The last two years have been tough. No doubt you’ve focused on staying COVID-19-free. Concentrating on the rest of your health, though? That’s been a lot harder.
The new year is right around the corner. Now is your time to plan for making the next 12 months your best. Give these 10 changes a try to take back your health in 2022!
1. Remember Your Birth Control
Unless you’re thinking about midnight feedings and Mommy & Me playdates, pregnancy prevention is key. In-person appointments aren’t necessary. With online birth control options, you get doctor-prescribed medication delivered to you.
Contraceptives can offer several other health benefits, too. Hormonal birth control can fight acne. Your periods will also likely be more regular, and it’s possible you’ll get fewer migraines. Birth control can also lower your risk of several types of cancer, including ovarian and uterine disease.
2. Make That Doctor’s Appointment
We know — going into the doctor’s office during a pandemic has been a little scary. It’s still important to go. Start the year off right by scheduling a visit with your primary care doctor. Make a list of anything that’s changed, and put together some questions. Mask up and go in for a well check.
It’s equally critical to catch up on any screenings you might need. For example, mammograms aren’t fun — but breast cancer is much worse. If you skipped your annual appointment, get yourself checked soon. Talk to your doctor about a lung cancer screening if you smoke. Ask for a full blood panel to check your cholesterol and vitamin levels, too.
3. Set a Sleep Schedule
Life is busy. Maybe you’re in work overdrive or are super excited about a new project. That’s OK — just don’t sacrifice your sleep to reach any new goals. Snoozing makes reaching your other health goals easier. Strive for roughly seven hours every night.
Getting the zzz’s you need makes you more productive. You’ll have more energy, your memory will be better, and you’ll be in a happier mood. Sufficient rest also gives you the pep you need to stick with new exercise regimens.
4. Commit to Exercise
Speaking of physical activity, you don’t necessarily have to get a new gym membership to stay healthy. Instead it might be easier to find ways to work exercise into your existing schedule. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or walk your dog the long way around the neighborhood. Set concrete goals such as “walk three days a week” versus “start running.”
Building muscle improves your long-term bone health and kicking up your activity level burns calories for weight loss. Exercise improves your sleep, and raising your heart rate is also good for your mind. Pumping blood to your brain boosts your cognition, potentially preventing memory problems later in life.
5. Perfect Your Posture
Stop — take a quick look at yourself. Are you slouching at your desk? Are your legs crossed? Good posture is more than sitting up straight and holding your shoulders back. It’s finding a comfortable position that prevents unnecessary aches and pains.
You can improve your posture with some simple steps. Sit up straight, tuck in your tummy, uncross your legs, and put your feet flat on the floor. Reposition your computer and get a chair with lumbar support. These strategies help lots of people avoid back pain, neck strain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and eye strain.
6. Focus on Your Food
Instead of a crash diet or totally revamping how you eat, reclaim your health with some smaller changes. Start with better food choices. Pass on the fries and reach for the crunchy stuff — vegetables, that is.
Add veggies to your plate at least once a day. They’re a great source of fiber to improve your digestion. Both green leafy and colorful vegetables can boost your vitamin levels while lowering your inflammation and blood sugar levels.
7. Kick the Habit
Cutting the ciggies is a long-standing New Year’s resolution. That’s because it’s a good idea. Not only do cigarettes contain addiction-forming nicotine, but they’re also filled with cancer-causing toxins. Put out your last smoke and you’ll start seeing health benefits almost immediately.
Once you quit, your blood pressure drops. So does your risk for future cardiovascular disease. You’ll cough less, catch fewer respiratory illnesses, and eventually have a much lower chance of developing lung cancer. Throw away the pack and you could add up to a decade to your life!
8. Nix the NaCl
Salt might be the spice of life, but too much is a bad thing. A dash on your food enhances flavor but sprinkling too much can raise your blood pressure. That can be a recipe for heart attack or stroke. Keep the saltshaker in the cabinet, and only bring it out when you must.
Taste your food before you salt it. Have some healthy fun by experimenting with different herbs and spices. You may discover a whole new range of flavors you didn’t know existed.
9. Play Mental Games
Crosswords, chess, Sudoku, or puzzles are all great mind games. Take your pick for a game that twists and challenges your brain. The more you flex your mental muscle, the healthier it will be. Start now and you’ll lower your chances of developing dementia later.
Games aren’t for you? There are plenty of ways to keep your brain on its toes. Regularly change your route home or switch hands when eating. Staying social is also a great way to keep your mind nimble.
10. Don’t Forget Sunscreen
It’s getting colder, but don’t pack the sunscreen away. Protecting your skin from sneaky UV rays that peek through the clouds on the overcast winter days is important, too.
Choose sunscreens with at least SPF 30, and if you wear makeup, select one with a moisturizer-SPF combo. Don’t forget about your eyes. Polarized sunglasses will protect your peepers from sun damage.
The new year is on the horizon. Following these suggestions could help you stick with new habits long past when New Year’s resolutions start to fade. Give these pointers a shot, and you could be a healthier you in 2022!