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Many people developed different habits during the pandemic. Some adopted new habits to protect their work/life balance and improve their mental and physical health.
But many people developed new habits that weren’t so good. Anxiety and depression were common, leading to unhealthy methods of coping. Smoking and substance use rose significantly during the pandemic.
And your physical health may have taken a backseat. More restaurant food delivery and less grocery shopping, not to mention access to snacks 24/7, may have led to less healthy diets and overeating. Less going out in public meant more sitting on the couch. And with gyms, yoga and Pilates studios, and other public activity spaces shut down, it was easy to fall out of good exercise habits.
If your habits could use a reset, there is no better time to begin than now.
Shaking off those bad habits is especially important if your health really suffered in the last two years. Poor pandemic-linked health behaviors such as lack of exercise, poor nutrition and increased substance use and smoking are behind a current decline in U.S. health, says research from consulting firm PwC.
Looking at ways to improve what you eat and how much exercise you get are good starting points. Both can help boost your physical and mental health.
If you’re someone who embraces New Year’s resolutions, you can make a list of things to do to boost your health. You can even craft your own challenge to set some goals and work toward them.
Some simple steps can help you stick with your plan. Try these tips from the New York-Presbyterian Medical Center newsletter:
Learning from the past can help. Any time you try but don’t succeed, consider it a step toward achieving your goal, says Harvard Medical School. Each attempt is a lesson to be learned. Give yourself credit for what you do manage to do. You’re more likely to succeed if you do that instead of beating yourself up for not being perfect.
If it’s too much pressure to plan, just get started by changing a few things.
Shake up your exercise routine. We all know exercise is good for our physical health. But regular exercise can also decrease the effects of stress on the body and improve mental health and mood, says the American Psychological Association. And research shows that physical fitness is one way to boost brain health.
In fact, regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And everyone can benefit. Moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, is generally safe for most people.
If you’re already active, take it up a notch. If you need to restart your exercise routine, pick something you know you can do and start doing it now. Any activity is better than no activity, so it’s important to just get going. Be sure to check with your doctor first if you have health issues.
Aim for more sleep. Studies show getting quality sleep on a regular basis can help improve all sorts of things, from your blood sugar to your workouts, says WebMD. It can make your brain feel sharper and boost your mood. It’s also been found to help you fight off germs and maintain a steady weight. Good sleep is critical for your mental and physical health. So if you aren’t getting enough quality sleep, look at ways you can sleep more and better.
Pay attention to your eating habits. When you’re home more and bored or anxious, it’s easy to fall into bad eating habits without even realizing it. Set a new pattern by being more aware of what and how much you’re eating.
Get started with these tips from the CDC.
Look at your snacking habits. Are you eating when you’re not hungry? What are you snacking on? Are you even really tasting what you’re eating? It’s likely that you need to cut back on snacking and choose some healthier foods to eat. If you’re snacking out of boredom or to make yourself feel better, find other ways to reward and comfort yourself.
While you’re at it, check out what’s in your drinks. Drinks don’t make you feel full, but they can quickly fill up, and go past, the daily recommendations for sodium and sugar intake. Cutting down on soft drinks, smoothies or fancy coffee drinks can help lower your daily calorie intake. That leaves more room for tasty, healthy foods.
As you try to replace a few unhealthy habits with better ones, be patient with yourself. Habits take time to develop. A healthy lifestyle is made up of the choices you make and the healthy habits you create. Treat yourself well.
If getting started seems overwhelming or you’re bored with your routine, we have some ideas that may help.
Don’t like to exercise? Don’t want to spend money on it? Learn how you can Help Your Body and Mind Without Spending a Dime.
In a rut? Too busy? Try these ideas:
If winter is making you want to just stay inside and curl up on the couch, try these tips for Winterizing Your Exercise, Indoors and Out.
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