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Health Focus, Straight Ahead!

Hello, and Happy New Year! How’s the start of 2023 going? Like many of us, you may have set some good, strong intentions, bringing in a sense of renewal!! Yay! If changing your eating or lifestyle habits was part of your intention for the new year, here are some ideas to explore as you continue with your healthy living transformation:

1. Sleep! That’s right, adult humans need 7-9 hours of solid sleep per night. During sleep, the body takes care of digesting and processing all the foods you ate during the day. It also resets the brain after functioning in your busy waking life, and repairs any stress or strain sustained in the body through the day. Staying in this natural circadian rhythm is important for down-regulating and managing daily stressors. Sleep during night hours is best (sunset to sunrise), when naturally dim light triggers the body to rest and consume melatonin.

2. Drink water! The age-old standard, right? The reality is that most people live in a perpetual state of dehydration. Dehydration masks itself as hunger, triggering the urge to eat more food. Try drinking 6 oz of water when first waking up, and then 8-10 oz of water between meals. Keeping your body hydrated will stave off hunger, reduce food intake, and generally make you feel better.

3. Eat fruits and vegetables! You don’t need to restrict yourself to salads (anyone loathe that part of dieting?). By adding a portion (1 cup) of fruit or vegetables to each meal and slightly reducing the portion of starches and proteins you’re eating (reduce each by 2 oz or a ¼ cup), you are adding in good fiber + nutrients, and eating foods with higher water content and lower caloric load. This is a simple addition, and not a total change to the foods you’re already eating. Remember that if you’re craving sweets, a cup of berries or carrots also makes for a great naturally sweet midday snack!

4. Move your body - gently. Rigorous exercise can often be another part of weight loss goals and New Year’s resolutions. This is a natural place to start, with the theory of burning more calories (output) than calories consumed (input). However, rigorous exercise can actually hurt your body versus help it. Aside from concerns about muscle strain or over-working your heart, strenuous exercise keeps your body in an elevated state of stress, when what we usually need in our busy lives is more rest. Instead, try taking quiet walks in nature, 15-30 minutes per day, or parking a little further away in the lot. Getting your body to move in other fun and lower impact activities such as dancing in your kitchen, hiking, swimming, kicking a ball around with your kids, taking the stairs when able, or a restorative yoga class are creative ways for you to stretch your muscles, add mobility, and give your body time to recover from daily demands.

5. Make time to TURN OFF YOUR BRAIN. This does NOT count towards sleep time! Having time for your brain to relax, just like the muscles of your body after a workout, is extremely important for managing stress. Use 15-30 minutes per day for some self-care, such as a warm bath with oils + salts, a cup of tea before bed, getting a pedicure, taking time for meditation, or however you can practice just ‘being’ for a moment. We often forget that we are human Beings, not human Doings.

**BONUS TIP** Mental breaks throughout the day keep your mind sharp when you need it. A quick 30 second time out (who doesn’t have 30 seconds? No, really, it’s only 30 seconds…) to practice rhythmic breathing, such as a 6 count inhale, with a 6 count exhale, allows the body to fuel your brain with lots of fresh oxygen (if you can go outside for the 30 seconds, even better!), massages your heart muscle, and reinvigorates you! Try this twice during your work day. Your focus will improve, and you’ll feel overall better!

Have a fantastic day ahead! Get out there and live in your intention, be bold, say YES to living a healthier, brighter, happier life! JOY is attainable, and taking these small steps, just one per day, will get you where you want to be!

By Jennifer Rizza, Founder of Newtown Wellness Collective

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