As 2017 begins, we feel that we need to be realistic about our goals and intentions to start anew. Many times we try to change too much at once, and then we ultimately become frustrated with our own inabilities to embrace change. Result? We give up and are left short of attaining our goals.
Mary Blackmon, Founder of Farm Star Living, states, “My goal is to have and promote a healthy lifestyle – for not only myself, but for whomever wants one. However, I want it to be something that is actually attainable, and one that truly can transform from the inside out.”
It starts with commitment. But, ‘how long do I need to be committed?’ You’re not alone in asking this question.
It was once believed that good habits take about three weeks to take root. But we hate to tell you, that’s wishful thinking. That theory was disproven with follow-up research – for many people, sticking with new habits varies depending on your personality type. A new habit can form as quickly as three weeks or potentially up to almost eight months. And, don’t hate us, but it does require work. And commitment.
But, there’s a silver lining and it may make all that work worth the effort. Blackmon shares one of her most personal experiences, “I was a smoker, and I had a very hard time quitting. Then I realized the best way to get rid of a bad habit, like smoking, is to replace it with a good habit and ‘reward’ myself positively. So every time I had the urge for a bad habit, I would swap it for a ‘good’ thing.”
It not only worked, but inspired Blackmon to create a healthier lifestyle and ultimately her first Internet venture Spa-Addicts. Derived from replacing bad habits with good ones, Spa-Addicts offered spa services at deep discounts, unheard of in ‘02. She says you never know how just changing one bad habit can change so much in your life. (The business lasted for 10 years until she took over her family farm, resulting in her new passion and development of FarmStarLiving.com). Plus, she’s been ‘puff’ free for 15 years.
She believes that the best way to really attain a lasting healthy lifestyle is by adding good habits to your routine slowly, one habit at a time, until each has taken root and become routine.
Thus, we suggest concentrating on one new habit per month. This way, by the end of this fabulous New Year before us, you will have mastered and attained many new and good habits, which hopefully will have replaced any old, bad ones. (Unless you’re perfect and don’t have any!)
We hope that one day you’ll wake up realizing you’re a much healthier, better you and that this month-by-month healthy and wellness guide will prove to be a valuable road-map to help you become your best you yet.
A healthy lifestyle requires a healthy mind, body and spirit, and we hope that these month-by-month tips will help you get there. We are cheering you on, one day at a time. And remember, a year is simply comprised of 365 days so do remember to take it just as that – one day at a time. Just live each day in the best way that you can – from morning to evening, and before you know it, this will have been your healthiest year yet. Cheers to your 2017.
Happy New Year!
JANUARY: Fill Your Plate with More Vegetables.
Fresh farm-grown food is on the rise and in greater demand. If you’ve not yet started to pile your plate with veggies, then start this month. How? By putting more vegetables on your plate - more than all other items. Yes, protein is important – it helps keep us full, is essential to our muscles and gives us energy – but we can never have too many vegetables. Especially green ones and those with bright colors.
Why? You will notice a difference in how you feel and in your waistline, as vegetables help improve our health and help reduce overall calorie intake. It’s important to mention that vegetables also help ward off illnesses like diabetes, heart disease and even some forms of cancer. So, start with this simple change of meal focus. Yep, eat your veggies. (Check out our Food for Health Guide to get the health benefits of each of your favorite vegetables).
FEBRUARY: SWAP Your Sugars
With this month being all about the chocolates and sweets associated with Valentine’s Day, it is easy to be tempted to munch on chocolates and candies all month long. However, regular enhanced sugar intake is extremely unhealthy and can even be outright dangerous. Sugar is the cause of many diseases like diabetes, it increases the aging process by affecting your skin’s cellular decay, and causes significant weight gain. And that leads to a host of problems.
While cutting everything out may not be doable, why not try to swap those sugary cakes, muffins and pies for alternative dessert options that are still sweet and delicious, but in a much healthier way. Savor the sweetness of a dried fruit, plum, prune, berry, orange, a banana, an apple. Of course, SunSweet should be your go-to for healthy and delicious snacks.
Then, while you satisfy that sweet tooth, you will also help keep the doctor away. The benefits of fruits are vast – they have essential fiber and vitamins for staying healthy, looking fresh and radiant, and in contrast to sugary cakes and desserts, they are ‘natural’ and from the earth. That outweighs the benefit of a fat-laden sugary substance dramatically, and you’ll notice the good, healthy results by incorporating the ‘swap’ on an ongoing basis. Start this month with little swaps as frequently as possible.
Are you coming out of the winter fog? Well, start to stretch those muscles and flex your flexibility! Stretching is a super beneficial practice that many of us often leave out of our daily routines. It is important we add this exercise in as a constant – especially if we’re active or frequently stressed, because it provides us a way to relax the body and the mind.
Flexibility can keep us feeling youthful, although it gets more difficult as we age. Stretching regularly – starting now - can help us remain flexible later in life, which in turn will keep us from getting stiff, having back troubles and even losing our balance and falling. Being flexible doesn’t happen overnight, but it will happen. So start this new habit now, so that by the time it really matters, you’ve already overcome the problem before it ever started.
APRIL: Ahhhh ….Nature.Step out in nature and reconnect with the world around you. See the beauty in everything unfolding as April unveils its beauty. Take in the flowers beginning to bloom, the green peaking out from the landscape and notice the beauty around you. This is the time for planting, for renewed growth, for appreciating nature. And not only is it a great time to appreciate the world around you, it is also the time to appreciate the journey inward. Reconnecting with nature, and with yourself, is a great way to stay grounded. Mediation can help de-stress, fight disease, and maintain a sense of calm even when stress is rising around you. Just breathe in, breathe out. Just ten minutes a day, whether indoors or outdoors, will get you started in finding inner stillness, and peace. You’ll be able to tackle whatever comes your way with greater focus, improved attention and improved memory. Ahhhh.
