How About a New Year Habit?

It happens every year. People, ourselves included, are talking and planning for their new year, new plans, new resolutions. Some of these resolutions can be multi-step projects. Frankly, it’s too much and often too hard to keep up.

How about doing a new year habit instead? It’s like a resolution but simple. Let’s break it down.

Think of four categories:

· Exercise

· Healthy Eating

· Healthy Mind

· Sleep

Now, pick one category. Then, you’ll pick one habit to improve or start in that area. For example, let’s say you’re consistent with doing regular exercise, but you know you need more sleep. Now that you have your category (sleep), you can pick one habit, like listening to calm music to help you relax and fall asleep … so each night, your new habit is to turn on music while you get ready for bed. That’s it!

Many of my clients have a good sense of what is working well and what needs improvement in their lives. Use your instinct to guide you or ask a trusted friend or family member for their perspective of your strengths and weaknesses in these four categories. Here are some other examples of how you might land on a new habit:

Scenario 1: You know that depression runs in your family and you’ve recently read that “Moving up to an ‘activity volume equivalent to 2.5 hours of brisk walking per week was associated with 25% lower risk of depression…’” You often walk your dog in the evenings, so now you’ve decided to make sure the walk is closer to 30 to 40 minutes each day. On the same topic, perhaps you’ve started reading about how good gut health is linked to lower depression symptoms; so you decide to add a probiotic to your morning routine.

Scenario 2:

You realize that you feel better, fuller when you eat more fruit and veggies, but it can be hard to get that into the evening meal with so many picky eaters at your table. You decide that you’ll take salad for lunch, starting with prepping ingredients on Sunday to make the week easier.

Scenario 3:

You’re always dragging, not enough sleep. But you’ve noticed that as soon as you get your evening shower, you start to feel sleepy. You decide to move up your shower time by an hour to urge your body and mind into an early sleep-time routine.

I’ve also had clients decide to cut sugar from their diet as a new year habit. Some are able to go “cold turkey” and others need to slowly remove the extra sugar from their diet each month. The point is … you probably have a good idea of your strength as well as your personality when it comes to picking a realistic habit. Don’t just “do everything at once,” because you’ll become overwhelmed and just throw up your hands. You want to pick one habit within those categories of exercise, healthy eating, healthy mind, and sleep that fits you.

A Bonus Tip for Picking Your New Year Habit

An additional facet to consider is your genetic tendencies and family history. You’ll notice in some of the examples I give in this and other blogs that genetics or epigenetics play a role in how our bodies handle stress, aging, and sickness. When you have even minimal family health history, like knowing about metabolic syndrome or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you can use this information to decide on new habits. For example, if IBS did run in your family, you might decide to make a new habit around how and when you eat a snack. For people with IBS, frequent snacking can increase IBS symptoms. Eating a more well-rounded snack at a consistent time can satisfy while being less irritating.

The way we live (our habits!) can obviously and sometimes quickly affect our health. These same habits also affect our genes, expressed or not expressed, which can improve or decrease the quality of our health over time. When we improve a habit, we’re directly influencing how quickly or slowly we age.

If you’d like to dig into the research details, here’s just one of many new research papers on the topic of or epigenetics and lifestyle: Stress, diet, exercise: Common environmental factors and their impact on epigenetic age.

To wrap up this blog, the bottom line is that your habits can change your health, and you just have to start with one. If you have any questions, send me a message. I’m here to help.