5 Tips for a Healthier New Year

Kickstart the new year with achievable resolutions

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Setting SMART intentions

For many, the new year is an exciting opportunity to set new goals and commit to better habits – especially around a healthy lifestyle. But once the new year energy starts to fade, so can the determination.

To set goals we’ll stick to, we asked former Team Canada hockey player and current Toronto Maple Leafs Assistant Manager, Hayley Wickenheiser, who recommends making your goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound. Hayley got to the top of her game by using this method: “A SMART goal isn’t saying, ‘I want to be a better ice hockey player,’ it’s saying, ‘I want to improve my skating speed by 0.2 seconds over the next six months.” Setting personal benchmarks is something we can all do.

Need your own SMART goal inspiration? Here are some intentions we’re setting for a healthy body and mind.

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RESOLUTION: Start journaling

SMART RESOLUTION: I will journal for 5 minutes, 3 times a week, and increase the time and frequency monthly as the year progresses.

Journaling does a lot more than simply help you process your day. According to a study published on cambridge.org, expressive writing is proven to reduce stress, increase immune function, reduce blood pressure, sharpen comprehension, boost your mood, regulate emotion and even help improve sport performance. Though many of those benefits are associated with longer writing periods – say, 20 minutes or so – start small and build up at an achievable rate.

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RESOLUTION: Get outside and move more

SMART RESOLUTION: I’ll walk 2 kilometers (approx. 30 minutes) at least 5 times a week.

Venturing outside to get your steps in, even in the winter, not only has physical health benefits like increased energy and improved cardiovascular health, it also boosts your mood and reduces stress. Take it from four-time Olympic gold medalist, Hockey Hall of Fame inductee and doctor Hayley Wickenheiser: “I like to start my day with an early morning run. It gives me a sense of accomplishment, and I feel more focused and energized.”

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In those early morning hours, Hayley takes extra safety precautions. “I’m often out the door when it’s still dark out, so wearing my TELUS SmartWear Security device gives me an extra layer of protection and added peace of mind, so I can truly enjoy my early morning runs,” she says. These small, discreet charm-like personal safety devices easily attach to your keys or can be worn as a bracelet or necklace. Each charm is equipped with a hidden button that can instantly text her GPS location to select contacts and/or emergency services. With this device, safety is as simple as a double click.

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RESOLUTION: Sleep better

SMART RESOLUTION: I will follow the 10-3-2-1-0 rule of sleep for at least 5 nights a week.

Getting enough sleep? The benefits of getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep nightly are bigger than you think. According to sleepfoundation.org, regular quality sleep helps with better brain function (sleep allows your brain to renew and improve neural connections); mood (sleep helps you manage stress), athletic performance (in sleep, you release hormones to contribute to muscle growth); and general health (sleep gives your cardiovascular system a break, helps regulate blood sugar and fight infections).

Experts recommend adopting the 10-3-2-1-0 rule for healthy sleep hygiene: No caffeine 10 hours before bed; no alcohol or food 3 hours before bed; no work 2 hours before bed; no screens 1 hour before bed; no snoozing your alarm.

Sweet dreams, healthy sleepers!

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RESOLUTION: Exercise the brain

SMART RESOLUTION: I’m going to attempt the morning crossword every other day.

Did you know that exercising the brain builds coping mechanisms, improves your problem-solving skills, boosts memory, and can even reduce the risk or postpone the onset of dementia? Even better, finding regular activities that engage the brain and challenge it to perform in new ways can be fun! Whether it’s games and puzzles (hello, crossword and sudoku!), learning a new skill (fantasizing about finessing your French?) or simply meditating every morning, there are lots of options to help keep you sharp. Switch them up and make them as simple or challenging as you want – just keep introducing your brain to something new!

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RESOLUTION: Connect more with family and friends

SMART RESOLUTION: Set one hour a week to connect with those you love – and make new friends, too!

Social connection is a form of self-care. Having a network or community you can count on not only builds empathy and self-esteem, but also leads to lower levels of anxiety and depression.

It’s never too late to reach out to those you love – for friends and family you haven’t talked to in eons, sometimes a simple phone call can bridge the gap. There are also plenty of ways to make new friends at any age, from friend-making apps to joining clubs based on your hobbies. So go ahead and put yourself out there – your life will be better for it!

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To a happy, healthy, safe and SUCCESSFUL New Year!

So, what resolution will you start – and succeed in? Whether it’s to boost your mind, body or soul, ensure it’s SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound. Set yourself up for success by finding fun and relishing the rewards in whatever you do – and feel safe while you do it! TELUS SmartWear Security is not just there to support you when you’re out running, but it also adds an extra layer of protection during ride shares to meet new friends or heading home in the evening to ensure you can get those eight hours of sleep. Here’s to a happy, healthy, mindful, and masterful 2023. Your goals may be individual, but we’re all in this together!

Originally Published in Best Health Canada