My top health hacks to make 2017 your best year yet.
By Amy Crawford
Do any of these sound familiar? Get fit, lose weight, quit smoking, enjoy life more, spend less, save more, get organised, spend more time with family and friends, learn something new?
Hmmm. Promises. Promises. Apparently, these are the most common New Year’s Resolutions that we make and a whopping 76% of us never do anything about them.
Now, I am not about to suggest that this coming year will be any different, but… there are a few clever health hacks that you can sneak into your everyday (or every-now-and-then!) that can transform your health and happiness in 2017.
Small things. Easy things. Nothing too grandiose or labour-intensive here, my friends.
In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
No excuses needed – just do what you can, with what you have, where you are to make the best of your time and motivation. You might just surprise yourself with the changes you can make! Now here’s a few ideas to help you on your way:
1. Cultivate a healthy microbiome
Change your diet and you could change your brain. Mood, emotions and even your psychological health are now linked to your “second brain” - the gut. The enteric nervous system (the "gut's brain") - nerve cells that line your gastrointestinal tract and control digestion - communicates with the brain about the health of your gut.
The health of your gut is determined by the levels of good and ‘bad’ bacteria in it so too much of bad thing – usually eating overly processed food - creates imbalance and causes inflammation and a whole host of other symptoms. When your gut is inflamed your enteric nervous system signals the brain and this can trigger mood changes.
Prebiotics and probiotics are the best way to bring your gut back into balance as well as cutting back on refined carbohydrates and sugar.
2. Get connected
“A deep sense of love and belonging is an irresistible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don't function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.” – Brene Brown
Nothing beats actually being with people. It’s what the whole humanity thing is about! We are remarkably social creatures who want to be accepted and connected with others. Social connection improves physical health and psychological well-being and a lack of it is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure.
You have a 50% chance of living longer with strong social connections – it’s a fundamental human need, so schedule some quality time, listen with your heart, dig deep and be present. Even just a heartfelt smile and good-old-fashioned eye contact can do wonders for your feeling of connection.
3. "Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much."
This is the single best thing that author Michael Pollan has written. If you want to eat better but don't have the wherewithal to wade through the sea of options - paleo, gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, raw food, mediterranean - refocus your diet with this simple mantra: Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.
In short it means:
- eat real food - not processed or with a list of ingredient as long as your arm,
- always leave the table a little hungry and,
- keep yourself and the planet a little healthier by eating mostly vegetables (and a little fruit here and there). Simple wisdom, powerful words.
4. Count your blessings
There is real science behind gratitude. Acts as simple as writing thank you notes or keeping a list of the things you are grateful for can actually change your brain. Being thankful can make you happier - less depressed, more attuned to positive feelings and with a greater sense of wellness - but the best bit of all is that it builds on itself. The more you practise gratitude, the more aware of it you become. You feel the positive benefits and then practise it even more. Bingo!
I wrote about creating a gratitude journal here if you would like some inspiration.
5. Move more
Training for a marathon? Climbing a mountain? Starting a weightlifting program? Nope, me neither. (But, you know, if you're doing those things – fantastic!).
You can get a bunch of health benefits from just 20 minutes walking a day. It’s free (and not many things are these days) and it's great for a healthy heart and weight management. Walking, or any kind of movement, helps with mental health, sleep and immunity and reducing stress.
6. Go alternative
Finding an alternative therapy that works for you is the smartest health hack of all. From acupuncture, EFT, aromatherapy, reiki and reflexology, there are plenty of options for a wide range of conditions.
Finding your match is the tricky part but the key is balance and prevention. Most alternative therapies aim to bring the body back into balance and from there the wellness just flows, preventing disease before it happens. You may even be ready to 'clear your crap' with a 2-hour CTC therapy session.
Nothing here is incredibly time-consuming, but all are incredibly beneficial. What might you add to my list of health hacks?