27 Dec '18
Post-Holiday Detox | Five Healthy and Achievable New Year’s Goals
Start 2019 off on the right foot with these positive lifestyle changes.
It’s that time of year again – New Year’s resolutions time. This is when we take stock of what went well (and what didn’t) over the past year, consider what we could do differently, and assess where we want to be in the future. The decisions you make now affect who you will become, so don’t skimp on this crucial inflection point that comes with the turning of the calendar pages. Here are five accessible and actionable ways you can take your New Year’s resolutions – and your life – to new levels in 2019.
1. Quit Sugar
If you make one change for your health this year, it has to be quitting sugar. Gary Taubes, author of The Case Against Sugar, claims that sugar isn’t just a vice – it’s toxic. Not only does sugar consumption often lead to diabetes and obesity, it also increases your risk of dying from heart disease. The hardest part of quitting sugar is deciding to do it. The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone. Programs like I Quit Sugar and The Sugar Detox will motivate and support you on your journey to a sugar-free life.
Once you clear your cupboards and refrigerator of processed foods containing sugar (and commit to not replacing them), you’ll find that temptations are fewer and farther between. If you’re offered a serving of something sweet, instead of saying, “I can’t eat sugar,” state, “I don’t eat sugar anymore”. Remember: you’re not denying yourself, you’re being good to yourself, protecting your health, and ensuring you face fewer health problems in the future. Depending on which quit-sugar plan you follow, you can still enjoy fresh fruit and may be able to reincorporate a little bit of sweetness, from a square of dark chocolate to a quarter-cup of dried fruit, back into your diet after the initial detox. After a few weeks free from the “white devil,” however, you’ll likely find you don’t even miss it.
2. Establish A Consistent Yoga Practice
It’s called a yoga “practice” for a reason: because you never reach a perfect end point. You have to constantly try, try, and try again. If getting to a yoga studio, or paying for classes, is a strain, it’s time to develop a home practice. This isn’t as daunting as it might sound. All you need is an internet connection, a mat, and perhaps a couple of props. Gaia offers a wide array of home practice videos to stream for a minimal monthly subscription fee. From Rodney Yee’s “Yoga For Beginners” to Ashley Turner’s “Body Sculpt,” there are classes of various lengths for all experience levels. For those who prefer freebies, there are also plenty of yoga class options on YouTube or you can check out yoga DVDs from your local library.
3. Meditate. Every. Day.
By now, we know that meditation is beneficial to both physical and mental health. So why aren’t you doing it more often? The key to reaping meditation’s benefits is to stick with it, no matter what. Block out at least 20 minutes a day (twice a day if you’re able) in a quiet space to simply breathe. While most think of sitting as the “proper” position for meditation, lie down if that’s the only way you can surrender to stillness. Or, if you’re antsy, try walking meditation. The goal isn’t to have a completely clear mind; thoughts will inevitably arise, but your task is to observe them non-judgmentally and let them go. Thoughts during meditation are like inflatables in a parade; just watch them go by without grasping for them. Some meditation sessions will feel blissful; others might be exasperating. But if you keep coming back to your breath, day in and day out, you’ll eventually feel more peaceful overall and will notice your reactions decrease in both frequency and intensity. If you need help to get in your initial meditation groove, try an app like Headspace or check out the work of mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn.
4. Practice Generosity
Giving back is good for you. Volunteering increases self-esteem, lowers stress, and strengthens your connection to your community. Declare 2019 the year you donate yourself to worthy causes. Most of us have more time in our schedules than we’re willing to acknowledge. (Ahem, remember all the time you spend on Instagram this week?) Make a space in your schedule – as little as two hours will do – and dive in. Organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters, UnitedWay, Volunteers of America, and VolunteerMatch can connect you with nearby volunteering opportunities that align with your values and interests. Bonus: many volunteering opportunities get you moving and/or outdoors, benefitting your body, mind, and spirit in addition to the recipients of your good works. You’ll also meet a lot of cool, kind, and compassionate people in the process.
5. Seek Spirituality
Belief in a higher power buoys us from the debilitating effects of despair. There’s a reason religion has been a powerful influence in people’s lives for as long as humans have been alive. Start doing research on different belief systems, from Christianity and Judaism to Buddhism and beyond. Visit houses of worship to see if your beliefs align with fellow followers’. Ask your friends and acquaintances about their faith communities. Your spiritual life doesn’t have to revolve around a particular religion, but it should include rituals and reflection on the meaning of life. Keep an open mind throughout the process and you just might find a place that feels like your spiritual home and meet people who nurture qualities in you that you didn’t even know you had.