The New Year is upon! Time to get off the Holiday Merry-Go-Round and look forward to 2016. Looking back, are you baffled how quickly 2015 slipped away? Were you able to stick to your fitness goals, or did your enthusiasm flame out mid-year? As life’s pace picked up, did your health take a back seat?
If so, then let’s press pause and ‘reboot’ the New Year on a healthier note with three easy to follow, and fun to execute fitness motivations for 2016.
1). “Tribal-ize” your Exercise
In ancient times, tribes would collectively practice various activities such as dancing rituals and hunting skills together. This collective practice, physically and mentally strengthened the individual as well as the whole tribe. Participating in a ‘workout tribe’ is relevant today.
Research has shown when people exercise with others, the brain floods itself with chemicals and hormones, such as endorphins and oxytocin. Endorphins are mild opiate neuropeptides that produces a sense of well-being and blocks pain, they are responsible for the “runners high” feeling. Oxytocin is the “love” or “cuddle” hormone and creates a sense of bonding.
Vigorous workouts done alone do release endorphins, but with groups, the endorphin surge is dramatically more. Furthermore, in group settings, oxytocin ‘hugs’ the brain to promote group cohesiveness, or sense of belonging.
University of Saskatchewan professor Kevin Spink has discovered, “those who feel a greater sense of “groupness” and cohesion within an exercise class are more punctual, have better attendance and even work harder.”
Goal One: form a workout tribe!
2). Take a Diet Selfie
Write down or snap a pic, of what you eat and drink, for a couple of days. This is a great way to assess your diet and identify what needs to be modified. You may be shocked. Most of us are not very mindful of what and how much we are eating, until we record it.
Many Americans struggle with not eating enough fresh fruits and veggies. The recommendation is to eat 5 servings of vegetables and fruit a day (3 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit).
Too much sugar and flour is a problem. Whole grains is a better selfie partner. The recommendation is 3-6 servings (a serving is: 1/2 cup or one slice of bread) of whole grains a day such as oats, brown rice, quinoa, couscous, whole wheat pasta, etc.
We have all heard, more protein and less carbs helps weight loss, maintenance and improved health. Although more research is showing, a diet enriched in plant protein triumphs over, a diet focused on animal protein.
Decrease your intake of processed foods. My rule is, if not 100%, at least 75% of your daily diet should come from foods that is naturally grown or raised. So if it doesn’t come in a box or can-go for it.
Last, make sure you are drinking water and limit juice and soda, including diet soda. Studies have shown people who drink a glass of water before they eat or snack, eat less and lose more weight.
Goal Two: buy a food journal and stick to it!
3). Get to the Art of the Matter
If you want to get healthier this New Year think- ART. Probably you do not associate art with health but it is a powerful motivator and can be an intricate part of balancing your health.
Art is the foundation of feeling alive! When you approach your health, physically and mentally with an artistic creative mindset it refreshes or ‘reboots’ yourself out of the healthiness doldrums.
The American Journal of Public Health published an article titled, The Connection between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature, they reviewed the impact of music, visual arts, movement expression and expressive writing on health and over all well-being. They profoundly concluded:
“There is evidence that engagement with artistic activities, either as an observer of the creative efforts of others or as an initiator of one’s own creative efforts, can enhance one’s moods, emotions, and other psychological states as well as have a salient impact on important physiological parameters.”
Evidence has shown that viewing and/or participating in any art form can enhance cognitive function, induce creativity, reduce stress, expedite healing and improve physical well-being and life satisfaction.
Why is this? Dopamine. Creating or engaging in art releases dopamine in the brain, this is the “feel good” motivating neurotransmitter. It also helps develop new neuron connections which improves the brain’s ability to learn, cope with stress and increase cognitive function.
So when you admire or participate in visual arts, dance, music, literature, theater, gardening, home decor, DIY projects, sewing, etc. you are actually growing new neuron pathways. And new pathways protects against mental aging.
Goal three: Ignite your inner artist.
So this New Year- form a workout tribe, try new exercises, take in the arts, and be mindful of what you put in your mouth. This is what has inspired me to continue to improve my health the past 30 years. …And most importantly, make the time to be healthy in 2016. Happy New Year!