The New Year is here, and with it come all those resolutions. But don't go for the impossible. If your plan is to get healthier, consider making a series of small health goals, instead -- their attainability will help keep you on track. Here are 10 ideas to get you started.
1. Take a night for yourself
After the stress of the holiday season -- not to mention the way-too-long to-do lists -- it's time to give yourself a break. Unplug the phone, shut down the computer, dim the lights and, if necessary, send your spouse and kids to the movies. Then spend the rest of the evening doing whatever it is that will relax and restore you, whether that's a hot bath and an at-home pedicure, a night of catch-up with your TiVo or a long talk on the phone with your best friend.
2. Eat more greens
We all know that green vegetables are good for us -- their high amount of vitamin E may be key to slowing memory loss better than other fruits and veggies, according to a recent study by the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging at Chicago's Rush University Medical Center. Make greens a priority this month; try classic broccoli with cheese sauce, oh-so-delicious Swiss chard stir-fried with garlic and butter, or any other delicious recipe from your favourite cookbook or website. If you're cooking up spinach or another veggie high in iron, make sure to have some orange juice, red peppers or other source of vitamin C at the same time -- it will help your body absorb the iron.
3. Set up a fitness date with friends
Most of us live busy lives, making it hard to fit in as much exercise as we'd like. That busy life also prevents us from speaking to, much less seeing, close friends for months on end. So why not combine the two? Instead of going for coffee together and curling up on a couch at Starbucks, grab your java to go and spend an hour walking while you chat. If you can, make it a weekly affair. And don't let bad weather stop you -- there's nothing wrong with doing laps at the mall.
Page 1 of 3 -- Do you drink more than three cups of coffee a day? It could be time to consider cutting back on caffeine. Find four more activities to try this new year on page 2
Come on, be honest. Do you really floss daily? It's time to start. Flossing helps keep your gums healthy and prevent cavities. The key is finding the right floss for your teeth, so don't be afraid to try a few different brands. Get started now, and you might just get an A+ at your next checkup.
5. Cut back on caffeine
If you're like many of us, your first cup of coffee or tea of the morning is a daily treat, something to savour and enjoy. The fifth or sixth cup? Not so much. If caffeinated drinks have become a need rather than a pleasure, consider reducing your consumption. Do it slowly enough and you won't even notice the difference. Also think about staying away from coffee and tea in the evening, as caffeine can be extremely disruptive to your sleep.
6. Go snowshoeing
Snowshoeing is a simple sport and fairly inexpensive (Mountain Equipment Co-op, for instance, rents showshoes for $12 a day). Plus it's great exercise -- a 140-pound woman will burn more than 450 calories an hour snowshoeing, not to mention sculpt her glutes and legs.
Devotees -- and, increasingly, scientists -- claim that regular meditation practice can calm your mind, increase joy and lower stress levels. Consistency is more important than time commitment, meaning you'll get better results from just five minutes a day than from a weekly half-hour session. If you're not ready for seated meditation, try walking meditation or mindful walking as a way to quiet your thoughts in the midst of everyday life.
Page 2 of 3 -- Find three more great activities to try in January on page 3
8. Watch the sun rise
Not only are sunrises beautiful, but exposing your body to sunlight first thing in the morning helps set your circadian rhythms, so you'll have an easier time getting to sleep at night. And at this time of year, it's not much of a hardship to get up right before dawn. Mindful walking is a great option for a sunrise stroll -- it'll have you ready for whatever the day brings.
9. Go for probiotics
The bacteria in the body are still not fully understood, but evidence suggests that adding probiotics, or good bacteria, to your diet can help prevent a number of health conditions, such as bladder and vaginal infections. Probiotics are found in some yogurts -- such as Astro BioBest and Danone -- and sauerkraut, as well as in supplement form. Try eating a small bowl of plain yogurt a day (sweeten it with fruit or a bit of jam if you prefer), or talk to your doctor about adding probiotic supplements to your routine.
10. Eat less meat
While going full-on vegetarian may not be right for everyone, evidence is mounting that a diet focused on plant foods is best for your health. One recent Harvard Medical School study of more than 90,000 women found that women who ate more than 1-1/2 servings of red meat a day were almost twice as likely to develop hormone-related breast cancer than those who ate less than three servings a week. Make meat a treat rather than the centre of your meals, and increase your portions of fruits, veggies and whole grains -- your body will thank you.
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