Does the holiday season have you running in circles? Are you already planning those New Year resolutions? Work out more, eat better, lose weight, get stronger? Well here are five (relatively) simple things you can incorporate into your daily life to get you through the next couple of weeks (and the New Year)!
Oh, that feeling of joy that comes from a good sweat! A single bout of aerobic exercise improves executive function, enhances mood, and decreases stress levels! It’s well known that exercise also has an antidepressant effect. Research shows that physical activity not only boosts your fitness and energy levels but can also elevate your moods. In addition, exercise has been found to reduce anger, tension, fatigue, and confusion. Despite the many demands on your time, this is not the season to stop exercising. Physical exercise is healthy for the brain. Rigorous physical activity of any kind pumps up production of endorphins, your body’s feel-good neurotransmitters. If you exercise to the point that you get a good sweat – even a bit flush in the face – it is likely that you are sufficiently exerting yourself. Hereby the process to grow new brain cells is kicking in. Get your sweat ON and help your brain work better- and then chill out!
Eat REAL food
Inevitably, at this time of year, you’ll be tempted with sugary, empty-calorie “treats” just about wherever you go. This can lead to blood sugar spikes and energy crashes! But to be your most energetic, focused and happy self, it’s best to eat foods that grow on trees or on the ground (vegetables and fruits) and to choose healthy fats (such as olive oil, avocado), lean protein (such as fish and organic chicken) and legumes, nuts and seeds. Another big tip: Portion control! It’s okay to indulge in “comfort” foods and drinks, just be mindful of the amount you are consuming. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a healthy snack and drink some water BEFORE going to that holiday party or activity, so you already feel full, and will be less likely to overdo it!
Quieting the mind can be challenging – especially at this time of year. It takes practice, but now is as good a time as any to start! A quick meditation or breathing session can genuinely happen anywhere. Focus on your breath for just 60 seconds to start. Notice how you feel. Just that one minute of slowing down and focusing on a long slow inhale and a mindful exhale can lower your heart rate and reduce tension within your body. Set a reminder on your phone or computer for a time that will be convenient, and when it sounds, do nothing but breathe for a full minute. Close your eyes if you can and try to think only about each exhalation and inhalation, making them as deep and even as possible. Slowing down to take conscious breaths also will help your body with digestion- Bonus!
Get out in Nature
Get outside! Fresh air and the calming healing effects of being out in nature is often overlooked and under-appreciated. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, but it also contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. Henry David Thoreau spent two years secluded in the woods of Massachusetts while writing Walden, his classic meditation on life and nature. Even in 1845, Thoreau sensed that the forest, or any other outdoor setting, can quiet the mind and improve your health. More than a century and a half later, there is plenty of science on the healing power of nature to back him up. Unplugging from daily life and getting outdoors allows you to focus on the now. At its essence, connecting with nature encourages you to be in the present moment, to quiet your mind and take in the sights, sounds, and smells that surround you. Time in nature increases our ability to pay attention. This also provides a respite for our overactive minds, refreshing us for new tasks. For those thinking “how do I have time for all of this during the holiday season,”- try exercising outdoors!
Hydration is often overlooked during the holiday, and especially for those in a colder climate. Alcohol and holidays seem to go hand in hand.
Alcohol is a diuretic: it makes you urinate more frequently and expel liquids from your body before they are ready to go. Drinking alcohol on airplanes is especially dehydrating. “For every glass of alcohol you drink,” “drink a glass of water.” Grab water-rich foods like berries, pineapple, cucumbers, and watermelon for easy hydration, especially along with water-rich breakfasts like oatmeal. If you’re on the road this holiday season, readily available fruits like pineapples, bananas, and avocados are safer to eat in countries without filtered tap water, and they pack in a lot of potassium, which enables better longer-lasting hydration. Tea and soup are other nice options for healthier fluid intake and hydration.
Lastly, take the time to enjoy friends and family. Relaxing with the ones you love can be one of the biggest health boosts of all!
Amy’s articles can be found in surf magazines and health & wellness periodicals. She is a nutrition specialist and fitness trainer. For more information, to work with Amy one on one, remotely or locally, contact her at [email protected] You can also follow her on Instagram @amyfield1 to be the first to hear of exciting upcoming events in the New Year!