If you want 2015 to be an exceptional year, make this the year you master eight habits linked to health and happiness. After all, it’s your habits, or patterns of behaviour, that ultimately determine how great your life can be. The following eight habits, when practiced regularly, are guaranteed to make your life healthier and happier:
Habit #1 – Berries For Your Brain
The human brain has been called the most complex system in existence. It’s a magnificent machine that controls everything you do. Taking care of it really matters! Berries are the ultimate brain food. They’re loaded with antioxidant-rich, plant compounds that reduce brain inflammation and prevent damage from harmful free radicals. Brain cells age slower, live longer, and communicate more effectively. Your brain’s ability to lay down new pathways is enhanced. Toxic debris linked to memory loss and mental decline is cleaned up. Berries really are amazing! Eat a minimum of one cup of fresh or frozen berries daily – top your cereal with them, mix them into yogurt, or whip them into smoothies or shakes. Enjoy them in fruit salads or leafy green salads. I eat a combination of blueberries, blackberries, strawberries or raspberries on my cereal every single morning (some people buy cars and houses, I buy berries and lots of them!). Berries are an awesome investment in health.
Habit #2 – An Apple A Day For Your Heart
I love this habit, because it’s so simple and easy. Eat one whole apple, with the skin on, every single day. The best reason to eat apples is because your heart loves them! Your heart is the most important muscle in your body, beating as much as 100,000 times a day, and delivering oxygen and nutrients to all your tissues. Apples protect your heart by lowering blood levels of oxidized LDL (bad) cholesterol. When LDL cholesterol interacts with free radicals and is oxidized, it causes inflammation, damage to blood vessel walls, and hardening of the arteries. In a study from the University of Oxford, researchers concluded that for adults over 50 years of age eating one apple daily could lower the risk of dying from heart disease as much as taking a daily statin drug (the most commonly prescribed medication for lowering blood cholesterol). Red Delicious and Granny Smith apples are among the best for their antioxidant content, however, all apples are good for your heart.
Habit # 3 – To See The Colour Green, Eat The Colour Green
Dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, arugula, collard greens, Swiss chard, and watercress are called “green gold” because they contain a goldmine of nutrition. They’re the most nutrient dense food you can eat, containing more nutrition per calorie than any other food. This includes two potent, antioxidant nutrients, lutein and zeaxanthin, that are absolutely essential for eye health. These two nutrients get deposited in high concentrations in the lens, retina, and macula of the eye. They protect eye tissues from damage by absorbing the most harmful wavelengths of ultraviolet light and stopping free radicals from forming. A daily dose of greens can significantly reduce your risk of macular generation (the leading cause of adult blindness) and cataracts. Greens are also good for your heart, your brain, your bones, and all your body parts. Eat a minimum of one cup each day (broccoli can be counted as a dark leafy green too). Enjoy greens in salads, soups, stir-fries or smoothies, or sauté them with olive oil and garlic.
Habit # 4 – Eat Beans To Slim Down & Live Longer
Red meat, especially processed meats, are linked to a higher risk of colon cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Limit red meat to no more than three times weekly (deck of cards serving size) and avoid processed meats most of the time. Instead, make lots of room in your eating plan for beans (legumes)! Few foods provide such an exceptional combination protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre, and slow release carbs. Regular bean eaters weigh on average seven pounds less and have less belly fat. They also have lower blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. Based on the Food Habits in Later Life Study, beans are also the food most strongly linked to a longer life. Aim for a minimum of four bean meals a week. Eat a bean salad for lunch, have hummus or roasted chickpeas at snack time, or enjoy chili, bean soups, or bean quesadillas for dinner. More beans please!
Habit # 5 – Cut Back On This Dietary Villain
Sugar has been called the dietary villain of the decade. We’re drowning in it and it’s definitely harmful to health. A high sugar diet promotes inflammation in the body and greatly damages body cells. It increases your risk of obesity (including abdominal obesity), heart disease, type 2 diabetes, gout, fatty liver disease, kidney disease, cancer, and more. Many people are consuming as much as 20 to 30 teaspoons of added sugar daily. That’s crazy! Major sources include sugar-sweetened drinks (soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, fruit drinks, specialty coffees or teas, and sweetened bottled waters), grain desserts (cookies, cakes, donuts, granola bars), dairy desserts (ice cream, frozen yogurt, shakes), candy, and cold cereals. Based on guidelines from the American Heart Association, women should aim for no more than about 6 teaspoons of added sugar daily and men no more than 9 teaspoons. Read labels to determine how many teaspoons of sugar a product contains (divide the grams of “sugars” listed on the label by four). Use sugar substitutes, like stevia, in small amounts or not at all. Satisfy your sweet tooth with fresh fruit.
Habit # 6 – Reduce Sitting Time
Prolonged sitting—whether at a computer, in front of the television, or in your car—is not just bad for your health, it’s deadly. Researchers say the evidence is strong enough to support doctors prescribing the following to their patients: reduce daily sitting time! The longer you sit, the greater your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. Lack of activity promotes cell aging and shortens lifespans. It increases inflammation, resistance to insulin, belly fat, blood cholesterol, and blood pressure. Starting or ending your day with a workout is not enough. Too much sitting is a risk factor all on its own. Your body needs to move! The solution: set a timer and every 30 minutes, walk, dance, or do jumping jacks. Get your body in motion for at least two minutes. That’s how to lessen the harm of a sedentary day.
Habit # 7 – Practice Stillness
We live in a technology-filled world that never stops. If we’re not on our phone or computer, we’re checking our phone or computer. There’s no time for stillness and we suffer because of it. Stillness feeds our soul and keeps us sane. It helps us to survive. That’s where meditation comes in. The research is clear. If you practice it regularly, you become calmer, kinder, and more compassionate. Your ability to think, remember, concentrate, and be creative is significantly increased. You slow down aging, enhance your immunity, and decrease your risk of disease. I consider the time I spend in meditation as sacred. I’m fully present and fully here. It has changed my life immensely. Make 2015 the year you commit to a daily practice of mindfulness or meditation. Start small if you have to. Ultimately, aim for at least 15 to 20 minutes daily that’s just for you. With stillness you get serenity, and more importantly, pure joy.
Habit # 8 – Focus On What Really Matters
Madonna Badger is a woman from Connecticut who lost her three young daughters, her mom, and her dad, in a tragic house fire. It’s hard to imagine. When she was interviewed by Oprah she said “I wish I knew then, what I know now.” What she knows now is that the only thing that really matters in life is love. Nothing else comes close. To love deeply and well is the greatest gift you can give to the world and to all the people you share life with. How well do you love? How kind is your heart? Make 2015 the year you commit to loving kindness. Instead of a gratitude journal, start a love journal. At the end of each day reflect on how loving, kind, caring, generous, gracious, forgiving, or patient you were with others, and with yourself. Be kind with the people you know well, and with those you know less well. Aim for at least three really meaningful connections a day. It will change your life (and the life of others too!).
With love and best wishes for awesome habits and an awesome 2015,