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How to Stay Mentally & Physically Healthy in the New Year

Staying Mentally & Physically Healthy in the New Year

As the New Year is upon us, you may already be carrying out some resolutions for this year, with the improvement of health probably being one of them. In fact, many people set new physical health goals when January rolls around in order to lose weight, eat healthier, or both. Of course, these types of goals are wonderful and ought to be carried out all year, but what about mental health? Do people set mental health goals?

As statistics show, few people usually give a thought about how to stay mentally fit, yet mental health has been touted as an important part of health. As a matter of fact, mental and physical fitness go hand in hand in giving you a sense of well-being. Therefore, it is imperative to pursue both this year, so that you can be at your best in mind and body.

Here are some great ways of improving your mental & physical health this year:

1. Adopt a Healthy Diet

It is common knowledge that a healthy, balanced diet is important for physical health. Adopting a healthy diet can aid in improving the immune system’s ability to protect the body against a variety of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, as well as cardiovascular diseases. Adhering to a healthy diet is also essential for sound mental health. Research has shown that the brain requires a blend of nutrients for optimal functioning and also to stay healthy. A diet that incorporates plant based foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds is considered very healthy. Known as the Mediterranean diet, this diet entails a minimal consumption of animal products such as meat, fish, poultry and dairy products. It is advisable to take a generous portion of fruits and vegetables every day for good physical and mental health. Foods and drinks that contain caffeine, artificial additives, and sugar should be avoided. Alcohol consumption should also be limited.

2. Engage in Regular Exercise

Regular physical activity is important for the overall health of the body, including mental health. It is advisable to engage in around 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three to five times per week. Instead of opting for boring treadmill sessions, think about getting out into nature, as nature walks have been found to enhance good mental health. Taking a simple nature walk can be an excellent stress reliever and help you develop a wonderful appreciation of natural beauty.

3. Sleep Well

Lack of sleep is known to be one of the leading causes of mental problems. Even the mildest sleep problems can adversely affect your mental health. It is advisable to go to bed and wake up at the same time each morning and evening and shoot for about eight hours of sleep. Developing this routine should improve your sleep-wake cycle, and even adding a light sleep aid may help some people as well. Adopting a practice such as taking a bath or reading a book can improve sleep because they serve as indicators to tell the body when it is time to take a rest. Creating a conducive sleep environment is also important.

4. Take Up a Hobby

The Mental Health Foundation vouches for taking up a hobby as a way of promoting excellent mental health. Choosing a hobby like gardening or painting is a sure way of improving your mood. Humans are innately social beings, so interacting with other people while doing a hobby is very rewarding and can enhance mental health, too. Additionally, build yourself a support network with close friends for those days when you are low and to always have someone to do things with.

5. Adopt a Stress-Free Lifestyle

Relationships, finances, or even work problems can really stress us out. Stress can adversely affect mental health, as it is known to increase the brain’s vulnerability to mental problems. We can adopt a stress free lifestyle by engaging in practices such as yoga, meditation, and/or prayer. Other methods of living a stress-free lifestyle include regular exercise, quality sleep, and adopting a healthy diet.

Make this year your best year yet when it comes to overall mental and physical health. Become consistent with your goals and if need be, make yourself accountable to someone else. Many people join up with others when it comes to goals so that they are more inclined to follow through. Start a Facebook Group and invite those to it that want to stay mentally and physically fit this year. Then you can be accountable and encourage each other often and indeed, have a wonderful year!

Dominica Applegate

Featured Guest Blogger:

Dominica Applegate is dedicated to the art of self-discovery and creative expression. Earning her BA in Psychology and MA in Counseling, she worked in the mental health field for 12 years before starting her own business. A sought-after author and freelance writer, her work is ultimately about helping people remove blocks that keep them stuck and unleashing massive happiness and potential.

Ask Yourself These Questions As 2013 Comes To An End

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The yearly December holiday frenzy has come and gone.  Shopping lists, holiday feasts, company parties, ugly sweater parties, the drive to grandmothers house, and the search for the best holiday lights are in your town. You know, the one who competes with the Griswold family’s house of twinkle lights.

