January is upon us once more, and we all know what that means – it’s time for our annual New Year’s resolutions. By now we all know how this works; we promise ourselves that that we’ll cut everything that could possibly do us harm from our lives, but in doing so we deprive ourselves of anything that could be considered fun during the darkest, coldest and generally dreariest time of the year.
The result is usually a series of resolutions that you know you’ll be able to stick to. Why not make 2018 a little different, and make just one core resolution – to improve your personal wellness? You may be surprised at how attainable satisfaction in your mind and body can be to obtain if you only know how.
Here are six suggestions for personal golden rules that you could make in the New Year for a New You that are very much attainable – and will not encourage you to fall off the wagon in spectacular fashion! Abide by these resolutions and you’ll feel amazing throughout the year – and beyond.
Set Personal Targets
Perhaps the biggest mistake that we all make when we’re setting our New Year’s resolutions is to be a little vague. How often have you said that you’ll lose weight, without specifying how much – or setting an unrealistic target that leads you to lose heart?
How many times have you said you’ll stop drinking alcohol – completely forgetting about your cousin’s wedding on January 15th, which you’ll need a glass or two of champagne to get through?
How many times have you said you’ll eat nothing but salad – and found yourself chomping on the leftover Christmas chocolate after a few days when you can’t face the idea of another lettuce leaf?
This January, set realistic, attainable targets – and make yourself accountable to them. If you’re looking to lose weight, start small with a couple of pounds, and work steadily toward that intention each day. If you’re looking to cut down on vices such as drinking or smoking, do just that – cut down, don’t just quit cold turkey. Designate yourself an allowance of units, and reduce that steadily over the course of the weeks and months.
Write these targets down and place them all over the house to remind and motivate yourself of your intentions, and you’ll be surprised at how effective these gradual lifestyle changes can be.
Correct Your Posture
You might be surprised at just how many health complaints can be linked to our posture. Slouching doesn’t just damage our back, shoulders and neck, but it has also been linked to a variety of problems such as applying pressure to our intestines, Repetitive Strain Injury to the wrists and other associated concerns that can make working in an office environment very uncomfortable, cutting off our circulation which can leave us feeling cold and weary, and even dental problems.
What’s more, poor posture has also been linked to anxiety and depression – and let’s be honest, there’s enough of that going around in January without encouraging such negative thought processes! When we also consider that good posture makes us look – and by extension, feel – considerably more alert and confident, there is no reason why we should not be paying attention to the way that we hold our bodies.
Take up a class in Yoga or Pilates if you need a hand with improving your posture, and walk tall and proud this January. Not only will you look like a million dollars, but you’ll feel like it too!
Eat a Balanced Diet
Everybody promises themselves that they’ll improve their diet in January, which is great if approached correctly. Unfortunately, so many of us look for the quick fix and find ourselves following the latest fad diet that has celebrity endorsement, which is never a sustainable way to live.
The most important step that you can take in your quest for wellness is simply ensuring that your plate is healthy and balanced. That doesn’t mean that you have to toss all of your takeout menus in the trash and put Luigi’s Pizza Parlor out of business – it’s fine to treat yourself on occasion. As a general rule, however, ensure that you are eating well and taking in a healthy and appropriate balance of the major food groups. If you need a little help in judging whether your plate is suitable, print off this chart from Harvard Health – it’ll tell you everything that you need to know!
Of course, staying hydrated is just as important as eating correctly – especially in the cold season when we are heating our homes with regularity. Ensure that you are sipping on water throughout the day to feel on the top of your game.
Get More Exercise
Ah, January; the month that has every gym owner rubbing their hands with glee as hundreds of new members sign up with the best of intentions, before never being seen again after March. It’s true that the path of personal wellness does involve upping your exercise regime – just imagine all of those lovely endorphins flooding your brain – but that doesn’t mean that you need to be hitting the gym five nights a week. Instead, just tie sustainable exercise into your daily routine.
If you’re lucky enough to have a dog, take them for a walk of at least an hour each day; longer if you can. Your four-legged friend will have no complaints about this, and regular, brisk walking is great for our sense of wellness – not least because of the opportunity to breathe in lungfuls of fresh air. Likewise, if you have a garden, wrap up warm and tend to it in January – this is another great workout that your body will not even notice it’s having. You could even think about taking a class in a martial art of new skill, which is potentially more fun than jogging around the same five blocks time and again.
