10 healthy habits: Have a hearty kick-start to the New Year!

healthy habits

Last Updated October 20th, 2019

It’s about time you started committing to your resolutions

The beginning of every New Year is marked by a majority of us making resolutions, mostly related to health and overall fitness. But the by the time the first week of January gets over, we see our commitment to these failing and us returning to the same old unhealthy lifestyle practices. One big reason could be is that we set unrealistic goals for ourselves and believe that as the clock strikes midnight, we are going to magically change.

But habits don’t change as easily as dates on a calendar. Our psychology and behavioral patterns are incapable of changing overnight. And since people find it hard to accomplish this impossible task of sudden change, they resort back to their old, comfortable habits.

Why not reverse this trend?

Instead of focusing on big goals such as losing 20 pounds or giving up smoking, let us start with basic healthy habits. Tiny, but significant changes that have potential to metamorphose your body within months.Habits are hard to form, and harder to get rid of. Try gradually incorporating these habits into your daily life. Try to be gentle, but consistent. And thank us when the year gets over.

1. Stay hydrated

This sounds like the most overstated advice ever. Nevertheless drinking more water should be your top health priority. But why is that health magazine, every dietician and nutritionist, your parents, and basically the entire world keeps telling you to drink more water?Here’s why.

Firstly, your body is 60% water by weight. Every organ, muscle, tissue, and cell has water as its prime ingredient.Every single bodily function, be it cellular level metabolism or higher level cognition – the efficiency of every function hinges on your body’s net hydration level.Secondly, your brain which is basically the most intelligent entity ever known humankind requires proper hydration to function effectively.

So a glass of water of two, consumed every now and then will not only make you much smarter and focussed, but also improve your mood and memory.Thirdly, a well-hydrated body is much better at getting rid of toxins and wastes; a function that goes a long way in building your immunity and keeping you disease free. Not to mention, drinking an adequate amount of water in the long run aids digestion and promotes weight loss.

Handy tip

Keep a bottle of water at your workplace. Keep sipping it throughout the day. If you find the taste too bland, add in few slices of citrus fruits to enhance flavor and your daily dose of Vit-C. Drinking water when hungry will keep you satiated. If you are trying to lose weight, drink a glass of water before every meal. It will prevent you from over-eating.

2. Lesser preservatives; more fresh food

What are preservatives? Any substance that is used to keep your food microbe-free and prevents it from spoilage is a preservative. It basically increases the shelf life of your packaged goods.

Sometimes it enhances the flavor and appearance of the edible item. So how can something that is used to keep your food free of bacteria, virus, and fungi can be detrimental to your health? Here’s how.

Many artificial preservatives are safe for consumption such as the Ascorbic acid (a form of vitamin C that acts as an effective anti-oxidant) or Nisin (a naturally occurring product with strong anti-bacterial properties used in fish and poultry preservation). But a majority of these preservatives cause health damages and are thus deemed unsafe for consumption. Yet, there is an indiscriminate use of these chemicals in a diverse array of packaged goods that you and your family might be consuming.

For instance, popular preservatives such as sulfites, Aspartame (a widely used sugar substitute), and benzoates can trigger asthma attacks. The following is a list of hazardous chemicals present in your everyday food:

  • Red Dye #2 – Carcinogen
  • Blue #1 & #2 – Chromosomal damage (Banned in several European countries)
  • Red Dye # 3– Cancer, Chromosomal changes, thyroid malfunction
  • HFCS – High Fructose Corn Syrup – Obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
  • Sulfur Dioxide – Hypotension, anaphylactic shock, rapid palpitations

Though the list is not limited to these, you get the gist that how preservatives can expose you to a host of diseases.

Handy tip

Consider buying less of items which come packaged. More of fresh produce of fruits and vegetables should dominate your diet. Minimize the consumption of anything that comes in a fancy wrapping. A simple rule: if there is an advertisement for a food, it is probably not a healthy item to consume. 

3. Be wary of emotional eating

Who amongst us wouldn’t want to sit back and enjoy the luxury of Mac& Cheese or a bowl of ice-cream at the end of a tiring day? Of course, after a day riddled with stress and hard-work, you do deserve the comfort of good food. But this very habit of finding comfort or happiness through food will soon make you (or might have already made you) a victim of emotional eating.

This habit is characterized by an individual trying to find emotional gratification through foodAnd the kind of food which makes a person “happy” is almost always heavily laced with sugar and unhealthy fats.