Depending on where you are from, or how you were raised, you may, or may not, have an end of the year tradition.  Growing up, I didn’t either. Well, unless you count acting especially nice to my parents when it came time for eight nights of Hanukkah presents. In college I’d cook Matzo Ball soup for my friends, then the holidays would pass, the Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball would drop, and I’d continue on with the new year without forethought, or reflection – I just didn’t know better. I was ignorant.

While I was living a very satisfactory life, full of great friends, and family, including travel to four of the seven continents, adrenal pumping activities like class V white water rafting and century bicycle rides – without reflection, or goals, I was essentially walking around life like a zombie in The Walking Dead.

A few years ago I was dating a beautifully intelligent woman who wore her heart on her sleeve. One day, she got vulnerable with me, and shared her end of the year recap. After reading her list I was enthralled. What she composed was an alluring reflection on the year wrapping up to a close, remembering both the good, the mediocre, and the bad. Yes – I made the list, and much to my chagrin, no it wasn’t all good. Humbled, I wondered if I could do the same, get vulnerable and look at my life through a magnifying glass. I knew I had to, but did I want to?

Being a visual person I use to send holiday cards recapping the highlights of my previous year. A few years later this morphed into a short video year recap full with pictures, short videos(vines before they were popular), and music. The feedback spoke for itself, friends and family loved viewing my accomplishments.

In more recent years I discovered self development, similar to what my then girlfriend did years ago.  Today I continually seek to improve, recapping what I did good, what I could do better, and praising myself where I did great. Don’t get me wrong, I can be my worst critic, but I do strive for giving tons of gratitude, towards myself, and others. It’s a balance of striving to improve, and being content in the current moment.

Napoleon Hill, Author of Think And Grow Rich, sometimes referred to as America’s most beloved motivational author, suggests 28 questions to ask yourself, to reflect on, to think about, and as a result, to inspire growth. Think And Grow Rich remains the biggest seller of Napoleon Hill’s books. Business Week Magazine’s Best-Seller List ranked it the sixth best-selling paperback business book 70 years after it was first published.  And not just for the business world. It’s been said that Ken Norton’s upset over Muhammad Ali in 1973 was due to the book. The Reverend Charles Stanley applied the principals in the book in his endeavors as a pastor, and discovered they worked. If they work in business, sports, and spirit or religion, it’s only natural to realize they also apply to our health.

As a matter of fact, The US Department of Health & Human Services recently wrote a blog entitled Think and Grow Healthy: What Napoleon Hill Can Teach Us About Healthy Behaviors. As the article quotes, from Mr. Hill, “lack of proper physical exercise” is listed in the books section about the major causes of failure. As many of us spend many of our waking hours, sometimes in our dreams, even nightmares, thinking about work, the link between work and health is indisputable.  Recently Pamela was emailing Dr Jacquelyn Wilson MD. When Dr. Wilson was posed with the question: “What is the single biggest contribution an individual can make to maintaining their optimal health?” Her simple response was “Listen to, and follow, your spirit.”  One’s spirit translates to all areas of life, including the 20, 40, perhaps 80 hours per week we spend at work with our colleagues.

Now onto the list of 28 questions from Napoleon Hill:

1. Have I attained the goal which I established as my objective for this year? (You should work with a definite yearly objective to be attained as a part of your major life objective).
2. Have I delivered service of the best possible quality of which I was capable, or could I have improved any part of this service?
3. Have I delivered service in the greatest possible quantity of which I was capable?
4. Has the spirit of my conduct been harmonious, and cooperative at all times?
5. Have I permitted the habit of procrastination to decrease my efficiency, and if so, to what extent?
6. Have I improved my personality, and if so, in what ways?
7. Have I been persistent in following my plans through to completion?
8. Have I reached decisions promptly and definitely  on all occasions?
9. Have I permitted any one or more of the six basic fears to decrease my efficiency?
10. Have I been either “over-cautious,” or “under-cautious”?
11. Has my relationship with my associates in work been pleasant, or unpleasant? If it has been unpleasant, has the fault been partly, or wholly mine?
12. Have I dissipated any of my energy through lack of concentration of effort?
13. Have I been open minded and tolerant in connection with all subjects?
14. In what way have I improved my ability to render service?
15. Have I been intemperate in any of my habits?
16. Have I expressed, either openly or secretly, any form of egotism?
17. Has my conduct toward my associates been such that it has induced them to respect me?
18. Have my opinions and decisions been based upon guesswork, or accuracy of analysis and thought?
19. Have I followed the habit of budgeting my time, my expenses, and my income, and have I been conservative in these budgets?
20. How much time have I devoted to unprofitable effort which I might have used to better advantage?
21. How may I re-budget my time, and change my habits so I will be more efficient during the coming year?
22. Have I been guilty of any conduct which was not approved by my conscience?
23. In what ways have I rendered more service, and better service,  than I was paid to render?
24. Have I been unfair to anyone, and if so, in what way?
25. If I had been the purchaser of my own services for the year, would I be satisfied with my purchase?
26. Am I in the right vocation, and if not, why not?
27. Has the purchaser of my services been satisfied with the service I have rendered, and if not, why not?
28. What is my present rating on the fundamental principles of success?