It doesn’t matter how you increase your physical activity, just do what you can to do so. The results will speak for themselves.
Get Quality Sleep
Now, don’t confuse this resolution with get more sleep – none of us need any encouragement to bury ourselves under the covers and wait for January to pass! Instead, follow the suggestions laid out by the National Sleep Foundation for how to catch forty winks. It’s all about the quality of your sleep, not the quantity, and good sleep has been proven to have a hugely positive impact on our health and wellness.
The NSA tell us that we should spend at least 85% of our time in bed sleeping – which means no staying in bed and watching cartoons until noon on a Saturday morning. They suggest falling asleep within 30 minutes of climbing into bed, so wait until you’re actually tired – and don’t take your smartphone or tablet with you.
Quality sleep also involves waking up no more than once per night, so be careful about drinking fluids late at night, and invest in some earplugs if you live in a noisy neighborhood. Finally, if you do wake up in the night, get yourself back to snoozing within twenty minutes – any longer and you will impact on your body’s natural rhythms.
Take Care of Your Mental Health
Perhaps the most important thing that we need to take care of in our quest for personal wellness is our mental health. January can be a difficult time for anybody, with the exhaustion of the holidays catching up with us, bouts of the blues caused by the fact that we are no longer relaxing with loved ones but back to the grindstone at work, credit card bills arriving and making for scary reading after our holiday spending, and the cold, gray weather conditions outside.
Don’t let the January Blues beat you – do whatever you can to stay cheerful and content throughout the New Year. Consider engaging in the art of mindfulness, which involves taking a deep breath, clearing your mind of all concerns and anxieties, and simply enjoying being in the moment. Book a vacation or a trip to see a friend later in the year so that you have something to look forward to. Take up a new hobby that gives your mind a rest from the usual commitments of work, home and family and offers the opportunity for some ‘you’ time.
Perhaps most importantly of all, give yourself a break and don’t criticize yourself as you attempt to work towards a personal wellness plan. You’re doing great!
Your Posture May Be Influencing These Aspects of Your Overall Health
We all have memories of being told off for slouching in our childhood, but there’s a reason why we were instructed to sit up straight or stand appropriately – good posture can be the difference between good health and a long list of concerns and complaints later in life.
So, what is good posture? The short answer is to be standing upright, with your spine rigid and head up, eyes forward. If seated, attempt to replicate this position from the waist up – back unyielding, without leaning too far back of forward and curving the spine. If you can balance a book on your head, your posture is perfect!
Failing to follow these instructions and allowing your posture to slump is not just unsightly; it could have all kinds of negative impacts on your general health, as well as leading to the requirement of professional intervention from an osteopath or similar healthcare professional. Obviously here at Align Joint & Spine we are always prepared to assist with that, but we would always advise you to watch the manner in which you carry yourself before medical intervention becomes a requirement!
Here are five examples of the impact that posture can have on your physical and emotional wellbeing, and how maintaining an optimum spinal structure will greatly benefit your overall health.
Did you know that good posture is intrinsically linked to good mental health and a positive frame of mind? Several studies have suggested that slouched and slumped shoulders are not just a result of depression and anxiety – they could also be a root cause. Taking up an appropriate posture, with your back straight and head up, will improve your lateral thinking and empower you psychologically. You will feel more enthusiastic about a task or problem that you may be facing, and ready to take on the world.
This decrease in physical or mental fatigue is thanks to messages fed to the brain by your body that you are prepared to actively engage with anything that requires a reaction – messages forged by a faster heartbeat. If you are seated or stood in a less dominant position, your organs and brain will take on the same sense of passivity.
What’s more, your mind will also play a game of association. If you associate sensations of exhaustion, anxiety and stress with slumping lower into your seat or slouching your shoulders, your brain will assume that’s how you must be feeling right now and release the relevant hormones. Ultimately, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Breathing and Respiratory Function
Posture can have a huge impact on the ability of your respiratory system to take oxygen into the lungs. Adopting a poor or incorrect posture can lead to shallower breaths, and shallow breathing means that a steady supply of oxygen cannot make its way into your lungs – which, naturally, leads to poor levels of energy. Maintain this poor quality of breathing up for long enough and the impact will be irreversible, potentially leading to chronic problems with catching your breath later in life.
