A New You?
Jan 16, 2018 12:55PM ● Published by Lauren VanSickle
With the beginning of the New Year upon us, it’s only natural to look at our lives and think about what we might want to change to bring about a better sense of self.
Whether you approach your health from a proactive natural and holistic viewpoint, you’re generally health-conscious, or you consider yourself a “health aficionado,” the new year ahead offers a clean slate of 365 days to chart a course to feel and look your best.
In an effort to give you a head start, we compiled some health and wellness news and tips custom suited for each health style and predicted what will be on the forefront for 2018.
Approach to Health: Proactive Natural
If you find yourself looking for ancient, natural, and plant-based remedies, you are most likely proactive about your health, more mindful about the effects of the environment on your health than most, you may even have goals for your health, and seek to feed your body in both physical and emotional ways.
Proactive Naturals, this is your year, as self-care and preventative health practices are trending across North America—and across demographics—according to the latest data from Mintel, a leading global market research company. While this trend has been building for decades, Mintel says recent stressful events in our sociopolitical sphere have intensified and are starting to impact our overall sense of well-being. Bouts of melancholy and mood swings may be more noticeable this year.
Fact or Fiction? Google searches for the term “self-care” reached a five-year high after the U.S. election. Mintel says this is a fact.
Luckily, with your proactive approach to health, you are more than likely someone who has embraced meditation as a natural way to stress less and cope more. For most of us, meditation conjures images of sunrises, rainbows, and beachy waves and is a practice that may even seem “out there” and unattainable. But, that’s why it is referred to as a “practice,” because that’s what it takes to master its benefits. If you’re a proactive person, you probably know that the benefits of meditation go beyond that of the “zoning out” effect. Studies have shown that meditation is not only an anxiety reducer, but a pain reliever, as well.
In addition to reducing stress and pain, The Huffington Post, says meditation also helps improve concentration, increases happiness and self-awareness, promotes a healthy lifestyle, benefits cardiovascular and immune health, and slows the aging process. Wow! That’s a lot of great reasons to be meditating, right?
If you are struggling, however, with achieving a meditative state, we also have good news; and tools. Most complaints about meditation involve the inability to turn off one’s thoughts and reach that peaceful place in the mind where all is calm and our random, and often counterproductive stray thoughts, are under control.
According to Yoga Journal, thoughts need not be the enemy of meditation. In those initial stages when you may be struggling to “clear your head,” it is helpful to understand that if you are serious about calming the body and mind, you can expect that thoughts are going to occur, sometimes one after the other. The trick, says the Journal, is not to mind that you are having them.
Once you understand that the point of meditation is to liberate thinking, there are two basic strategies you can use to make your thinking work for you, rather than against you in meditation. It is also helpful to understand that the goal is not to eliminate thinking, rather reassign it while meditating.
Yoga Journal suggests assigning your thinking to doing something other than it normally does. This is why emphasizing posture and breathing has always been a very successful exercise during meditation; the mind is thinking and counting breaths and focusing on inhaling and exhaling.
Another way to reassign thinking during meditation is to challenge it. Ask your thinking to answer a specific question. The Journal suggests, “What was your original face before your parents were born?” Now that’s something we don’t think about every day—and it could lead to just the right kind of introspection for meditating.
If all else fails there is a level of bargaining you can try and exercise with your thinking in much the same way you would with a small child. “Please allow me this time now, and we will do something fun later.” The brain is more likely to relax and accept this because it recognizes it as a temporary condition, rather than something arbitrary and permanent.
However you get there, the year ahead will be a much more tolerable one if meditation plays a significant role in your approach to healthcare.
Trend to Ditch?
Estimates say that 40 percent of Americans sleep less than seven hours per night. A result of the anxiety we mentioned above? Maybe. What is definite is that over-the-counter sleep aides have bombarded the market and come in many forms. No doubt, you are intrigued by the natural attributes of melatonin, a substance which our bodies produce on their own, but which are in shorter supply when we are stressed. What’s the problem with taking melatonin? Experts are reporting several areas for concern: dosing, duration, and expectation.
We have all heard about the benefits that fiber lends to the digestive process but now there are indications that it may help us feel better rested. The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine says fiber prevents blood sugar spikes that may lower our natural melatonin levels. More fiber could mean more restorative slow-wave sleep and you can find good sources in beans, quinoa, bran, and artichokes. Other foods that researchers say may help promote better sleep naturally include: soy-based foods such as tofu, fish such as salmon, halibut, and tuna, kiwis, and tart cherry juice because it is rich in melatonin.
How much is too much? While you will find ample instructions on the package, it is tempting to think that because it is a “natural” product it’s okay to take more if you need to. This is never a good idea because the body can only process so much of it. So, increasing the dosage will not have you sleeping any longer, or more soundly. Indeed, a side effect of taking melatonin, even at its recommended doses, is daytime drowsiness. And if you’re looking at melatonin as a natural “sleeping pill” you couldn’t be more wrong.
Melatonin does not cause or increase your need to sleep; it merely regulates your body’s sleep clock by working with your biological clock to tell you when it’s time to sleep.
What should you try instead of melatonin? There are other natural sleep boosters and surprisingly some can be found in the foods we eat.
Trend to Try?