He says the yearly analysis will result in a decrease in faults, and an increase in virtues. Who’d like to have some of that in their life? I know i would!

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Though from 1937, many of Napolean Hill’s thoughts are still relevant today.  Perhaps  not everyone resonates with him, so here’s another option.  The following list is from Ashley Wilhite, a Life Coach and founder of Your Super Awesome Life.  Here’s her list of 25 questions to ask oneself before the end of 2013:

25 Questions to Ask Yourself Before the End of 2013

1. What am I most proud of this year?
2. How can I become a better _____________?
3. Where am I feeling stuck?
4. Where do I need to allow myself grace?
5. Am I passionate about my career?
6. What lessons have I learned?
7. What did I my finances look like?
8. How did I spend my free time?
9. How well did I take care of my body, mind, and soul?
10. How have I been open-minded?
11. When did I feel most creatively inspired?
12. What projects have I completed?
13. How have I procrastinated?
14. In what ways can I re-structure my time?
15. How have I allowed fear of failure hold me back?
16. Where has self-doubt taken over?
17. When have I felt the most alive?
18. How have I taught others to respect me?
19. How can I improve my relationships?
20. Have I been unfair to anyone?
21. Who do I need to forgive?
22. Where is it time to let go?
23. What old habits would I like to release?
24. What new habits would I like to cultivate?
25. How can I be kind to myself?

I recommend taking one of the two lists(Or both for extra credit potentially inducing greater rapid change), printing it out, and visit your favorite quiet spot. The local park, in front of the fireplace, the bathtub, your patio, balcony, back yard, or Times Square on New Years Eve. Okay, maybe not Times Square. Give yourself a good 30 or 60 minutes to sit with these questions. Write them down, and put away someplace where you can review during the coming year.

Now perhaps from this list you’ve thought of a few New Years resolutions for 2014. I read recently that only 8% achieve their resolutions. A bit like the full gym syndrome at your local gym in January, which slowly tapers off to February, and then March is seemingly back to how the the gym looked in December.  I recommend making your resolutions S.M.A.R.T. Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Relevant. and Time-Bound. I also find an accountability buddy increases the chances of success.

Now, dear reader, I’m going to get vulnerable with you. My #1 goal for 2014. My resolution, from me to you, and more importantly, from me to myself. Is to meditate 10 minutes a day. I recently asked Pamela Nathan, if you were to give one, just ONE tip to someone to achieve optimal health, what would it be. This is what she told me:

“Balancing the autonomic nervous system through silent meditation has profound effects, far beyond what we can comprehend with our rational, logical thinking. Any simple technique of creating a focus will work, just close your eyes and keep returning to your focus, every time you get distracted. It works! You don’t need to ‘do’ anything. Just show up! That’s the challenge”

And thinking back, she’s not the only one who has recommended this. My GP doctor, two Naturopathic doctors I have consulted with, even my mentor from Yoga Teacher Training. I once gave a speech called “I can’t Meditate”. Lots of excuses on why I don’t, for 2014, all excuses will be removed. My S.M.A.R.T goal is to meditate, daily, for at least 10 short minutes.

Whew, that wasn’t easy. Telling the world my personal goals. Now you, too, are my accountability partner.

Your turn. Keep the list to yourself, share with a friend, or family member, or if you want to join me in worldly accountability, post in the comments below, we’re in this together.

After you’ve made your list, and maybe a resolution or two, go out there and enjoy the New Year.

Happy Holidays everyone, wishing that the coming year is your best year yet!

 

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