You’ve had it with the creaky joints and the wider waistline. You’re tired of being tired, especially after breaking down and eating a carton of ice cream at 11 o’clock last night. This is going to be the year everything changes, right? You start the new year with good intentions, spending the first few weeks hitting the gym and eating salads. Then one day it’s sleeting outside, and you don’t feel like going to the gym. You’d rather stay home and eat a plate of freshly baked chocolate cookies. You feel like a failure for giving up so quickly on your good intentions. Sigh.
A Focus Word (or Phrase) for 2022
Hold on a second. Remember the old Chinese saying: “It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward.” Or the more familiar: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step.” Let “small steps” be your focus words for 2022, as you begin a journey to a happier, healthier and well lifestyle. Hancock Health is here to help with these suggestions for making little changes that lead to big goals.
Get out and walk
That journey of 1,000 miles really does start with one (small) step. Walking might not be as glamorous or popular as its faster-paced peers, like running and aerobic dance classes, but it does help your heart, blood pressure and blood sugar control. Regular walking may also reduce anxiety and depression. How far and often you walk is up to you. The pedometer manufacturers like to entice people with the goal of 10,000 daily steps. The Centers for Disease Control suggests logging 150 minutes of weekly activity. Walking is free and requires little investment. A nice pair of sneakers helps, and it’s always good to check in with your physician before starting any exercise routine.
Walking might not be so fun on colder days or when the weather is acting up, though. No worries! Hancock Wellness Centers have indoor walking tracks that keep you comfortable and dry. You can even participate in Walk With a Doc, a program where you meander alongside local physicians and healthcare professionals. Healthy snacks, coffee and blood pressure checks are also provided.
Ease into a better diet
You know you’re eating too much sugar and drinking too many calories with your daily sweet teas. You know the experts tell you to eat more fruits and vegetables, piling them on half your dinner plate and limiting yourself to a quarter plate each of whole grains and lean protein. That sounds great on the page, but you don’t like vegetables that much. Starting whole hog is likely to lead to failing. Instead of immediate, drastic dietary changes, consider small modifications. Can you add one extra fruit or vegetable each day to your menu? It doesn’t have to be fancy; a crisp apple or a serving of baby carrots as an afternoon snack count.
Drink more water. Staying hydrated helps your body and brain work better. Yes, those sweet teas might help you with hydration, but the 100 calories in each cup will start to add up. Kick the sweetened beverage habit now, forcing yourself to alternate water with a sweetened beverage and increasing the amount of water each day. If you don’t like the taste of your home’s water, check out the various filtered waters, carbonated water or spring water at the grocery. Or, try a squirt of lemon in the water or infuse it with fresh fruit. Remember, you deserve to be healthy.
Mental health is important, too
Mental and physical health go together. Physical exercise can boost your mental health. On the other hand, depression and other mood disorders can leave you unmotivated and stuck on the sofa. It’s the 21st century, and there is a still a stigma associated with mental health. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness. Don’t be ashamed to reach out for professional help. Hancock Health offers outpatient mental health and counseling services for adults, children and families.
Turn off those screens! Chances are, you’re reading this on a screen, whether it’s a computer, phone or tablet. That’s great, but it’s not healthy to be attached to your screen all day. Social media gives you a manufactured glimpse of people’s highlight reels, and your behind-the-scenes knowledge of your own life can’t measure up. Occasionally setting down the screen gives you a chance to get out and enjoy real-life relationships and conversations, which contribute to better mental health.
Invest in yourself
You don’t have to be rich to be healthy, but sometimes it helps to pay for a little professional help. Hancock Wellness Center memberships include access to clinical programs, educational programs, personal training, nutrition and weight-management programs and more. With three convenient locations, you can plug into a facility that’s close to home and offers no excuses for missing a workout.
Big changes can be daunting. But small steps don’t seem so scary, and each step forward reveals a new perspective. Let those small steps lead to bigger victories in your journey to wellness.