New Year, New ______!

What do YOU want to focus on in the New Year?

As the year unfolds, it is crystal clear that setting new goals has more than ever become a necessity. It’s not just about wanting more from life, but importantly about becoming a happier, healthier version of ourselves, capable of doing all that we want to do and all that the Lord has for us! This year, dare to create goals that are in line with who you want to become. The new year has gifted you the chance to start anew, to redefine your boundaries, and it’s up to you to take charge and do it! Draw the blueprint of your life, fill it with goals that make you happier, healthier, and more fulfilled – goals that benefit you the most. Here’s to chasing after all that God has for us in 2024 and to becoming our most fulfilled and most resilient selves!

If you do a quick Google search, you’ll see this list of “top New Year’s resolutions”…

  1. Exercise more
  2. Lose weight
  3. Get organized
  4. Learn a new skill or hobby
  5. Live life to the fullest
  6. Save more money / spend less money
  7. Quit smoking
  8. Spend more time with family and friends
  9. Travel more
  10. Read more

Mindset: Stress Less in the New Year & Create a Routine That Works For YOU!

As we step into the refreshing realm of the New Year, it’s essential to establish a commitment to stressing less. The key lies in recognizing that stress, to some extent, serves a purpose; it propels us, motivates us, steers us. However, excessive or chronic stress disrupts our equilibrium, harms our physical health, and disrupts our emotional balance. Therefore, maintaining a healthy stress level, and keeping our minds and bodies resilient, becomes pivotal.

Moreover, establish solid routines that cultivate peace and harmony in your daily life. This can include exercise, a balanced diet, enough sleep, regular relaxation, and meditation or mindfulness practices. Remember, the goal is not to eliminate stress entirely but to invite it in a healthy, manageable way. Each breath you draw, every step you take this New Year, let it underline your newfound commitment to less stress, more joy and an abundance of peace. As you work on moving toward your goals and building healthy habits each day, here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Skipping an intermediate task is not a complete failure.
  2. Missing a goal by 10% or even 80% is not a complete failure.
  3. Finishing a task late is not a complete failure.

Healthy Weight

You have probably always been told that if you lose weight, you will get healthy. However, the reality is that if you get healthy, you will lose weight. By now, you have probably figured out that excess body weight is not a result of lack of character or willpower. Nor is it simply a matter of calories in vs. calories out. Stress is the biggest enemy in your fight to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.

Under stress, the adrenal glands release the stress hormone cortisol – one of cortisol’s jobs is to convert the glycogen stores in the liver and muscle back into blood sugar. Consequently, there is an accumulation of blood sugar that, due to chronic stress, is too prevalent, has to go somewhere and therefore ends up in your body’s fat cells. Under chronic stress, your blood sugar levels are comparable to drinking five to six sodas every single day.

Regular movement kickstarts your metabolism, helping to burn excess calories, while intense interval training increases the body’s production of human growth hormone. This improves metabolism, regulates hormones, and promotes youthfulness and longevity at the cellular level.

Arguably, one of the most important factors pertaining to weight management is gut health. This is because good bacteria in the gut can effectively break down complex carbohydrates, meaning that the body is able to burn fat as fuel. Additionally, a healthy gut is key in balancing your hormones, specifically cortisol, leptin and insulin. Without a healthy gut, excessive weight gain occurs, and calories are stored as fat.

Healthy Sleep

Sleeping is the time where your body can maximize rest and recovery. Furthermore, not only can a lack of sleep cause grogginess the next day, but chronic sleep issues can lead to depression, insomnia and can make aches or pains even worse. To avoid burnout from encroaching on overall optimal health, we need to remember to add adequate rest and sleep to our lifestyle.

Research has shown that a good night’s sleep will help keep you mentally sharp, but can also help you stay healthy by strengthening your immune system. Evidence indicates that sleep plays a major role in supporting the healing process and regulating your body’s immune system. Your immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues and organs that protect your body from disease, so keeping that system functioning at its highest level is very important to the body’s overall health and wellness.

Staying up late one night usually only results in feeling a little tired the next day, but when this happens day after day, it can really start to negatively affect your life. Practicing a relaxing nighttime ritual, such as powering down your electronics and reading a book, can help prepare your body for a good night’s sleep. Don’t forget about the TV – while some people like to sleep with the TV on, researchers have found that minimizing background noise can actually help your brain get more rest.

Helpful Tips:

  • Get up at the same time each day and avoid the temptation to wake up early or sleep late, especially on weekends or holidays.
  • Avoid daytime naps.
  • Eat a healthy diet and avoid food substances that affect serotonin levels, such as chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol.
  • Exercise during the day to reduce stress levels, which is conducive to better sleep.

Mindful Eating

It is so important to be in a parasympathetic state before eating. Being in a parasympathetic state means our nervous system is in the “rest and digest” mode versus the sympathetic “fight or flight” mode. For food to be properly digested and absorbed, we need to be relaxed.

Helpful Tips:

  • Avoid eating on the run or while driving.
  • Turn off electronics; reading something stressful during a meal is a bad idea.
  • Take in the sight and smell of your meal. Digestion starts in the brain.
  • Feel gratitude for your food, say a short prayer or do a short meditation.
  • Gently massage the area just behind and below your earlobes. This helps stimulate the vagus nerve and sends signals throughout the digestive system.
  • Chew slowly and try to chew each bite 25-30 times, making sure the food has been liquified before swallowing.

Your nutritional needs will differ from others. But I think we can all agree that it’s time to toss out the Standard American Diet (SAD) food pyramid and return to our traditional eating habits. So many foods that are eaten these days are highly inflammatory and wreak havoc on our gut and immune health, affecting every system of the body. Ultimately, we are damaging and starving our cells of nutrients. We should be counting nutrients, not calories. Most diets only focus on “calories in/calories out.” They tell you to eat fewer calories and move more. This is somewhat akin to asking a racecar driver to drive faster on less fuel!

“The food we eat is building health OR feeding disease.”

Consistent Movement

Exercise creates BDNF – brain derived neurotropic factor – which is basically fertilizer for the brain. This helps you think more clearly and rationally. Exercise increases the production of serotonin – the “happy hormone”! Last year, researchers at the University of Texas Medical Center recommended that all doctors treat patients with depression with an exercise protocol because of its effectiveness in battling depressive episodes. Amongst the many physical benefits that exercise offers, it is also great for the health of your brain — so, now that you know a few more reasons why it is beneficial to exercise often, you have to ask yourself how you will do that. You must first assess your current fitness level, your fitness goals and then craft a routine that will best serve you (e.g. go on a quick walk with your family after dinner). Start low and progress slowly — work on building activity into your current daily routine wherever you can. Most importantly… monitor your progress! Listen to your body, rest, refuel and be flexible.

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