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5 Healthy Habits to Adopt for the New Year

5 Healthy Habits to Adopt for the New Year

By Beth Battaglino, RN-C, CEO of HealthyWomen

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Happy New Year! It bears repeating, because a new year always offers an opportunity to reflect on the past and set intentions for a fresh start. And even if you're not in need of a complete fresh start, then it can't hurt to find some new healthy habits to incorporate into the New Year. They're free. They're simple. And, after a while, they will become automatic.

Here are some most of us could use.

  1. Turn off the noise. It's no wonder that more people are saying no to noise. We are over-connected, constantly bombarded with all sorts of information. Good news or bad, it doesn't matter. It all adds up to feeling overstimulated and stressed. Try stashing your phone in a drawer for a few hours, instituting a "no TV night" (or week or month!) or sitting quietly and meditating without any outside distractions. Calm goes a long way toward a better, healthier mind and body. Last year, Mandarin Oriental launched a Digital Detox initiative at all of its spas to "help guests find new ways to manage their relationship with technology and the stress that can come with a constantly connected digital lifestyle."
  2. Get enough sleep. It's vital for both your physical and mental health. Yet so many of us—more than a third of Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—are sleep-deprived, leading to depression, weight gain and heart disease. Although individual needs vary, most adults need between seven and nine hours a night.
  3. Stay well hydrated. Water is essential for health because it helps to hydrate your cells and organs—including the brain. (Interesting fact: About three-fourths of the brain is made up of water.) And since you're constantly losing water through natural means—not only through the obvious, perspiration and urinary output—but also through stress, environmental temperatures, diet and medications, you need to be sure to replenish it and not become dehydrated. The Institute of Medicine suggests adults get a daily total of 91 ounces of general fluid per day. Keep in mind that it's not only pure water that counts toward your hydration needs: so do coffee, tea and many foods (apples, cucumbers and watermelon are just a few that are especially high in water content).
  4. Move more. It's easy to become sedentary, without even realizing it. Think about all those continuous hours that potentially involve sitting or lying down—commuting, working, watching TV and sleeping. Sitting too much can cause back pain, contribute to weak abdominal muscles, cause poor leg circulation, create a foggy brain and even contribute to poor insulin response. If you must sit often, do it right: with shoulders relaxed and arms close to your sides, your lower back supported and feet flat on the floor. And get up and walk around every hour or so. Set a timer to remind you. Your body will thank you.
  5. Chew slowly. Have you ever noticed that it's usually the thinnest people who eat the slowest? Most Americans eat too quickly and, with this, comes taking in too many calories before we realize what we've consumed. Remember, it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register that your stomach is full. Research shows that overweight men and women consume fewer calories when they ate more slowly. Slowing down also helps you enjoy and savor your food.