It’s resolution time! Right now, millions across the country are setting self improvement goals for 2018 and the majority of these resolutions involve brain and body health. According to www.USA.gov the most popular goals are to Lose Weight, Get Fit, or Further their Education.
I am notorious for making New Year’s resolutions that end up falling by the wayside come February 1. (Okay…let’s be real. I fall off the wagon by the second week of January.) And I know I’m not alone…68% of Americans will also break their resolutions by spring (source.)
Why do our resolutions fail? Research shows resolutions that are specific and measurable are much easier to keep than ambiguous goals like “get fit.”
I am determined to better myself inside and out in 2018 and I know others are too! Here are some specific and measurable resolutions for brain/body health that will be easier to keep than last year’s goal to “be healthier.”
1. Set a Bed Time Alarm
Sleep is one of the healthiest activities you can do and research shows just how important it is for your brain. While you sleep, your brain is busy clearing toxins, making repairs, creating neurological pathways that help you process information, storing memories, and fighting off Alzheimer’s. (source)
Yet, every night, before I know it, it’s 1am and I’m still pinning. But this January I am going to become a sleeping pro by setting a bedtime alarm! Like a regular morning alarm, a bedtime alarm can just be subtle reminder to shut it down and catch some zzz’s. The iOS 10 even has a built in bedtime alarm which improves your sleep by coinciding with your natural sleep cycles.
2. Choose Natural Pleasure Over Artificial
Our brain craves pleasure and according to research, it is best to enjoy it naturally. Binging on things like Candy Crush and Instagram may make you feel energized and happy in the moment, but in the long run these artificial pleasures can have a negative impact on your well-being. While Candy Crush is a fairly harmless vice, other artificial pleasures are more dangerous and are often associated with addiction (ex. drinking, binge eating, smoking, gambling, etc.)
So what are some natural alternatives? One website I read laughably listed “exercise.” And if that’s your thing, more power to you. But if that doesn’t do it for you, other ideas include listening to music, playing (non-tech) games, cooking, or hanging out with your friends. To make this a measurable and specific resolution, put a number on it (ex. Hang out with friends at least one night a month.)
3. Keep a Dream Journal
I always wake up with intense and vivid dreams that somehow completely disintegrate by the time I pour my morning coffee. But starting January 1, I am going to keep a dream journal! According to research, writing down your dreams does wonders for mental health. It keeps the brain sharp because dream recall provides a unique type of mental stimulation. It also influences your mind to have lucid dreams, in which you remain aware and can control the dream. (source)
4. Make a Daily Mindfulness Mantra or Pick a Word
This tip comes from my self help hero Gretchen Rubin. It is easy to get caught up in the hassles and obligations of every day life. Having a daily mantra helps refocus attention on what is really important. Your mantra should be a word or phrase that is meaningful to you, (keep in mind, what works for some does not always work for others.) When you are feeling stressed, angry, sad, or any other emotion that bubbles up during the day, refocus your attention by repeating your mantra. Some mantras that were helpful to others include:
In the end only kindness matters
This too shall pass
There’s always another bus in 15 minutes
Do it now
Done is better than perfect
5. Try One New Vegetable Each Month
Ever try romanesco? It’s a cousin to broccoli and is full of brain-boosting zinc, carotenoids, iron, vitamin C, folates, glucosinolates and thiocyanates. What about eating fiddleheads or Kohlrabi? Vegetables are so good for your body and brain and there are likely thousands that you have yet to try. Trying a new vegetable each month is a fun way to eat more brain food – let your kids choose something from the produce section and try a new recipe. It’s great way to expand your nutritional repertoire and to be healthier. If cooking isn’t your thing, try ordering something new when you are out to dinner or get something prepared. For some inspiration read this: Unique Vegetables.