Last night we said goodbye to another year and ushered in a brand spanking new 2017. And while the glitter dust settles, it's now time for reflection and making grand plans for the 365 days ahead. January first is a significant day for all of us. After we've slept off the celebrations, it's time to seize the day and put those New Year's resolutions to paper. This is your opportunity to wipe the slate clean, kick-start that passion project, change the course of your career, take that bucket-list vacation, solidify your relationship, or pursue a new hobby.
And while you're at it, don't forget to include some of your personal health and wellness goals for the year too. It's easy to make them—like these daily habits—but sticking to healthy resolutions certainly isn't. So to give you a head start, we asked holistic nutritionist, health coach, and the founder of Frolic and Flow, Carly Brawner, and integrative nutrition health coach, Angela Simson of The Gratitude Project to share the simple ways we can transform our lives to make 2017 the healthiest yet.
Mind Your Mental Health
Mental health is a growing concern in the U.S. with 1 in 5 Americans diagnosed with some form of mental health condition. That's 40 million people! But Brawner says our mental and physical health are deeply intertwined and that our bodies can actually help to cure our minds. "It's time we started considering mental health an integral part of our overall wellness," she stressed. "The mind-body connection is real. Whether it's constant negative thinking, unresolved issues or trauma, depression, or stress, our physical body is affected. Most don't understand that the repressed emotions they hold can zap mental energy and negative thoughts can weaken the immune system."
According to Brawner, stress can increase blood pressure and even cause digestion problems. "Those who are suffering from anxiety and depression are less likely to exercise, cook, see friends, or focus on taking care of themselves," she added. If you feel like your mental health needs improvement, well, Branwer says you're not alone, and that addressing your mental health with a professional doesn't mean you're crazy or depressed.
"Seeing a therapist means you're taking care of yourself," she said. "You see specialists such as a gynecologist or a dermatologist for specific health needs, so you don't have to think of seeing a psychologist any differently. For those who don't feel that they need to work with a mental health professional at this time, journaling, meditating, focusing on living a balanced life, and spending more time with friends and family are all great ways to boost happiness."
It's such a simple concept, and we know it's not a new one by any means, but that doesn't discount its relevance or importance. In fact, this simple, ancient practice will bring incredible happiness and clarity to your life. Just ask Angela Simson, she made a career out of it. "The number one way I amplify and expand the good in my life is by taking time each day to be grateful for it," Simson says. "We usually start the year with goals on how to become thinner, richer, more successful, and stronger, but rarely do we take the time to set goals for our happiness and mental wellbeing."
Simson says that having a simple gratitude practice that you follow each day will not only help you to see how incredible life is, but it will help you to grow and get more of it too. "What you appreciate, appreciates," she said. "Nothing can be truer for gratitude."
Make Self-Care Rituals
When was the last time you took time out for yourself? A moment you set aside or blocked out on the calendar to do something that only you wanted to? If you had to pause and think after reading that sentence then it's been too long. Self-care is incredibly important, especially in this non-stop economy where we seem to be "on" and available to everyone 24/7.
Simson sees this all too often with her clients, and even in her own life, so she makes part of her daily routine. "My virtual calendar is completely color-coded and at the beginning of each week, I cast my eye over to make sure I'm not overdoing work (blue) or under scheduling in my exercise (maroon)," she explained. "But my favorite color is green, which is the color of my self-love time. I schedule it in each and every day of the week. It can be my 10-minute meditation, a beach walk, a massage, pure time of rest, or watching a movie.
"What's important to my health is that I've scheduled it in because life can get so busy that we forget about the most important person in our lives, ourselves! Making time and putting it into a calendar or schedule makes it more likely that you'll actually do it."
Kick Off a Greener Beauty Routine
How much do you think about the lotions and potions you put on your skin every day? If you're scratching your head and wondering then it's probably too much. Brawner says it's time to give our beauty routine a green overhaul. "Our skin is the largest organ of the body and absorbs about 60% of what we put on it," she stressed. "The cosmetic industry in the United States is largely unregulated. While Europe has banned 1100 ingredients, the U.S. has banned only 11. Companies are allowed to include harmful ingredients that we put on our bodies day after day after day. Some of these chemicals have been associated with cancer and infertility and are known endocrine disruptors (i.e., hormone problems.)"
So how do we know the good from the bad? Where do we start? Especially when we have a full cupboard of these products and a limited budget to fill it back up again. Brawner says start slow and switch them out incrementally. In the meantime, really do your homework. "Instead of letting the cosmetic industry decide what is safe for your body, I think you should decide," she said. "Become an informed customer and choose brands that are committed to using non-toxic ingredients. I rely on the ThinkDirty app to tell me the toxicity level of my products (this is a mind blowing app) and the Environmental Working Group website to understand the risks and purpose of specific ingredients."
Prioritize Your Health
And finally, it's perhaps the most simplest habit of all, but also the most important of all: make your health a priority. "This is not the year to sign up to do a form of exercise you hate or start drinking smoothies that don't excite your taste buds," Simson says. "We live in a time where variety is the norm and we have so many different ways to do the things that make us healthy and happy. So, no excuses, get online, get pinning some incredible quick breakfast recipes or head to YouTube and find a fun workout to help you get fit while doing something new and fun. Don't settle for 'no pain, no gain', do everything for yourself from a place of love. It's 100 times easier to stick with your goals when you do."
What are your goals for 2017? How do you hope to be healthier this year?