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New year, new you?

Forget vague intentions and resolutions you'll break before January's over. If you want to make this year your healthiest and happiest yet, set yourself goals you can stick to. Keep them simple, achievable and something you can make a part of your everyday routine. If you don't know where to start, we've pulled together a list of realistic healthy resolutions below.

Eat better

Drink more water

H2O may be one of life's essentials but when it comes to day-to-day living, we'll often forget to drink enough of the good stuff. So if you want to start the new year on the right foot, up your intake of water. Here's how:

  • Carry a bottle of water in your bag
  • If you grab a cup of coffee in the morning at work, also fill up your water bottle
  • Have a glass of water or water bottle on your desk at work or within arm's reach at home that you can sip on regularly 
  • Place a glass of water on your bedside table

Eat seasonably

Strawberries in summer, cauliflower and carrots in autumn; make it a resolution this year to make the most of what is in season and available locally. Why stock up on seasonally fresh produce? Well, not only does it tend to taste better but it is also more nutritionally dense than produce which has travelled 1000s of miles, picked prematurely and artificially ripened. So to get more nutritional bang for your buck and help the environment, try to add more seasonal fruit and veg to your shopping list. 

Aim for five or more portions of fruit and vegetables. Packed full of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and fibre, fruit and veg are a surefire way to lower your risk of health problems.

Cut down on processed food

From microwave meals and chicken nuggets to milk and breakfast cereals, processed foods have become the backbone of many a kitchen cupboard. Not all processed food is bad. For example, milk has to be processed (pasturised) to remove potentially harmful bacteria. The problem with the majority of processed foods is that extra ingredients such as salt, sugar and fat are sometimes added to make them tastier and extend their shelf life. This means you're eating extra calories or exceeding the recommended daily salt allowance without even realising. You can't control what goes into processed food but you can control the amount you eat. Use the traffic light system on food labelling to stop you going over the limit. In 2019, be more mindful of what you eat by aiming for more green or more green/amber combinations than amber/red, red.  

Swap out the sugar

We all know that too much refined sugar can contribute to weight gain, cause tooth problems and has also been linked with medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease. But did you know eating sugar can make you feel more hungry? Sweet treats such as biscuits and cakes are digested rapidly and then the sugar enters your blood stream quickly causing a blood sugar spike followed by a crash. So you end up eating more as you were not satisfied by the sweet stuff in the first place. Here's how to make 2019 the year you stop the sugar cycle:

  • Try a new fruit or vegetable dip in exchange for a snack
  • Keep snacks 100 calories or fewer
  • Eat more complex carbohydrates and protein at mealtimes to fill you up
  • Download the change 4 life food scanner app and avoid any food that is 'red'.

Look after yourself

Get active everyday

Whether travelling to work or taking the kids to school, try to build activiity into the everyday. This may mean taking the stairs instead of the lift. You could swap the car for a bike or get off the bus one stop early. Switch up your daily routine to involve a few extra steps and you'll reap the benefits both physically and mentally.

Take time out

Time is precious, we all know that, but we sometimes fail to recognise when to put the breaks on. You can't go at full pelt forever or you may just crash and burn. Make self-care a priority in 2019. If this means scheduling in some self-care time, then so be it. You'll be grateful that you did. As stepping away from the everyday rush can help you make positive choices based on your own values and motivations. Think of something that you enjoy but don't typically do and allocate some time to doing it.

Get outside

One of the easiest ways to boost your mental wellbeing is to get outside. Not only can being in the great outdoors improving your mood and self-esteem but you're naturally increase your activity and exercise levels. In the winter months, daylight can also help with vitamin D levels, which again is linked to  bone and muscle strength. Connecting with nature via a walk, run or stint in the garden can have a positive effect for up to seven hours afterwards. Banish any January blues by getting outside just make sure you wrap up warm.

