New Year’s resolutions don’t need to happen on New Year’s Day, they can happen any day. When you take control of your health and your life, you feel empowered. Those changes can happen January 1st or March 1st, or any day really. You don’t need a calendar to dictate them.
My upcoming docuseries Broken Brain provides plenty of ways to empower you to take control of your brain, your overall health, and your life. This information is powerful medicine, and just as importantly, many of these strategies don’t require a lot of time.
I hope you’ll join me for this groundbreaking event. (You can register here) In the meantime, here are 5 “fast” strategies from the docuseries you can incorporate in your life in 10 minutes or less. And you can start them any day of the year!
1. Fill your plate with 75% non-starchy veggies. Unfortunately, carbs get a bad rap. Cauliflower and ice cream both fall into the carbs category, but we all know one is healthy and the other isn’t. Ideally, about 75 percent of your carb intake should come from mostly non-starchy veggies and some low-glycemic fruits. By volume, most of your plate should be carbs. Note I said volume, not calories. Many plant-based carbs actually have very few calories.
2. Go all-out with 7 minutes of intense exercise. High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, involves working at the very top end of your capacity for 45 – 60 seconds, then recovering for 3 minutes by walking or a slow jog, then returning to very high intensity for another 45 – 60 seconds. Don’t let the short time fool you: You’ll see significant fitness gains very quickly. You can do it walking, running, biking, jumping rope, dancing, or even swimming. Just focus on getting your intensity up to a 9 on a 1-to-10 scale during the intense intervals, and then allowing your system to recover as much as possible during the rest cycles. And prepare to work up a sweat! The New York Times has a great 7-minute app to do HIIT. “In 12 exercises deploying only body weight, a chair and a wall, it fulfills the latest mandates for high-intensity effort, which essentially combines a long run and a visit to the weight room into about seven minutes of steady discomfort — all of it based on science,” writes Gretchen Reynolds. You can get the app here.
3. Practice sleep hygiene. Going to sleep and waking at the same time each day creates a rhythm for your body. Only use your bed for sleep or romance. Don’t keep a television in your bedroom: Studies show the artificial, bright light can disrupt brain activity and alter sleep hormones like melatonin. Here’s an easy way to fall asleep more efficiently. About an hour before bed, put your phone to bed. And all electronics for that matter. Find a relaxation technique (it could even be a hot bath) that helps you drift into deep sleep.
4. Do a 2-minute meditation in the morning and evening. This makes a great way to begin and end your day. The effects of chronic high cortisol and other stress hormones on our brains depletes brain power and leaves us tired, sick, and fat. You don’t need 30 minutes of meditation or an hour-long yoga class to lower those stress hormones. A 2-minute breathing practice, yoga, or meditation exercise can do wonders for your mind and body. Here’s a breathing exercise called “Take 5” you can do several times each day. Sit on a chair, or propped up on pillows in your bed, or cross-legged on a cushion on the floor. Close your eyes and your mouth. Breath in slowly through your nose to the count of five. Hold to the count of five and then slowly breathe out to the count of five.
5. Cultivate community. Friend power, not willpower, is the key to success with your health goals. Conversely, when you shift focus and prioritize your friends, family, and coworkers, you deepen your connection with them and feel more fulfilled. Sometimes those connections might feel uncomfortable, but they’re worth it. Social media has its place, but most of us spend far more time there than we do interacting in real life, which new research shows impacts our health and happiness. Instead, spend 5 minutes a day connecting with a loved one.
Incorporate these fast, effective strategies and watch your life improve! Your New Year resolutions can happen any day.
I hope you’ll join me in the Broken Brain docuseries to learn more quick, simple strategies about how to fix your brain and your overall health.
Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD