It’s that time of year again. Traditionally, at the beginning of the year, we make resolutions, many of which we struggle to stick to for weeks, let alone the next 12 months. The good news is that resolutions don’t have to be a chore. If you’re looking to improve your health, here are some simple steps you can take to enjoy long-term rewards. 

Increase your activity levels

After weeks of indulgence over the holidays, the start of the year is usually a time we associate with dieting and signing up for all kinds of weird and wonderful fitness-based activities. If you find yourself paying out for a gym membership every year, and you never get your money’s worth, avoid making the same mistakes in 2020. You don’t have to become a gym bunny overnight to enjoy the benefits of exercise. Going to the gym isn’t an appealing prospect for everyone, and there are several other avenues you can pursue if you want to get fit. 

The best place to start is setting realistic targets. If you’ve never really exercised before, it’s probably not a good idea to sign up for a marathon in the spring, for example. Try and introduce physical activity gradually, trying different sports and activities and increasing your fitness and confidence as you go. If you don’t fancy going to the gym, you could work with a personal trainer at home, invest in some equipment and exercise at home or even follow a DVD or online workouts.

There’s also a raft of classes you can try, including spinning, yoga, Pilates, high-intensity interval training and circuits, as well as activities like tennis, swimming, golf, climbing, hiking and dancing. It’s also an excellent idea to try and increase activity levels by walking instead of driving, taking the stairs instead of the elevator and using your lunch break to stretch your legs and get some fresh air. 

It’s very common when making resolutions to exercise more to lose motivation after a few weeks. To prevent this from happening, vary your workouts, choose activities you find fun, take friends along and keep working towards achievable goals. 

Look after your smile

Oral health is often overlooked. We tend to focus all our energy and attention on our diets and fitness regimes when we think about being healthy. The truth is that caring for your teeth and gums produces much more than a healthy smile. Poor oral health is also linked to an increased risk of general health problems, including heart disease and complications associated with type 2 diabetes. Devoting just a couple of minutes every morning and evening to your dental health can make an incredible difference.

If you’re eager to keep your smile in check, an effective daily oral hygiene regime is the best place to start. Using an electric toothbrush, clean your teeth for at least two minutes each morning and evening, taking care to cover every individual tooth surface and to avoid brushing too firmly. It’s also beneficial to floss or to use interdental brushes to clean between the teeth. Your diet is also important when it comes to protecting your smile. Try and avoid eating between meals and keep an eye on your intake of sugary and acidic foods. Including foods that are rich in calcium can help to strengthen the enamel and reduce the risk of decay. Attending regular dental checks is also crucial for optimal oral health. Ideally, you should visit your dentist every 6-12 months. 

If you’re self-conscious about the appearance of your smile, it’s worth exploring options like cosmetic dentistry. Whether you have chipped, crooked or discolored teeth, dentists can use innovative techniques and treatments to give you an elegant smile you’ll be proud to show off. Cosmetic dentistry is evolving all the time, and dentists can now offer solutions to almost any aesthetic flaw imaginable. Your smile is usually the first thing people notice about you, and if you’re unhappy with the look of your teeth, having treatment like tooth whitening or veneers could have a really positive impact. 

Pay attention to your mental health

We often think about our bodies, rather than our minds when we discuss health. The reality is that the definition of the word health covers psychological wellbeing, as well as physical health. We are getting better at talking about mental health, but there is a long way to go still. Mental health disorders are becoming more commonplace, but you don’t have to experience symptoms of anxiety or depression to think about mental health. We should all be concerned about our mental wellbeing. While it is advisable for anyone who is suffering from anxiety, depression, severe stress or symptoms of psychological disorders to seek professional help, there are many self-help techniques everyone can employ to try and protect and enhance psychological wellbeing. 

One of the most significant causes of mental health issues is stress. Stress affects everyone, and sometimes, it can have a positive effect. The trouble with stress is that it can start to spiral out of control and affect how we feel on a daily basis. To combat stress, natural remedies like exercise, meditation, massage and getting fresh air can help, and many people also find that talking helps. Taking control of your schedule can also be beneficial. Devoting more time to hobbies and interests, especially those that involve creative thinking or spending time in the outdoors, can also reduce stress.

Another key factor linked to mental wellbeing is surrounding yourself with people who make you feel comfortable, happy and confident. Often, we feel obliged to socialize or hang out with people who we don’t necessarily get on with, and making your circle smaller can help. Try and avoid people who bring you down or make you question your own worth and spend more time with those who are supportive and caring. 

If you’re making resolutions, one of the most positive changes you can make is talking. Many of us are guilty of bottling up emotions and feeling like we have to keep worries and thoughts to ourselves. Speaking to a friend, texting a relative or seeing a therapist once a week can help you to manage and process your emotions if you’re feeling down or you’re struggling with stress. 

At the start of the year, many of us have good intentions to improve our health. The problem is that it’s easy to lose motivation and slip back into old habits. This year, why not buck the trend and make changes that will benefit you forever? Simple things like moving more, prioritizing your oral health and paying more attention to your mental wellbeing will set you up for improved health for many years to come. 

By Erica Buteau

Change Agent. Daydream Believer. Maker. Creative. Likes love, peace and Jeeping. Dislikes winter, paper cuts and war. She/Her/Hers.

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