2020 itself felt like a decade. Despite the year changing over essentially just meaning a new day has arrived it is mentally a period of newness and opportunity for people psychologically.
Many people will make New years resolutions, while these work for some and not others they still give a good idea of laying out goals for a new year.
Such goals can be financial, physical or mental like trying to learn a new language.
Some of these are more in your control than others for example financial planning is good but can go out the window due to unforeseen costs or expenses. However, the more prepared you are for such events to the extent of your ability the better.
Things more in control are health related and although not all problems can be accounted for like unexpected sickness or an accident we can again improve our chances of better outcomes from these situations.
Probably the 3 biggest and most simply (although can be hard to describe as easy for some people) are;
1- Quitting smoking.
It is never too late to quit if you do smoke. A Doctor or Pharmacist is usually a first port of call for this although it can easily be done alone.
The benefits of this single action are numerous and will vastly improve your current and future health and improve outcomes of any other medical incidents or conditions. Within weeks improvements in lung function should be noticeable as well as improvements in sense of taste and smell. Longer term effect may not all be as visible as they will often be a significant reduction in the chances of severe medical problems such as Cardiac events or Cancers from occurring.
Besides this, if you also wanted to improve your financial situation it will directly save you money from buying tobacco products and indirectly through reducing smoking related costs for example missed work days or sickness exacerbated by smoking itself.
There are many products on the market to assist in quitting smoking and range from medically recognized options (patches, gums, lozenges and inhalers) to vapes although in many places these are not recognized or regulated as much as the more medically recognized options and the long term effects of vaping are unknown because of vaping itself and differences in the ingredients that manufacturers may use in their products. For example "food grade" flavors and ingredients are fine for food but it is unknown what effects these have when heated and inhaled.
Options on Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRTs) will vary from person to person and depending on what type of smoker you are. For example, someone who only smokes in the evenings or on their lunch break from work may not benefit from patches that release nicotine over the whole day as a person who smokes throughout the whole day would.
There are also drug based options such as Varenicline (Brand names Include Champix) that reduce cravings but these are prescribed by Doctors and like all medications can have side effects so this would be decided on a risk vs benefit basis.
2 - Dietary Improvements
This can be a hard one for people for various reasons. Money, lack of knowledge on the subject, old habits and many others. Many times processed food can be cheaper and easier to feed families depending where you are from. Other people may not be aware of how often they eat things that they shouldn't or are in somewhat of a denial about it.
At any rate it doesn't need to be all or nothing and most people will benefit from making small changes over time that add up to a big result.
There are easy tips and tricks for this and despite all of the fad diets, promises of 50lbs of fat loss in two weeks (not going to happen) or "fat free recipes" someone bookmarks and never tries, there are easy ways to improve your diet.
- Keep a food diary. This can make an awareness of eating/ snacking habits and reduces the chances of forgetting (sometimes willfully forgetting) how many "treats" someone had in a week. You may notice that when you skip what could have been an otherwise healthy lunch that you end up snacking on unhealthy options as you make dinner etc. It is also helpful to see how much variation you are getting in your diet in terms of protein/carbohydrates/fats and variation in fruits and vegetables. You may have heard to "eat the rainbow" this is where it comes into play.
- Drink more water/ less soda and fruit juices. Most people probably don't drink enough water in a day on the regular and for some people most of their daily fluid intake will come from sodas and fruit juices. Sodas are often just sugar laden drinks that make it easy to pack in empty calories that don't fill you much so it is easier to consume a lot without noticing. By "empty calories" I mean calories from a food or drink that provide no real nutritional benefit besides the calories themselves (ie. no vitamins, protein, or other nutrients). Although we need calories to function, everything from running up the stairs to sitting still and breathing requires calories, an excess of them is the problem. If a significant excess of calories is consumed consistently then the extra energy contained therein can be stored as body fat.
- Most people already know what is "good to eat" and "bad to eat" already so sometimes all they need is a little motivation. Try to get family on board or a friend to join you. You can share recipes and ideas. If you have someone that you feel you have to answer to in a way it can improve compliance with lifestyle improvements. This obviously depends on the person as some will like to keep such things more private and you would need a good support group for such things. It doesn't have to be about "losing weight" it can just be about eating better and feeling better. Anything else is just a bonus.
3 - Exercise
This one will vary greatly depending on people's ability based on age, medical history, facilities available and many other factors but improving is improving. Completely sedentary? Try a walk around the block, once that is easier try two laps or do one lap 20 seconds faster. It is important to ease back into it if it has been a while but a challenge for one person could be a marathon or climbing Mt. Everest and for another it could be climbing two flights of stairs. Any improvement should be lauded and no one should feel bad about the level they are starting from.
Exercise can be anything from walking as I said, to rock climbing, weight lifting, running, yoga and most sports.
Ideally people would combine some sort of cardio and resistance training whether it be cycling and bodyweight circuits (pushups, pullups etc) or running / boxing and weightlifting.
Benefits of exercise will range from improved cardiac (heart) health, improve bone density and decrease risk of fractures, improved balance and improvements in day to day life such as having an easier time if you must run for the bus, lift things around the house or general movements that you may encounter day to day.
This was a super basic post. The idea of it was really to show how small steps can lead to an improvement of overall physical health and well being.
You can try one of these suggestions or all if they are relevant to you. If starting any new exercises or diets it is recommended to speak to a Doctor or qualified professional first especially if you have any health conditions. I don't think any of them will disagree with the idea of stopping smoking at least!
Remember it doesn't have to be all or nothing. If you are eating better most of the time or even just have two days a week of no junk food or soda then you have made a big improvement. Similarly if you can't quite just get to fully quitting smoking then reducing it is still and improvement.
Some people fall into the mindset of "Oh I ate something bad/ had a cigarette/ missed a day's workout, I may as well just restart on Monday". This is the wrong attitude but can be hard to get over. If Monday comes around and the rules are bent again then it will just keep pushing the "Restart date" out and out. If you make a mistake then learn and try to avoid it the next time it happens. Having a treat occasionally is a good thing but they stop being treats if they are all the time.
It's not all or nothing, it's better or worse.
Happy New Years everyone. Hope you enjoyed this post and hopefully it motivates some people into making some changes the improve themselves.
If you like it or have any comments, suggestions of questions drop them below.
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