Make your health a priority this year

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Want to make this a happier, less stressed and more energetic year? Start living a healthier lifestyle with these super-easy tips. You will feel a huge shift in your energy levels, happiness and overall well-being.

 1.Drink lots of water
It’s easy to forget to drink water when you are busy but you might get more work done if you sip water frequently. Research shows that just a two per cent decrease in bodyweight due to dehydration – the point at which you begin to feel thirsty – decreases     short-term memory and problem solving skills. So make it a New Year resolution to drink some water every hour.

2.Put a happy face
Making yourself smile – a real smile, using not just your lips but also the muscles around your eyes – can activate the feel-good parts of the brain. If you need some help getting happy on a down day, call your most cheerful friend. Studies show that we tend to mimic the emotions of the person we are interacting with.

3.Give yourself a posture check
When you lean forward at a desk you elongate your upper back muscles, making them weaker and susceptible to injury. Most people don’t even realise they are hunching, so give yourself a once-over check a few times a day to ensure you are sitting properly. Make sure your hips and shoulders are in line, with a natural curve in your spine. Your thighs should be parallel to the groin and your ankles should be in front of your knees.  Do this stretch exercise a few times a day: Sit up straight and raise your arms to your sides at shoulder height. Bend your elbows so your hands are behind the back of your head, and then squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for three seconds and repeat three times.

4.Spruce up
We all know busting dust and germs can protect us from colds, allergies and asthma, but we may not know that it can also put us in a joyful mood. You feel good about yourself when your home and environment are clean and tidy. Keeping your house and office space tidy – with everything in its proper place – can help reduce stress levels.

5.Think fun before bed
Before going to sleep, picture something pleasant for a few minutes such as vacationing in a beautiful place or having a really good time with those you love. Researchers have found that imagery helps you nod off faster and enhance the quality of your sleep. The benefit – a solid night’s slumber improves your heart health and concentration.

6.Eat a little avocado
This fruit provides a serious nutritional punch. Avocados contain phytochemicals that may prevent cancer by killing some harmful cells and keeping others from developing into tumours. They are also packed with fibre, monounsaturated fats, and heart healthy antioxidants like vitamin C and E. Use avocado in place of other high-calorie foods, for example, mash it and substitute it for mayonnaise in your sandwich and cheese in your salads.

7.Listen to soothing music
Listening to soothing music can serve as a stress reliever. Researchers say relaxing music has a calming effect on the nervous system, thus preventing spikes in stress hormones, blood pressure, and heart rate. For an even bigger benefit, croon along – singing bolsters your body’s immune response and reduces the production of the stress hormone cortisol. It’s an emotional release. You also breathe harder and take in more oxygen when you sing, which may increase the production of certain germ and virus-fighting antibodies.

8.Dirty your hands
Digging your hands into the earth does more than maintain your garden – it may also lift your spirits. Researchers have discovered that breathing in certain “friendly” bacteria found in soil activates a group of neurons that produce the mood-elevating brain chemical serotonin. If you don’t have garden space, plant an indoor plant or herb in a container and keep it on the windowsill or other areas of the house where light comes in. You will not only feel happier, but also beautify your surroundings.

9.Chat up acquaintances
Whether you ask your new colleague about his family or talk with the woman you meet regularly in the gym changing room, pushing past your comfort zone to approach someone new will boost your confidence. Another benefit is that you may also add a new face to your social circle, which can help your heart and emotional health. Researchers say people who feel connected to others have blood pressure levels that are up to 30 points lower than their lonelier counterparts. People who are isolated tend to deal with stress in unhealthy ways such as drinking and overeating. Stress has been linked with an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and cholesterol.

10.Take a TV break
Switching off the TV now and then can give you more energy. If you switch off your TV, you are more likely to go to bed earlier and wake up refreshed and alert the next day. Choose some days in a week when you don’t watch TV and schedule a social activity such as a dinner party with friends, or just simply spend a relaxing evening alone, soaking in a bubble bath or curling up with a good book.

11.Measure your belly
It’s not about fitting into your clothes; it’s about saving your life. Having a waist 35 inches or larger as a woman means you have extra abdominal fat, which ramps up your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Measure your waist with a tape measure at the height of your belly button at least once a month. If your waistline falls in the risk zone, talk with your doctor who may want to put you on a diet and exercise regimen to shed a few pounds.

Published in January 2015

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