The start of a New Year. So much hope, so much promise! Many people have the goal to improve health and fitness in the New Year. But where to start?
These are my top pics for massive health & fitness gains based on personal experience (Lots of scientists agree too). I dare you to give them a try for the New Year!
1. Green Smoothies
Ew, what is that? It looks like moss! Yes you will have to endure comments like these. BUT it is so worth it. Green smoothies are a mix of fruit & greens (spinach, kale, silverbeet etc), blended into a delicious smoothie. Leafy green vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre and may protect you from heart disease, diabetes and cancer (WebMD). The fibre can also aid weight loss as it helps you feel full.
Most people are greens deficient although Blending the greens makes them easier for your body to absorb and combining with fruit makes them taste delicious and fruity (even though they still look green).
“But, but, but… I don’t have enough time!” is a common protest. Never fear, there are ways to streamline this process. Batch it! I make a week’s worth at once and store them in the freezer. This eliminates the cleaning up process each day and you have smoothies on demand.
It will take a couple of hours to do a week’s worth so schedule the time into your calendar in advance to ensure it happens. Make it more enjoyable by listening to an audiobook while you work.
Alternatively, hire someone to make them for you. For close to minimum wage you can hire a student or someone to help you with this. I aim to outsource as many low value tasks as possible. (Consuming smoothies is high value, chopping, washing & blending fruit & greens is not). Spend the time working out or with your family. I recommend making them a few times on your own so you know what you like and can teach others how to do it.
Getting a good blender will also speed things up. I use Sunbeam Café Series Blender ($199).
Breakfast is the best time to have your smoothie as your body will absorb more of the nutrients. Having it at a regular time each day will also help to build the habit.
Love it or hate it, you need to do it! Interestingly those who think they hate it may start to love it once they experience the benefits. Feel better, look better, think better, sleep better – what’s not to love? Even the sweat and physical exertion are enjoyable once you get hooked.
By developing exercise as a habit, you will no longer have to motivate yourself to do it as it will have become a normal part of your life – like getting dressed. Voila! Exercise on autopilot.
Bang for buck, HITT (high intensity interval training) is very effective. You alternate short bursts of high intensity activity, with periods of rest. This requires a reasonable level of fitness though, so if you’re just getting started, opt for something less intense to start with such as walking, jogging or cycling. The most important thing when starting out, is simply to form the habit. Once you have mastered this, you can play around with intensity and different types of exercise to maximise your results.
As with any habit, if you can nail your exercise habit for 1 year, you’ll likely have a habit for life. Definitely worth it, for a lifetime of health and wellness benefits!
3. Increase your (raw) fruit & vege intake
We all know the benefit of fruit & vegetables – nutrient dense and calorie light – they are some of the most healthy foods we can eat.
Consuming a lot of these raw is also beneficial as some nutrients and enzymes are removed when cooking. Personally, around 80% of my diet is raw fruit & vegetables and I absolutely love it. Once your body is accustomed to these foods you will crave the delicious taste and feeling of health and energy they provide.
Start by looking at what you currently eat on a daily basis and assess where you can replace unhealthy snacks and meals with healthful fruit & vege alternatives. Plan your meals and shopping in advance so you have plenty of healthy options and are not tempted by unhealthy alternatives. Keep low nutrient foods out of the house or out of sight and place a fruit bowl in a prominent position in the kitchen.
Recording what you eat on a daily basis can help you monitor what you’re currently eating and track your progress with eating more fruit and vegetables. Your green smoothie habit will also help you here! Each 500 ml smoothie will contain 1 serving fruit, 2 servings greens.
4. Sleep more
This is one I am still working on! Unfortunately I am not one of those people who can fall asleep at will and have had trouble with insomnia in the past as well as becoming dependant on sleeping pills. Do stay away from them! Because I have suffered with this I know how crucial sleep is and how lack of sleep can negatively impact your work, life and relationships.
10 Tips for a better night’s sleep from Harvard Medical School:
– Avoid caffeine 4-6 hours before bedtime. Avoid alcohol and nicotine close to bed time. ,
– Ensuring your bedroom is dark, quiet and cool can help promote slumber. Strengthen the mental association between your bedroom and sleep by keeping computers, TVs and work from the room and only engaging in sleep and sex.
– Have a relaxing pre-sleep routine such as taking a bath, reading a book or doing relaxing exercises.
– Go to sleep when you’re truly tired
– Expose yourself to natural light during the day
– Keep to regular sleep/ wake times to help set your internal clock
– Avoid napping after 5pm and take short naps only.
– Avoid heavy meals shortly before bedtime.
– Balance fluid intake to avoid night time trips to the bathroom.
– Exercise can help you fall asleep faster and more soundly however, ensure you finish at least three hours before bed as it will stimulate you.
Sometimes late nights are a result of ‘forgetting’ to go to bed on time and getting caught up on the computer or doing other things. I used to set an alarm for this as my ‘start getting ready for bed alarm’, half an hour before I wanted to be in bed. This might be helpful for you.
5. Ditch the TV
Free up some time for all your other awesome habits like healthy eating, sleeping more, meditation & exercise. Trust me, after a month or so you won’t miss it. Either cold turkey and turf the evil thing or cut down gradually, the choice is yours. Evil? Depends what you watch I guess. But remember GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out). Become a better more productive you with healthier habits and feed your brain some good food. I haven’t watched TV for at least 7 years and I don’t miss it. Who has time anyway?
“Through meditation and by giving full attention to one thing at a time, we can learn to direct attention where we choose.” Eknath Easwaran
Soo many benefits…. Including reduced stress and blood pressure, improved brain functioning, improved ability to concentrate and focus, improved creativity and clarity, a greater sense of peace and calmness, feelings of happiness and love towards others. It can decrease depression and anxiety and improve self control and productivity (Psychology Today).
As well as these benefits, meditation is a useful tool in the process of habit change. It is always easier to make changes to our lives and routines when we are in a relaxed, peaceful frame of mind than when we are worried, anxious or stressed out. Meditation can also serve to relieve any stress that might arise as you change your habit. During the act of meditation you can solidify your habit change by focusing on a positive phrase, word or affirmation consistent with your habit change.
Some people believe it is a religious practise but it certainly doesn’t have to be. It is simply the practice of focusing the attention on one thing such as a sound, object, visualisation, the breath, movement, or attention itself.
Traditional meditation can be quite difficult at first as our mind is accustomed to jumping all over the place and running at a million miles a minute. Fortunately, there are several audio programs which make meditation easy. These programs automatically put your brain into deep meditative states in a matter of minutes and are safe, fun and easy to use.
I have been meditating for many years using these audio programs and I can attest for all the benefits of meditation described above. It just makes you feel great! I am infinitely calmer, more relaxed, happier, healthier and require less sleep than I did previously. It’s a great pick-me-up after a long day and has the effects of a powernap without the grogginess.
I have used Centerpointe meditation program for a number of years and highly recommend it.
7. Learn to develop new habits
Hmm… have you heard of some of these habits before? Why haven’t you implemented them? Is it because you’re missing the Secret Sauce – ie how to actually develop a new habit? This would be my top pic for 2015 but I’ve left it to the end in case you thought I was biased
By learning how to develop a habit, you can implement any of the above habits + any others you desire.
What are your best health & wellness habits that have helped you? How or why did you form them? Leave a comment below!