Spring offers another chance and, when it comes to health and wellness, many important advantages. The longer days, gentler temperatures and wider availability of fresh, local fruits and vegetables make this the ideal time to “spring clean” your health habits!
Here’s some advice on how to use this invigorating season to spring forward and create greater health and happiness for yourself:
S: SIMPLIFY your life and your health goals.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by advice on preventing chronic disease and optimizing your health but really, most of it boils down to a few basic healthy habits. Get enough sleep and manage your stress. Eat reasonable portions of healthy foods. Be physically active. See people and do things that make you feel good.
With those priorities in mind, set simple, straightforward and achievable goals for yourself that fit into your life. For instance, a midday walk with colleagues to enjoy a salad at an outdoor café blends healthy eating, exercise, socialization and – probably, stress management – into a single one-hour activity! Similarly, a relaxing bedtime yoga routine or cycling to and from work are multi-tasking activities that improve both your health and the quality of your life.
Another “S” word? Share your health goals with friends and families. California researchers found that people who share their plans and goals with others and sent out weekly updates on their progress were more than 70% likely to accomplish what they set out to do than those who kept their plans to themselves.
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P: Be PRACTICAL. Prioritize, make plans that propel you forward.
Hopes and dreams go nowhere without a practical strategy on how to make them real. Identify one or two priorities, such as exercising five times/week and eating the recommended 9 servings of fruits and vegetables – and then get very specific about how to get there. What form of exercise? When and where will you do it? Power past excuses by preparing in advance: lay out tomorrow’s workout clothes or pack the gym bag tonight. Regularly shop for healthy foods so it’s easy to grab a carrot when you’re feeling hungry for a snack.
Plus, pleasure and play matter too. Think about foods and activities you enjoy and brainstorm ways to add some punch. Are you a gardener? Grow vegetables along with your flowers and add stretches to your weeding routine.
R: REJUVENATE, REFRESH, RENEW.
Winter sidetracks most people’s health habits, studies show – but spring is all about new beginnings. Extend the metaphor into your life by focusing on ways to rejuvenate (just look at this definition! “to make someone or something look or feel younger, fresher and more lively”) … refresh (to give new strength or energy) … and renew (to make something new, fresh or strong again).
Remember to relax too! Relish opportunities to do what you feel good, including kicking back and enjoying life. Studies show that’s good for your health too.
I: INSPIRE yourself! Be a learner. Actively seek act information on how to wring the greatest benefits from your spring makeover. Ask people you know for advice. Be alert to examples of fitness, vitality and serenity (like your calm colleague who meditates in a park at lunchtime) in your life. Whether your goal is to achieve an athletic personal best, master a new sport, meditate, or lose unhealthy weight, you can find inspiration in memoirs, in poetry, in photography and artwork – look online and on social media sites.
If you’re so inclined … Consider adding your own voice to the creative community! Keep a journal, take photos or create your own inspirational memes to share online. Creativity is life enhancing, invigorating – and, truly, fun!
N: NATURAL NOURISHMENT. Whatever your goals – stress management to socializing, sports to slimming down – your health and wellbeing get a boost when you feed your body with real, whole foods. Now is a great time to end your dependence processed foods and snacks, sugar-loaded beverages and unhealthy meals. A growing body of research points to the addictive quality of “junk foods” that are scientifically formulated to keep you coming back for more. Try homemade juices with vegetables, such as cucumbers, bananas, asparagus and fennel. When you dine out, choose restaurants that emphasize fresh, natural foods – plan meals that are a satisfying mix of protein, whole grains and fiber-rich vegetables – and drink lots of water.
But never say “never”! If most of what you eat is nutritious and health promoting, it’s perfectly fine to enjoy the occasional treat, whether it’s chips at a picnic, popcorn at a movie or ice cream.
G: GREEN feels GOOD! A new study finds that making small lifestyle shifts in the direction of sustainability improves happiness and wellbeing by as much as 70%. Examples of ways to do this include walking or biking to work, using reusable water bottles, purchasing items with less packaging or made of recycled materials, choosing to buy and live with less, taking shorter showers, etc.
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It’s all about growth. It’s spring, after all! Have fun getting healthy!