10 Simple New Year Practices for Health

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I’ll admit, I’ve too often been trapped in the school of thought that I need a complete overhaul of my life to see or feel any changes. Black or white. All or nothing. This has been my thinking for the majority of my life. You can probably guess where that’s gotten me…on a never-ending roller coaster. Gain weight, lose weight, gain weight, lose weight. And self-loathing at every corner. If the number on the scale began to creep higher, when my jeans felt too tight, pinching the flesh that peeked out over the line of my pants in utter disgust…I felt like a failure of the worst kind.

It’s not realistic to expect myself to be perfect. I’m finally realizing this. The battle with my disordered thoughts, and the aftermath of years of struggling with control around eating and exercise, has left me exhausted. Anorexia and bulimia have plagued me for years, and the lies I tell to myself, the inner critic that keeps me down, have got to go. I’m banishing them, and cleansing myself of this self-destructive way of wasting the gift of life.

I’m taking the reigns. Standing tall in my truth, that I am just as valuable as any of my most cherished loved ones. And as such, I deserve equal love, compassion, and tenderness. Since I know this will be a lifelong journey, I’m starting small. It’s the small changes that snowball, building one on another to return big results.

These are small lifestyle adjustments that anyone can adopt, and some of them deliver immediate feelings of well-being and motivation.

1. Perform Abhyanga daily.
Abhyanga is another word for self-massage. It is a practice recommended in the ancient science of Ayurveda (think: the yoga of nutrition and lifestyle). You can google the term for more information, or visit the Kripalu Thrive blog here. It is recommended to use the more cooling qualities of coconut oil in the summer and warmer months, and the warming properties of sesame oil as the weather becomes colder. Use long
strokes on limbs, and circular motions on joints. Pay extra attention to massaging the feet, which can be an especially grounding and soothing practice before bedtime.

Abhyanga soothes the nervous system and increases immunity by ridding the body of toxins that make their way from organs to the skin. Personally, I experience the immediate rewards of feeling calm and comforted.

2. Lay off the booze.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy a nice glass of wine, a craft beer, and even the harder stuff like vodka and tequila. But at the end of the day, it wrecks my body. It gives me heartburn, headaches, and leads me to make bad decisions when it comes to food. Late night Doritos, anyone? So, I’ve decided to nix the liquor. I can have just as much fun without it, and my body will thank me for years to come.

3. Have a nighttime ritual.
While I’m unwinding at night, and shaking off the dust and demons of the day, I like to have a routine. For me, that routine involves a warm cup of Yogi bedtime tea (with chamomile and other lovely herbs) and a few minutes of journaling. Sometimes, my journal entries are simply recounting and reflecting on my day. Sometimes,
they serve as an opportunity to count my blessings, which often leads to feelings of contentment and equanimity.

4. Taking a daily supplement.
This is perhaps one of the easiest routines to cultivate. Whether it’s your basic multivitamin, or a unique collection of ginkgo, bacopa, tulsi, and omega-3, this practice has helped me feel like I’m taking care of myself and am in control of my health.

5. Swapping out my morning coffee with cream for chai tea with almond milk.
My diet is far from perfect. But when I started my new job at an insurance company that had commercial-sized Keurigs and every coffee flavor on the planet, I admittedly developed a little addiction to coffee. Shortly after, I began experiencing brutal headaches and unbelievable mood swings. So for me, this small change is a huge triumph.

6. Hit the rack by 10:00 pm.
It has been suggested that we get a second wind by about 10:00 pm and may have more trouble falling asleep. If you wake up at dawn or around the ballpark of 6:00 am, getting to sleep by 10 is a wise choice. And with all the studies out linking lack of sleep to weight gain, I am happy to have a reason to get under the covers well before 10 pm.

7. A 10-minute walk after lunch.
Ayurveda suggests that our digestive system performs at it’s best midday,
when the sun is the strongest. This is why it is recommended to have your largest meal of the day at lunch. A 10-minute walk following lunch helps aid digestion. I’ve also found it helpful to also get out of the office, get some fresh air, and connect with nature.

8. Stop eating 2-3 hours before bed.
We’ve all heard this before. If you’re trying to lose weight, this might be one of the most important changes to make if you haven’t already. I have even more reason to abide by this practice, since eating closer to bedtime increases my risk of heartburn.

9. Add cinnamon to oatmeal, tea, etc.
I seriously adore cinnamon. Not only is it warming, inviting, comforting, and a super flavor-enhancer, but it’s so healthy for you. It stokes our digestive fires and perhaps even increases metabolism.

10. Log off and shut down.
The overload of social media that I sometimes subject myself to is just plain unhealthy and often a huge waste of time. I have committed to cease checking my phone, computer, or watching TV at least an hour before going to bed. So far, this has been a great practice and has allowed me to be more relaxed and centered before heading off to a sleep state.

So these simple changes can be achieved by anyone. They are a Segway to greater health and self-esteem. They have helped and empowered me, and I hope they help you.

xo

Steph

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