Seven Ways to Improve Your Health in the New Year

The new year is a blank slate and the perfect opportunity to contemplate and implement positive changes in your life. Because most resolutions require lifestyle changes, it’s smart to focus on just one at a time to increase the odds of achieving your goals.
In case you haven’t thought about your New Year’s resolutions yet, several of our medical providers have offered one recommendation, and below is our list. We hope it inspires you to make at least one health improvement in the new year!
Gary Kaplan, D.O.
1. Eat more chocolate! Dark chocolate is known as a “super food,” because it is chock-full of antioxidants that fight dangerous free radicals in your body. In addition, dark chocolate reduces blood pressure, increases the elasticity of the blood vessels, reduces inflammation, and reduces LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol – all of which can help to reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. But only dark chocolate provides health benefits, so stay away from the milk and white varieties!
Video: Dr. Kaplan discusses the health benefits of dark chocolate.
Lisa Lilienfield, M.D.
2. Try yoga with a friend. If you haven’t tried yoga before, now is the time to start, and trying it out with a friend can provide the extra motivation you need to get started and establish a routine. Anyone can benefit from the many physical and mental improvements that yoga provides. In addition to increasing one’s flexibility, strength, and muscle tone, yoga promotes deeper breathing and in turn, relaxation. A review of clinical studies shows that it can also help alleviate chronic pain, improve sleep patterns, and improve one’s overall quality of life.
Audio: Dr. Lilienfield explains the Yoga Sutras: The Yamas & Niyamas of Yoga.
3. Take a daily probiotic supplement. An unhealthy gut can cause more than just bloating and discomfort. With 90% of the immune system located in your digestive system you can be sure that a well balanced and well nourished gut will support your overall health. A multi-strain probiotic with live cultures will help replenish and maintain the beneficial bacteria your gut needs.
Video: What’s Your Gut Feeling?
4. Don’t take your sleep for granted. Quality sleep can do a world of good for your health, including increasing your energy, lifting your mood, sharpening your concentration, reducing chronic pain, speeding your healing from an injury, and improving your hormone function. How can you can improve your sleep? Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day of the week, avoid caffeine intake after lunch, remove electronic devices (e.g. TV and computer) from the bedroom, exercise regularly, adopt a meditation practice to help quiet your mind, use soothing, white noise machines, and try drinking some chamomile herbal tea before bed.
Article: 8 Dietary Supplements to Aid Sleep
5. Think SUSTAINABILITY. Many of us have started in January with the resolve to increase our movement and exercise routine only to in March be fading from our new healthy activity. This year, let’s consider what would be a routine that will become our habit? We can consider: What is the best time of the day to exercise? How much time, days per week do I have to devote to my movement? Will I exercise alone or with a friend? My dog? Do I need a winter and a summer routine? Will it be free or with a trainer? How can I set up my routine to be successful? How to be sustainable? When to become a habit I do not question, just like brushing my teeth? Wishing you the belief that if long term rest has not allowed for you to heal, that you will embrace movement in 2017!
Jeanne Scheele, P.T.
6. Incorporate stretching into your routine. Stretching opens up your body tissues and muscles, and helps improve blood flow. Especially in the cold weather, your muscles can tighten. So, stay warm and flexible this winter by taking a few minutes each day to stretch! Your physical therapist or a personal trainer will be happy to talk with you about proper stretching techniques that you can incorporate into your daily routine.
Jodi Brayton, L.C.S.W., M.S.W.
7. Use exercise as a stress-control technique. Regular exercise not only provides physical benefits, such improving cholesterol, lowering blood pressure promoting healthy bones and boosting the immune system, it also provides important mental and emotional benefits. But what are your “stress relief” options when you’re still at work — for example, after a particularly stressful phone call or frustrating meeting?  I suggest getting up from your desk and running up or down a few flights of stairs or, if you have a private office, doing a few jumping jacks. Getting physically active helps to burn off muscle tension and stress hormones. In fact, any simple repetitive exercise can elicit a state of physiological relaxation. So get out and walk, jump, run, swim or row! You’ll not only boost your metabolism, you’ll also improve your mood!
Even making small changes in your diet, level of physical exercise, or quality of sleep can significantly improve your health. You can do it!  And if you need us, we’re here to help.
You have our very best wishes for a happy new year!

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