Welcome 2024: The 7 Health and Self-Care Resolutions you’ll want to keep this Year
1. Kick Chronic Inflammation to the Curb
Inflammation is a dirty word, but it’s not all bad. But the bad kind (the chronic kind) can wreak havoc on our bodies. Inflammation is the body’s response to infections and injuries, but if your body kicks into overdrive you can begin to suffer from chronic or systemic inflammation which can lead to a myriad of unpleasant or painful symptoms and illnesses. So don’t write off the stomach upset, brain fog, and moodiness as normal aging. Commit to a healthier lifestyle – a la Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones(2023) – and eliminate chronic inflammation altogether.
The right lifestyle changes will help defeat chronic inflammation
2. What’s your Food Safety IQ?
Netflix’s documentary Poisoned: The Dirty Truth about your Food (2023) scared the you know what out of us and woke us up to the complex realities of the globally-networked food system in which we live. Perhaps most shocking were the revelations that it is the produce and meat aisles of the local grocery store of which we should be most weary. The problems are not so much in what we are eating, but how and where our produce is being grown and how livestock is being raised, slaughtered, inspected, and cooked. The film also made clear how easily our kitchens are potential danger zones for cross contamination of surfaces with deadly bacteria like Salmonella. Poisoned is an informative and hard-hitting wakeup call for our necessary political engagement in national and international food safety.
Poisoned: The Dirty Truth about your Food (2023)
3. How’s your Sleep Hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is a word that we’ve heard a lot since the 2020’s. According to Dr. Dany P. Baby, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the USA estimates that some 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep issues. The Canadian Sleep Society estimates that some 40% of Canadians experience insomnia, with 10% (about 3.5 million people) suffering from chronic insomnia. Meanwhile, the Public Health Agency of Canada has reported the correlation between a sedentary lifestyle and insufficient sleep which also leads to chronic stress and poor mental health. A 2023 study of 384 adults published in the journal Cureus found that the percentage of adults who had problems sleeping and suffered from daytime sleepiness and depression was significantly higher amongst those with poor sleep hygiene. But what does this mean? It means that all the smug folks who routinely brag about needing only 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night are, well, liars! As reported in SciTech Daily, A 2022 study in the journal of Natural Aging of half a million people aged 38-73 in China and the UK revealed that 7 hours was the optimal amount of sleep for cognitive performance. Another important finding was that both insufficient and excessive sleep led to a decline in processing speed, visual attention, memory, and problem-solving skills. However, it is not only the duration of your sleep, but the quality that matters. That blue light emanating from our screens and digital toys may be useful for work and play, but according to the folks at Harvard Medical School, it also throws off the body’s biological clock called the circadian rhythm (because it suppresses the secretion of melatonin), not only making sleep worse, but possibly contributing to the underlining causes of cancer, heart disease, and obesity. Yikes!
So, what to do? The CDC recommends the following: 1) get consistent with your sleep and wake schedule, (2) create a bedroom that is inviting, relaxing, quiet, dark, and a comfortable temperature, (3) remove the electronics from the bedroom, (4) avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol prior to bedtime, and (5) make time to exercise. Harvard Medical School recommends that we switch to red lights instead of blue for our night-time reading and avoid looking at screens for two to three hours before bedtime. Invest in a good set of blackout curtains. Unlike many other window coverings, blackout curtains are manufactured to block out sunlight and light from artificial sources like vehicles and streetlights. We’d also like to point out that the quality of your mattress, bedding, and pillows are a huge factor in getting restful sleep. Remember, sleeping is not an indulgence, it’s a necessity!
Get your Zzzzz’s
4. No Sun, No Problem
If you live in Canada, the US North, or other regions that experience cold, snowy weather, chances are you are not getting enough natural sunlight on your skin to trigger the physiological process of vitamin D production. Furthermore, the melanin in the beautiful brown skins of black folks make vitamin D production even harder. Known as “the sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is a vital nutrient and hormone that our bodies can produce, but only under the right circumstances. Well, we’re here to tell you that those circumstances are not winter in Moncton or Winnipeg! This means that for many of us living outside of the tropics, supplementation is a necessity. Remember, vitamin D supports the absorption of other minerals and vitamins and reduces inflammation that contributes to conditions like fibroids which commonly afflict black women. Vitamin D is easily accessible in capsules, tablets, and tinctures. So next time you’re at the health food store or pharmacy, be sure to add it to your cart.
Are you getting enough Vitamin D?
5. Keep on Moving
As Dan Buettner’s Netflix documentary Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones (2023) revealed, one thing that his five sites of study shared was exercise. The folks who routinely live to 100 partake in healthy movement and resistance training as a part of daily life: like horseback riding, kneading bread, gardening, and walking. But since many of us live in places where the weather is often prohibitive to easy outdoor activity or have lifestyles that have eliminated most manual labour, the gym and recreational sports like basketball and tennis (that can be played all year indoors and out) are also great options. Don’t forget that one of the benefits of the digital age is that the best personal trainers and fitness instructors are available free of charge at the touch of a button on platforms like YouTube. We love Caroline Girvan’s Kettlebell Workouts for resistance and Tara’s Body for getting our cardio groove on!
Get your groove on with Tara
6. Stay Hydrated
Dehydration = Bad. Hydration = Good. According to the folks at the Cleveland Clinic, by the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Dehydration simply means that you are losing more fluids than you are taking in. The causes may be from breathing, sweating, fever, diarrhea, vomiting, or urinating. Why does this matter? Well, human beings are basically comprised of water to the tune of 78%. The brain and heart are 73%, bones 31%, muscles 79%, skin, 64%, and the lungs 83% water. Wow! According to the Cleveland Clinic, this means that hydration is a necessity for digestion and waste elimination, healthy joints, saliva production (digestion), proper hormone and neurotransmitter function in the brain, oxygenation, bone function, temperature regulation, and more. If it isn’t obvious, alcohol is not a friend of hydration. That’s because, as a diuretic, it causes the body to lose fluids from the blood through the renal system (kidneys, uterus, bladder). While you may have heard that you should be drinking eight glasses of water every day, according to the Mayo Clinic, the truth is a bit more complex. The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine suggests that adequate daily fluid intake is 3.7 litres for men and 2.7 litres for women. But keep in mind that these averages are likely not enough if you exercise more frequently, live in a hot or humid environment, are sick (with fever, vomiting, or diarrhea), or you are pregnant or breastfeeding. While water is a great source of hydration, you can also get hydrated from your fruits and vegetables like watermelons and spinach. Also, don’t forget the mighty coconut, which provides coconut water, the naturally electrolyte-rich wonder that puts sugary sports drink to shame.
7. Say Ohm
A hot bod and strong muscles don’t matter much if your anxiety level is off the charts, and you lack focus and discipline. That is to say that true health is of course physical, mental, and spiritual. Enter meditation, a mindfulness and spiritual practice that is best done daily for optimal benefits which include anxiety, stress, and pain reduction, increased compassion, improved memory, focus, mental discipline, and sex, and a host of other proven outcomes. As Emily Fletcher, founder of The Ziva Technique expounds, meditation is the “single most important piece of mental hygiene that we need to be practising every day.”
Make meditation a daily practise