Leaning to the left or right is a major cause of shallow breathing related to posture. Stand on one leg for a few seconds and compare your breaths to those you take when you apply an equal distribution of weight over both feet – you will notice a very clear difference. Likewise, slouching and bending restricts the access that your lungs have to fill with air. Imagine trying to blow up a balloon while a hardcover book is resting on top of it – you wouldn’t get very far.
Next time you are seated, straighten up your spine and keep a deep breath. You’ll find that your head clears, and you’ll feel immeasurably better for it. Just once is not enough, though; make this your default posture whenever seated. Likewise, catch yourself in the act of leaning to the left or right, leading with your shoulder. Restore yourself to complete vertical status and drink in those deep lungfuls of air!
Are you plagued with toothache, lockjaw or other dental hygiene problems? This could be down to the posture of your jawbone, which is connected to your spine and shoulders – it’s all part of a skeletal chain. If you slump your shoulders, your head will automatically roll forward, or if you sit too far back in a chair and allow your neck to fall backward your head will fall back. The result of this is will be your teeth connecting in an unnatural position, and potentially grinding against each other – which can cause all kinds of discomfort.
Carrying your mouth too tightly is a similar issue that can be caused by poor posture. If you have a tendency to clench your teeth and set your jaw, try housing your tongue in the roof of your mouth while your mouth is passive. Coupled with maintaining a straight spine and neck, this will ensure that your teeth and bite do not end up misaligned. While practicing good posture, also be sure to keep your jawbone straight and pointed forward while your neck is upright.
Issues with the Digestive System
Your digestive tract is yet another key internal system that relies upon a quality posture in order to function at maximum capacity. If you are seated in a poor position, you will be crunching your intestines – and, once again, you are restricting access to an essential element of the human body, making it difficult for your acids contained in your stomach to break food down and pass it along to the colon.
Yes, if you maintain a poor posture you are folding your intestines over and slowing down your body’s digestive process – with constipation just one of the side effects that could follow as a result. Bad posture is also to blame for a great many physical discomforts such as bloating and stomach cramp, all due to the fact that your internal organs do not have the appropriate space to do their work.
Stop bunching your stomach muscles up by slouching – sit upright and proud and you’ll find that you feel significantly less uncomfortable after meals. This will be even more rewarding if you are able to stand and stretch those all-important back muscles afterward.
Problems with Circulation
Your circulation will also take a hit by slumping and slouching. Much like your lungs will struggle will fill with air when pathways are blocked, your heart will not be able to pump blood accurately and steadily throughout your body when restrictions are placed upon its route thanks to an unhelpful body shape.
The outcome of this could be difficulty in maintaining a comfortable temperature, and all kinds of unpleasant side effects such as inflammation and aching joints. What’s more, a lack of steady blood flow will have a negative impact on your immune system and leave you susceptible to health complaints such as the common cold.
A good, steady circulation will give you a vibrant, healthy nervous system which ensures that you will stay active and vibrant in your day-to-day activities; all of which will compliment a fine posture, enabling you to walk firmly and proudly with your head held high and your spine straight. This, in turn, will keep your circulation flowing – which is essential, as poor circulation also brings us back to the mental health aspect of poor posture that we have previously discussed.
If we are not experiencing a steady and consistent flow of blood throughout the body and brain, anxiety and depression can quickly follow. That, in turn, can cause you to slump your shoulders as though they carry the weight of the world upon them. Before you know it, the cycle begins all over again and we are back to square one. Keep that posture upright – more depends upon it than you may have initially realized!
By now, you should have an idea of just how important a good posture can be – it wasn’t just something that authority figures enjoyed yelling at you about simply because they could. The discussions above have not even factored in the general aches and pains that you could experience in your back, neck and shoulders by neglecting to utilize an appropriate posture.
Remember, always stand tall and keep your entire body in a vertical line – shoulders straight and head held high – and avoid slouching forward whenever you are seated. Following such basic golden rules is key to a long, healthy and happy life- and one that is free of wholly avoidable discomfort.
BY: Abbey Hudetz
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