A New Year often heralds the promise of a new start, providing us with an opportunity to take a moment to sit back and take a fresh look at what we would like to achieve in the brand new year ahead.
It usually involves a resolution or two around self-improvement, a health choice, whether this is losing weight, getting fitter, or taking more time to ourselves – all great ambitions.
But it’s estimated that 36% of us give up on our resolutions within the first month, and after six months over 50% have given up.
Here are our top ten tips to start you on the right path:
Find out your BMI
BMI is your body weight in kilograms divided by the square of your height in metres. A BMI of 25-30 is considered overweight and a BMI of greater than 30 is classified as obese. Your doctor can discuss your BMI with you and advise on steps to maintain a healthy balance.
Watch your alcohol intake
Healthy alcohol consumption is less than 14 units of alcohol per week for women and men (with no more than 3 units on any day). As a guide, one pint of ordinary-strength beer is 2 units; one small pub measure of spirit is 1 unit; and one small glass of ordinary-strength wine is 1.5 units.
Smoking damages the lungs and cardiovascular system and significantly increases your risk of developing cancers. Stopping completely is the only way to avoid these risks.
Get your five a day
Check to see that you get the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables per day. Plan your week day meals in advance and take salads and nutritious snacks with you to work, which will both save you money as well as contributing to your five portions.
Watch your saturated fat intake
Is your saturated fat intake too high? Everybody needs essential fats to remain well, but try to avoid dairy product fats and meat fats. Stick to vegetable and fish fats/oils wherever possible, and check the nutritional information on labels during your weekly shop.
Pay attention to your muscle tone and posture to help prevent bone and joint problems. Strong muscles and tendons promote healthy joints. Do some light resistance training for 15 minutes each day of the week and cover all the major muscle groups, including legs, arms, buttocks and back. Try cycling with light resistance, lifting light arm weights and back extensions/sit-ups (provided you do not have existing injuries or other medical problems).
Make time to relax
Make time for proper mental relaxation each day. Consider disciplines such as meditation or yoga, or simply take a gentle walk.
Raisin meditation mindfulness exercise
Before you begin, find a quiet spot where you can sit down and relax. You might find taking a few deep breaths will help you loosen the body and bring your mind to your practise. Once you’re comfy, pick up the raisin and hold it in your hand.
- LOOK at the raisin. Really concentrate. Let your eyes roam over the fruit and pick out all the details– the colour, areas of light and shade, any ridges or shine. Before moving on, you might want to close your eyes, as this can heighten your other senses and help you focus.
- TOUCH the raisin. Feel its smallness in your palm. Explore the raisin’s texture with your fingers. Is the skin waxy? Are there any edges? It is soft or hard?
- SMELL the raisin. Bring it close to your nose and with your deep inhalations and exhalations, concentrate on any scents and fragrances you can detect. Does it smell sweet? Or perhaps earthy? Has this triggered your taste buds or made your tummy grumble?
- TASTE the raisin. Place it in your mouth, noticing how your hand instinctively knows where to go. Don’t chew yet, just spend some time concentrating on how the raisin feels on your tongue. Turn it over in your mouth and feel it’s texture on the roof of your mouth. Take one or two bites into the fruit, without swallowing it yet. Fix your mind on the sensations just released into your mouth. How does it taste? How does this develop as the moments pass? How has the raisin changed? Do the smaller pieces of fruit feel different?
- HEAR the sounds you make as you chew it and swallow. Notice When you have really explored the sensation of the raisin in your mouth, notice your intention to swallow it and then follow with the physical action. If you can, track the sensation of the raisin going into your tummy. Now take a moment to notice how your whole body feels. When you are ready, start to awaken your mind. You might want to move the hands and feet a little, slowly open your eyes and take a few deep breaths. With the meditation exercise now complete, you can carry on with your day when you’re ready – there’s no hurry.
Sleep is an essential part of mental and physical healing, so make sure you get enough. Deep uninterrupted sleep is required, and most adults need between six and eight hours a day. Look for ways to turn your mind off before you go to bed at night, such as listening to music or reading a book, instead of switching immediately from working to attempting to get some sleep.
Evaluate your lifestyle
Make changes to your lifestyle to give you more relaxation time and space to work on your mental and physical health.