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Don’t wait for the New Year: Healthy habits to start this holiday season

Start 2021 on a healthier note by adopting a few small changes now

Every holiday season, we have the same conversation in our heads: “I want to stay healthy, but I also want to enjoy all of the food. I could do something now or I could just wait until the New Year to start.” We’ve all been here at least once or many times. Maybe you’re there right now, and it’s perfect. Here are a few tips and health hacks to take on throughout this holiday season. Hopefully, they inspire you to be a little more conscious about your health and take action. 

You CAN enjoy the holidays and keep your health in check.

Why healthy habits matter

Let’s first start with why maintaining healthy habits during the holidays is important. With what is going in the world today, I don’t think I need to convince you why you should be more conscious of our health. A weak immune system makes you more susceptible to viruses or diseases. Not only that, but we are far less productive, our energy is down and we have major setbacks with getting sick. My goal is to help you prevent getting to that place. 

Start with quality sleep

One thing that is underrated is sleep. Not just getting enough sleep, but getting quality sleep. There are four stages of sleep: There’s the first stage or a “dozing off” light stage, followed by a deeper stage 2 sleep, in which is when your breathing and heart rate slows. It isn’t until stage 3, also called “deep sleep” that our body enters a phase that allows it to recover and grow. There’s also research that our immune systems, memories and creativity benefit from this phase. Stage 4 is the iconic REM phase in which our brain function picks up and is critical to cognitive thinking, like memory, learning and creativity. 

Tips for a good night’s rest

Someone may sleep 9 hours, but if they’re interrupted several times during the early stages of sleep, it will rob them of the quality stages 3 and 4 sleep cycles. Another person may get a solid, uninterrupted 7 hours of sleep. I would much rather be the second person. Here are a few tips for getting more effective sleep:

  1. Try to go to bed and wake up at a similar time each day. This will help with circadian rhythm.
  2. Have a night routine. I like to sip a warm, decaffeinated beverage, put my diffuser on, and do some breathwork before bed and sometimes stretch.
  3. Try to avoid blue light late night; cell phones, computers and TV right before bed. 
  4. No caffeine after 2 p.m.
  5. Try to cut food and drink off around 8 p.m.
  6. Write down or think about what you are grateful for. You want to make sure you are in a good head space before going to sleep.  

Zero in your actions

Another thing you can start doing is just being more aware of your actions. What I mean by this is if you are focused on nutrition and fitness, try writing down everything you eat for the day. Keeping a food log will help you see what you are actually consuming. It’s so easy to eat a whole pizza and then forget about it. But if you write down, “I ate an entire pizza,” you probably will feel a little differently about it and think before you act next time. Write down next to the food you ate what it is doing for your health. You will be proud of yourself when you eat something healthy, knowing that it contributed to your energy, productivity and overall long-term health. You will not feel so proud if it deteriorates your health over time. Be more cognizant of what you do everyday. Also try it with your finances. I’ve started keeping a daily log of all my expenses.

Exercises to start the day 

I’ve also talked about morning routines in the past, but make sure you start your morning by doing something that really empowers you to feel confident in your mind, body, and spirit. Doing something early tells your mind that you are productive and you win often and early. For me, it’s a hot cup of green tea, practicing some breathwork and meditation, mobility and core workout for 10 minutes, and listening and/or watching a video or audible book to get my mind right. Since people always ask what kind of core workouts I do, I’ll give you a couple of my favorites. First, make sure you warm up properly. Things to try include ab workouts from a “5 Abs Exercises to you ready for pool party season,” or look up the McGill Big 3 for reference as a core warm up. It is super effective workout.

Three other exercises: 

  1. Plank: This may sound simple, but it’s possible you weren’t getting the full benefits. Make sure you have a straight line from your head to your heels. Check to see if your core and glutes are engaged and try to create tension as if you were trying to bring your hands and your feet to meet in the middle. Look at your shoulders. They should be over your wrists. Your fingers need to be spread and gripping the floor. After holding this for 30 seconds to 1 minute, you should pretty much be shaking. You can also go down to your forearms if a high plank is not available.
  2. Opposite toe touches: These will be performed while laying down on your back. You can do one at a time. Bring your leg up and reach with your opposite hand to your foot. Make sure your shoulder blade is coming off the ground. Once you have done 20 reps on one side, you can switch to the other side.
  3. Later Bear crawls: Start on all fours (hands and knees) in tabletop position. You will lift your knees off the ground about 1-2 inches and move side to side. Start by moving your right hand and right foot to the right simultaneously. Left hand and left foot will follow. On the way back, the left side will lead and right will follow. Continue back and forth for about 30-45 seconds. Keep that core turned on. 

As we go into this holiday season, just focus on making small changes. Go to bed and wake up at similar times each day. Find a routine that gets you excited. Do something every day that will show your body love and think about all of this is a marathon. You aren’t trying to run 26 miles in one day. It’s one step, one day at a time which turns into a light jog and eventually a run. Life is built on momentum. Starting now is telling the universe that you are serious about your life, your health, and your future. Let’s set up 2021 by taking action now. 

–Blaine Strong 

Blaine Strong, is a fit lifestyle entrepreneur, with a passion to help people reach their fitness goals. He’s a fitness coach, model and influencer. Find him on  his website. https://www.blainestrong.com/