot eat what isn’t there. The only thing that is a challenge is running the gauntlet of the grocery store check out. Why am I always in the line with the rack of Fran’s chocolates? Our biology is working against us here, as the grocery store owners are well aware. There is a dopamine surge in the brain as soon as the eyes land on the candy. And then the brain starts to wear you down. “Those were good, you should buy some,” it says. “Ok, fine, not the chocolate, but what about ice cream with fruit? That’s more healthy, right?” (My brain sooooo knows me). Turning the volume down on this little voice takes a bit of creativity. My current tactic is to make eye contact with someone, and engage in a little human interaction. This brings its own cascade of “good feeling” hormones. Ha! Double win.
10 minutes a day for Mobility. The body needs attention daily to keep all the tissues healthy and happy. Especially after an active day or a non-active day in front of the screen or in a car. This is where one good habit begets another. The time between dinner clean-up and bed is when I read on the floor (see above). I’m already there and my mobility tools are within reach. As a runner, I start with my feet. I can even read while I roll. Pretty simple.
Getting higher quality sleep. This one is a no-brainer. The solution is a magical substance called decaf. Caffeine, I’ve recently learned via author Michael Pollan, has an amazingly long half-life and quarter-life. Twelve hours after it is consumed 25% is still in the body. Caffeine interferes with sleep quality. Not with REM sleep when we dream, but with the deeper “slow wave” sleep that is so important for mental and physical health. If abstaining from coffee altogether is not an option, (it’s not, I love coffee) then switching to decaf after my first cup is a super super easy way to get better quality sleep.
Perhaps you too have a healthy habit that has wriggled away lately, such as drinking more water during the day, keeping a consistent bed-time, or taking a regular walk after dinner. It’s worth making a re-resolution now as super small changes like these can bring big benefits over time.
-Coach Shannon, EverBetterLife.net