5 Important New Year’s Resolutions for Looking and Feeling Better
And how to stick to them.
We all want to start off on the right foot in 2014. Check one—or all—of these vital health resolutions off your list now for a better quality of life through the next 12 months (and long after).
Kick the Habit
While some smokers have turned to electronic cigarettes to help wean themselves off Marlboros (minus the smoke and tar), the FDA warned back in ’09 that, in addition to nicotine, examined samples contained carcinogens and toxic chemicals such as diethylene glycol, an ingredient in antifreeze(!). The World Health Organization has criticized e-cigs' rep as a legit quitting therapy, too.
Since how-to-quit fads can be nearly as misguided as picking up a pack, your best bet is to seek professional help, like the Smoking Cessation Program at Mount Kisco's Northern Westchester Hospital, a free, four-week-long educational service (including nicotine-replacement therapy and info on nutritional counseling to prevent or limit weight gain) that is open to the community.
Get Some Shuteye
Don’t let adequate rest perennially land on your “someday” to-do list, advises Lewis Kass, MD, a Mount Kisco-based sleep specialist: “When we don’t get enough hours of sleep, inflammatory chemicals get elevated, which can cause asthma [or worsen it], as well as hyperactivity and impulsivity, and affect heart and lung function.”
For a sound snooze, says Dr. Kass, don’t go to bed with a full stomach—or hungry. “A light snack is good, as long as there’s no caffeine, and not too much sugar.” Individualized relaxation strategies can be helpful as well, such as diaphragmatic breathing—deep, slow breaths from the belly—and clenching and relaxing your muscles from the toes up.
Vital, Dr. Kass notes, is limiting device-time after dark. That means banishing any brightly lit screens in bed: iPads, computers, e-readers, and so on.
Be More Active
Keep your fitness goals in focus until the thaw by adding a little friendly competition to the grind: Apps like Fit Friendzy, FitBit, and Fitocracy (many free or less than $5) leverage your friends as motivation, so you’re held accountable for how active you set out to be, whether that’s logging a certain number of steps per week, or beating each other’s morning-swim times.
Eat Less Junk
Break from the cycle of takeout and store-bought, processed foods, advises Katonah-Lewisboro’s Susan Kullman, certified health and body psychology coach. How? With kitchen tools that’ll make at-home meal prep less daunting, such as a Vitamixer.
“It can do everything from mill fresh flour to grind meat [and makes] blending delicious smoothies, juices, soups, and salad dressings a breeze.” Kullman admits the $500-plus "turbo"-blender is an investment, but says it's well worth the initial payout. (Get it at Chef Central in White Plains.)
Other handy tools she recommends: a fine mesh strainer for rinsing whole grains and beans; reusable chopsticks (inexpensive and “naturally slows down the pace"); and a fast-touch coffee grinder (Capresso's Cool Grind is about $30 at Chef Central) for grinding flax seeds and herbs.
Gain Peace of Mind
In Evolving Dharma, published this past October, bestselling author and Westchester resident Jay Michaelson, PhD, argues now is the time to join the “contemporary meditation revolution.” In the US alone, he writes, “there are one million new meditators every year, mostly in healthcare contexts,” and that “Contemplative practice...improves memory, immune response, self-
control, attention, recovery from addiction, and emotional resilience.”
Once your motivation revs up, there’s a world of great, walkable outdoors at your disposal. County trails are now easily navigable with the Parks Department’s Pocket Ranger app, a free hiking map and guide for regional outdoors enthusiasts, e.g., snowshoers, cross-country skiers, and active dog/kid companions.
Visit health.westchestergov.com/tobacco for more local support and resources.