Wash your hands

Stay well this winter by washing your hands properly. This will help prevent you from picking up or spreading winter coughs and colds. It's important to keep your hands clean but always wash after using the toilet, handling raw foods, before eating or handling ready-to-eat food, and after touching animals, especially pets. Wash your hands with soap and water and spend around 20 seconds to throughly remove germs. Also remember to use a tissue when coughing or sneezing.

Adopt healthy sleep habits

When you don't get enough sleep, you are at risk of weight gain, depression, heart disease, diabetes and various other health conditions. With one third of Britons sleeping just five to six hours, which is less than the recommended eight to nine hours, it's time to prioritise sleep. Granted, establishing a good sleep routine takes time and patience so don’t give up if you don’t achieve it straight away. Dedicate a month to improve your sleep routines. Try these tips to see if your sleep improves: Exercise daily; Stick to a sleep schedule; Practice a relaxing bedtime routine; Try not to eat, exercise or drink Caffeine too late; Eliminate screens (phones, games and television) from your bedroom.

Take notice

It can be difficult when you're constantly making plans, jumping from task-to-task, fulfilling family and work responsibilities or trying to tick off that endless to-do list to take some time out for yourself. Or you may find yourself feeling anxious about the future or things outside of your control. Whatever the case maybe, taking notice of the world in the present can boost your wellbeing and help you to find an inner calm. 

Whether this means going for a walk in nature, listening to the birds tweeting, gazing at the clouds in the sky or noticing the different tree species, take the time to enjoy the moment.

And relax

Set aside 15 minutes of your day to develop techniques that will help you relax and respond to everyday 'stress'. From yoga and deep breathing to mindfulness,  pay attention to your thoughts, feeling and environment that you’re in. Practice being present in the moment to become aware of the 'stresses’ and how to cope in a healthy and positive way.

Make time for you

Catch up with friends

Isn't it about time you put the world to rights? Who better to do it with than a good friend. You may have sent a card over the festive period and remembered those who you haven't been in contact with for a while but why not follow up in the new year and spend time properly catching up. Put a date in the diary to meet up with a friend you haven't seen in a while. 

Connect with others

While some people may be happy to be on their own for short periods, many people don't come in to contact with others for days at a time and can become socially isolated. This can have a negative impact on anyone's health. If someone is on their own within your community, try reaching out to make sure that they're ok. Even something as simple as talking about the weather can start a conversation that may just impact someone else's life.

Try something new

Some say that the best way to stick to an activity is to find one you'll enjoy. If you're not sure where to start, head to your local Better Leisure Centre. From swimming and trampolining to yoga and group cycle, there are plenty of activities to choose from. Why not try three different activities and then decide on your favourite?

Continue learning

Continued learning through life has many benefits, such as building self-confidence, meeting a diverse range of people, increasing opportunities and improving your overall wellbeing. From learning to swim or developing your swim technique to learning a new language or simply reading more with help from your local library, set yourself a resolution that will enhance your life in 2019.  

Give something back

Volunteering in your local community will not only build your self-confidence but offers you the chance to give something back. If you want a new challenge that will give you a sense of purpose and pride in your achievements, sign up to become a volunteer. Look for opportunities in your local area to do something for others. You may develop new skills and also meet people from different backgrounds within your community. Head to https://www.better.org.uk/volunteer to find out more.

Train with a friend

If you're finding it hard to stick to a training plan, rope in a friend. Not only will they encourage you to train for longer but friends who train together burn more calories and visit their gym more regularly. The reasons that a friend can help are various - friendly competition, more accountability, more fun, or simply a way to catch up - but ultimately, a friend is a great motivator.  

Reduce screen time

Studies have shown that screen time can affect our sleep, our weight and how we feel about ourselves. While we're not expecting you to go completely cold turkey, you could cut down on the amount of time you spend with a screen. Make a point not to eat in front of the telly, leave your work emails at work, and swap virtual chats for face-to-face meet-ups with friends (see above) and family. Get away from the default position of flicking through your phone when you are bored and take up something new. 

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