MAY: Protect Your Skin.Skin protection is important year-round and May is National Skin Cancer Awareness month. It is a perfect time to check-in with your dermatologist and schedule a ‘body screening’ during this month.
Skin cancers – basal, squamous, and melanoma, are on the rise due to a thinning ozone layer. Warm temperatures, stronger UV rays, and long-term outdoor exposure put your skin through a wringer. Of course, this results in wrinkles and can, in many instances, cause sun damage and cancers. You’re not protected without wearing sunscreen, and luckily there are so many great ones on the market that have better aromas, less cakiness and can interact with makeup much better than ever before.
And, did you know that the suns rays can come through car windows? There was a fascinating study that showed the left-hand side of a truck driver’s face compared to the right side. There was a huge difference between the two sides, with the driver’s side looking more wrinkled, weathered and damaged - it was indeed noticeable. Protect your skin and start an annual check-up routine, if you’ve not yet gotten to know your local dermatologist.
JUNE: Play with Animals.Animals are truly the ultimate therapy. They are the most loyal beings on this earth, and you can’t help but feel happy when around them! Being around animals pushes our brains to release those happy hormones, lightening our moods and making us feel relaxed.
Happiness isn’t the only great thing animals bring us. They help relieve stressful situations, which ultimately lowers our blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart disease. And, since they need to be exercised all the time, they basically force us to get up and move!
JULY: Water time.Stay hydrated during July, inside and out. This is the perfect time to submerge yourself in water, and perhaps even make an appointment for a spa. A spa is a location where mineral-rich spring water (and sometimes seawater) is used to give medicinal baths. They are known to be healing, and incredibly relaxing. And, of course, there are spas to visit that offer aesthetic services, therapeutic and also relaxing services. Not only does it feel great to just let go, but relaxing reduces stress levels and blood pressure, all of which is great for our hearts.
Plus, with July in full summer mode, remember that water is also essential for hydration. And, drink a few extra glasses if spending time outdoors! Water is good for your skin and it is anti-aging, and it allows your body to function at peak capacity. Go for the suggested eight glasses daily. You’ll feel better, more full at mealtime, and look like a younger version of yourself! Start new habits of water consumption – July is a great time to do it!
AUGUST: Train Your Brain!While it’s important for us to exercise our commonly used muscles (like our arms and legs), it is equally as important to exercise our brain. The benefits of exercising our brain include decreased feelings of depression, reversal of age-related slowing, faster visual processing speed, protection against health decline and more.
What’s a great way to do this? Activities and exercises are readily available and can easily be found online or on your cell phone. By exercising your mind regularly, you’ll continue to improve your brain function in different areas: Memory, Attention, Brain Speed, Intelligence, People Skills, and Navigation. One great site we found was www.brainhq.com, offering a variety of exercises to help you on all fronts.
Or join a book club that puts you outside of your comfort zone and tests your thinking. Or take a class on something you’ve always wanted to learn – or something you’ve always enjoyed learning about. The possibilities for growth and brain flexing are endless!
SEPTEMBER: Get Involved.Joining a team or group is a great way to boost our well-being, as well as a key way to help one feel happy and confident. Each and every one of us has an inner child – the part of us which is most connected to our deepest feelings. When our ‘inner child’ feels disconnected from others, or alone, we can have depressed feelings. This leads to an overall feeling of loneliness, and then ultimately to a cycle of disconnecting ourselves from others.
So think about joining a walking club, yoga class, or community group. The positive feelings that come from connecting with others on a common subject are limitless and can ultimately lead to greater fulfillment and happiness. So, who’s in?
OCTOBER: EAT MORE APPLES.Eating healthy snacks is key. Dried fruits and nuts are great options to turn to when hungry. In addition, eating a healthy apple is a great way to obtain better health. Apples, with their skin, provide some of the healthiest benefits of all fruits due to a high degree of polyphenols, flavonoids and pectin found in their skin. It can help you fight many different diseases, including heart disease, bone health and even fiber to help with the gut.
In fact, in one study for every 25 grams (about 1/5 cup of apple slices) consumed, the risk of stroke decreased by 9%. Furthermore, eating an apple a day was linked to a 28% lower risk of type 2 diabetes, compared to not eating any apples. Even eating just a few apples a week had a similarly protective effect. Apples contain pectin, a type of fiber that acts as a prebiotic. This means it feeds the good bacteria in your gut.
NOVEMBER: Enjoy Festivities.Life is short so spend it with the ones you love. Being with family and friends during the holidays is a gift – even though it might be one you want to take back from time to time! Kidding. As we get older, we often realize the role that family plays in our lives. As we age, and people pass, we understand that time together is to be cherished. Make the most out of the holidays and your times together. Play games, give gifts, break bread, and enjoy each other’s company. No future is guaranteed, so treasure your family when you are with them. And, especially during the holidays, make the effort to make the times together festive and memorable. You’ll be glad you did.
DECEMBER: Explore Spirituality.There is nothing more personal than one’s religion or spirituality – or lack thereof. It is not our place to tell you how to go about this, but we think that December is the perfect time to explore your own spirituality. Perhaps you feel that there is something higher than yourself, something that guides you and us all. Or not. Maybe you feel that there is something that comes from within, or from something above, something omnipresent. Your beliefs are personal, although we have no problem in declaring that we do believe that there is something greater than ourselves, which governs us all. We continue to explore it ourselves.
Whatever you believe, December is a perfect time to embrace it, and take a fresh look at your own beliefs. Explore them, and simply check-in with yourself on what this may be to you.