This is because eating such sugary and fatty items result in the release of opioids in our brains, the same chemical which gives heroin and cocaine addicts the “high”. Many of us seek that surge of “feel-good” hormones through food since we are lacking it in other aspects of life. One big reason could be that we are culturally taught to be in denial of actual emotional problems.

We try to distract ourselves through food or other merriment. Be it due to lack of awareness (that you are eating food just because it’s in front of you) or negative body image – there are a lot of reasons aiding emotional eating.

Handy tip

Be mentally aware of your eating habits. Practice gradual but persistent self-control when it comes to food. Instead of giving in to the emotional attraction to delicious foods, try to work on your issues first. Refrain from keeping large gaps between meals.  Manage stress in a healthy manner. Meditate, relax, and practice good sleeping habits to get over emotional eating.

4. 10,000 steps every day

In the 1960s, the Japanese came up with a pedometer device “manpo-kei” which roughly translates to 10,000 steps. On an average, people don’t traverse more than 4000-5000 steps a day, which is half of how much we should be moving. Physical inactivity is one of the leading causes behind the surge of chronic lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular conditions.

WHO has categorized sedentary lifestyle as the 9th most common cause of fatalities worldwide.  This “10,000 steps per day” ritual could reverse this trend and infuse in your daily life the requisite amount of physical activity.

This routine is packed with health benefits.

Starting with keeping your heartbeat steady and healthy to facilitating proper breathing, walking 10,000 steps a day surely has the potential to turn your life around. It guarantees to keep your muscles and bones in proper shape, aids weight-loss, better sleep, improved mood (all that endorphins!), decreases your risk of hypertension and stroke and lastly enhances your libido.

Studies have also revealed that indulging in such daily physical activity goes a long way in slowing your mental decline and saves you from the dangers of Dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Handy tip

There are loads of subtle changes you can incorporate to make sure that you are walking 10,000 steps every day. Park farther from your building or better walk to your workplace. Take stairs instead of the lift. Mow your lawn. Walk the dog. Vacuum clean your apartment. Wash your car. Whatever you do, make sure you are wearing a pedometer or a FitBit to measure your daily progress.

5. Lesser phone, more socializing

We seriously need to decrease the amount of time we spend peering into our phones and having virtual social contacts with family and friends. With the advent of social media, several of our social dynamics have changed – one of them is meeting people physically. Why is this habit a healthy habit from the medical point of view?

Scientists have proved that a strong link exists between social isolation and high mortality rates. We are biologically hard-wired to have social contacts and relationships and live with others in a community. It is thus, not surprising to notice that in developed countries the risk of death by cardiac arrest was 2.4 times more in case of people who lived lives away from social relationships.

It can be hard to digest but many conditions such as recurring myocardial infarctions, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, cancer and its delayed recovery, poor immunity, and wound-healing – all of these conditions are tied to low quantity and quality of social ties. So, not just for social reasons, you should be actively indulging in quality time with social groups for the sake of a disease-free body.

Handy tip

Instead of communicating over social media, chose to meet your friends once a week. Keep it a phone-free zone. Try volunteering at a local animal shelter or join any non-profit. Working for philanthropic causes also tends to have a magical effect on your body’s stress levels. Participate in group activities- book clubs, zumba classes, pottery workshops, travel camps. Get out there and meet more people. It will increase your life and health.

Additionally, you should also…

  • Ditch the takeaway menu, and eat more of home-cooked food.
  • Listen carefully to your body. Your body sends you warning signals when in distress. Hair loss, acne, sudden weight loss, poor memory, brittle nails etc are manifestations of serious health issues. Don’t ignore them.
  • Being neurotic has done nobody any favors. What it does is increase your stress levels and adversely impact your  health. So instead of nitpicking  try to take a deep breath and handle things more calmly.
  • Laugh more. Doctors have long prescribed laughter as an immensely healthful activity. The sudden burst of endorphins is a natural painkiller. The more you laugh, the more T-cells you generate, the ones that can provide you relief from a runny nose and even cancer. With each bout of laughter, you get a healthier heart, better blood pressure, and lower levels of stress (cortisol).
  • Digital eye strain is something which none of us can escape. What we can do is lower its impact on our eyesight by following the 20-20-20 rule. For every 20 minutes you work, take a 20-second break and gaze at an item 20 feet away. This is will reduce the continued strain in your eyes and ensure that your vision doesn’t get compromised.

TL;DR?

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