As we say goodbye to 2018 and welcome 2019 with open arms, many of us are inclined to make resolutions, a good number of which are health and wellness related. And why not? Isn’t that what we all want, to feel good in our bodies, to feel like we can take on and tackle all the obstacles that life will no doubt throw our way? Or even to feel so good that we search out obstacles to conquer? Now that would be something spectacular to accomplish in 2019!

I was speaking to a colleague (FCHN’s physiotherapist Victoria Mokriy, hey girl!) and what she said really resonated with me. Her resolution for 2019 was to be moderately successful, all the time. As she then explained, she wanted to stay away from trying to be perfect everyday – as she had noticed it led to brief movements of perfection followed quickly by feelings of failure, and the cycle would continuously repeat itself.

What I love about this idea is that it really highlights my personal philosophy when it comes to making changes to your health: You don’t always need to make the best choice – as long as you are consistently striving to make better choices every day.

Keep this in mind as we enter a new year: you do not need to reinvent yourself. Small, manageable changes are the key to success and will serve you better than attempting to overhaul your life all at once. The best part about that… you get to choose what manageable means!  You set the pace and I can tell you from experience how powerful you’ll feel when you take your health in your own hands and finally sit yourself in the driver’s seat. A great place to start is the foundations of health – the building blocks that contribute to wellness.

So let’s break it down, what do I mean when I say foundations of health? I’m talking about the basic things that need to happen or need to be worked on every day to ensure optimal functioning of all your body systems. They are: exercise, restful sleep, eating good quality food, effective stress management, and mental, spiritual and emotional wellbeing.

Why do we care about these things? It has been my experience that without implementing these basics, any additional interventions will ultimately be unsuccessful. All the herbs and supplements in the world won’t be able to impact your health unless your body is able to properly digest, absorb and utilize what it is given. Without these key pieces all of those additional measures serve as Band-Aids and just create expensive waste.

These pillars of health are often the most difficult part of any person’s health journey. This is because it takes a lot more effort to commit to making lifestyle changes, as they will undoubtedly require time out of our perpetually busy schedules to execute. Many come to my office hoping for a magic pill that will resolve all of their symptoms, but the reality is that most of the things that are “wrong” with your health can be completely reversed or at the very least improved through these basic lifestyle modifications.

Below are some tips to help you get started!

Sleep

One of the most undervalued but significant influencers of our health is sleep. Our routine and the environment in which we sleep have a huge impact on the quality and quantity of rest we achieve. Here are some tips to help clean up and optimize your sleep cycle:

  1. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night and get into the habit of going to sleep and waking up at the same time (+/- 30 mins) even on weekends.
  2. Your bedroom should be dark (as close to pitch as possible), quiet, cool, and should only be used for sleep and sex – NO WORKING
  3. Avoid screen time 1 hour before bed and make use of blue light blocking technology including apps like f.lux (many new cellphones come with a nighttime setting built in) or blue light blocking lenses. Blue light disrupts melatonin production – our darkness hormone that helps govern our sleep/wake cycle
  4. Create your own relaxing bedtime routine to help signal your body that it’s time to wind down. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, pick one or two things that you find truly relaxing. Some ideas include: reading (preferably a book that isn’t too exciting!), a warm bath or shower, a cup of tea, journaling, light stretching or yoga, or a mindfulness/meditation practice

Food

Choose nutrient dense foods that are as close to their natural state as possible i.e. whole foods. Limit packaged and processed foods whenever possible. Aim for a variety of fruits and vegetables daily, and try to fill at least half your plate as veggies at each meal.

And most importantly, don’t sweat the occasional indulgence; foods are neither bad nor good. Readjust your mindset to view foods as either nourishing or not, and focus on fuelling for your goals. Remember: food is medicine.

Water

Water intake requirements are often unmet, as an easy rule take half your body weight in pounds and drink that many ounces each day. And remember herbal tea counts!

Contrast showers are an easy and cost effective way to support healthy immune function by boosting your white blood cell count; they can also promote blood and lymphatic fluid flow through the body creating an energizing start to the day. A 3:1 Hot to Cold ratio is the recipe for success (e.g. 3 minutes hot and 1 minute cold or 30 seconds hot and 10 seconds cold – for those in a time crunch), aim for 3 cycles, and always finish on cold!

Movement

I’ll make this one really easy: MOVE YOUR BODY, EVERY SINGLE DAY!

Find what works for you, the best form of exercise is the one you are going to do. It doesn’t need to be complicated, as long as you are moving around; a simple after dinner walk, getting up every hour at work to stretch or to do a few squats and wall push ups, cleaning the house or taking the stairs – these are all part of an active lifestyle even if they aren’t structured exercise. Find a friend to be your workout partner – it will do wonders for your motivation and accountability. You could even try out the 7 minute workout if you are short on time and equipment, it’s an easy anywhere workout that is easily found through an Internet search.

Stress

We all face countless sources of stress on the daily. The key to managing stress is developing healthy coping strategies – whatever that looks like for you. The goal is to find something accessible and replenishing to do, and then do it every day for at least 20 minutes.

Some examples include: yoga, stretching, meditation (either guided or silent), silent walks, art therapy, knitting/painting/colouring, reading, smashing plates (hey, no judgment here); the sky’s the limit.

I hope that these tips were helpful, or at least got you thinking about ways in which you can begin to reestablish the foundation of your health.

It doesn’t have to happen all at once, pick one category, and work on one item at a time until it becomes as natural as breathing. Then move to the next.

And remember you just have to make one better decision and you are on your way! Take small steps forward and don’t look back.

The information contained in this blog post has been developed for informational purposes only. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or care. If you have a health problem, please book an appointment for consultation. Under no circumstances should you attempt self-diagnosis or treatment based on anything you have seen or read in this post.