For those on-the-go, but sleep deprived, could this be the year you try something kind of out there? Now in development, the Ostrich Pillow Loop is described as a cross between a scarf and a blind fold. It crisscrosses over the eyes and head and is said to provide complete darkness, filtering out 99.9 percent of light and other visual stimuli. Its microbead filling helps conform to the shape of your head and allows enough support for you to comfortably lean up against a window or wall during your commute. Never been able to sleep on a plane? This product may be the answer. Learn more at www.kickstarter.com/projects/studio-banana/ostrichpillow-loop-the-ultimate-eye-pillow/description
What to Watch for this Year
The known downside to this health profile is you will rarely see a traditional, medical doctor and therefore may not seek traditional medical treatments or resources that might be beneficial. This may be the only significant con to your approach, but it is a big one if you have an asymptomatic underlying illness that is not being treated and is progressing to something more serious, or if you are self-treating a known problem without experiencing any improvement or relief.
Approach to Health: Generally Health Conscious
The generally health conscious (most of us) report to the doctor at pre-determined intervals, exercise as often as they can work it in, try to watch what they eat, don’t ignore atypical health symptoms, and factor in quality of life in their approach to healthcare. If this sounds like you, congratulations for taking the time to take care of yourself. With our busy, full-time, and over- scheduled workdays and family lives, this is not easy.
If you were to invest any more time in pursuit of a healthier you this year, you may want to look at the “you are what you eat” trend that is becoming more significant from a precision nutrition approach. Science has told us for some time the effect our digestive tracts can have on our overall health, and how certain foods can make us feel better, yet other foods can trigger us to feel worse—but these findings have been taken to a new level that accounts for when foods are eaten, what the foods are eaten with, and how much and how often.
A traditional approach to get at “what’s eating you” under the supervision of a physician specializing in nutrition is an elimination diet followed by a re-introduction diet. Participating in an elimination diet means not eating many of the things that cause sensitivity to the digestive system for a specified period of time—usually three to six weeks. These include things like dairy products, soy, citrus, eggs, corn, wheat, or anything else to which you’ve been determined to be sensitive.
After the three- to six-week period is concluded, each eliminated food is added back into the diet for a few days and then an evaluation is taken to assess what, if any, sensitivities you have to the foods. Knowing where you stand with a specific food can make a significant difference in how you feel especially if you cannot tolerate something, but yet need its nutrients. Necessary nutrients can then hopefully be replaced with an alternate food or supplement.
Which brings us to another common problem affecting even the healthiest of us—not knowing if we are getting the proper nutritional values from the foods we eat. Thankfully, technology and science have combined to help us in this regard. Like many other of life’s First World problems, there’s now an app for that.
Today you can track and assess your nutritional goals with apps like Embody DNA by Lose It! More than just a diet tracker, this app works in conjunction with your DNA to provide the best insights into whether you are gaining the full nutritional benefits from the foods you eat. To get your specific DNA sequencing, you will first send in a saliva sample for evaluation and during the six- to eight-week period while your results are being processed, you will track all your meals with the app. After you receive the results, the app will be able to tell whether or not you are reaching your nutritional goals. This is especially helpful if you are hoping to lose weight this year, but don’t wish to sacrifice important nutrients along the way.
Trend to Try?
Or perhaps, this is the year you take a cue from the “Proactive Naturals” and employ some additional self-care trends in your routine. Our local hospitals offer many fine educational programs, self-help groups, and well-being oriented activities to support you in your efforts to stay fit and healthy.
What to Watch for this Year
Despite the political climate, don’t allow the national discourse on funding for healthcare dissuade you from continuing your healthy practice of preventive doctor’s visits and other commonsense measures, such as taking maintenance medications for conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.
Employ a Prevent Defense
According to CVS, “One in two Americans has a chronic condition such as diabetes or asthma and will face five times the healthcare costs of someone who doesn’t. One of the best ways to help patients manage their health and keep costs in line is to effectively treat and manage their chronic conditions including their prescribed medication regimen.”
Approach to Health: The Health Aficionado
Truth be told, your body is always on your mind. You want to look and feel great at any cost, you have a nose for health news, and you’re extreme in your methodology—whether it be juicing, detoxing, or working out, you take it to the max and expect max results. In short, there’s probably no “mudder” tough enough for you.
Try it or not, fitness experts say this year the focus will have us trading the “H” in High Intensity Interval Training for the “L” in Low Intensity Interval Training (LITT) workouts. No worries, the effect is said to provide the same level of fitness and same calorie burn, but at a lower intensity level spread out over a longer period of time. (Thirty to 40 minutes longer than the traditional 15- to 20-minute HITT session.)
Ohio State University researchers found thatthe most energy expended during exercise comes from starting and stopping and starting again, and from changing direction.
Why the change? Ohio State University researchers found that the most energy expended during exercise comes from starting and stopping and starting again, and from changing direction. For example, an effective workout can be achieved with a 40-minute walking session that incorporates paths with lots of twists and turns, and it can be just as effective as a more high-impact workout—with less of a chance of incurring an injury that can sideline you.
Another game changer? Well, it is actually a change in the games we play. Fitness games popularized with platforms like Wii are being eclipsed by virtual reality workouts. The Omni by Virtuix uses a 360-degree treadmill that connects to a game and allows you to run, pivot, jump, and crouch while wearing sneakers that interact with sensors on the treadmill.
The sensors measure steps taken and calories burned, as you traverse a virtual landscape, chase imaginary villains, or run across a glorious scenic backdrop, all from the convenience of your living room. Virtual reality exercise also means you can compete in global events without ever leaving your house.
Back to reality, you can even swim laps in the space of a walk-in closet. Sort-of. Today, “endless pools” are an attractive addition, indoors or out, to the home work-out regimen. Combining the jet-stream currents of a hot tub (super-streamed of course) with the benefits of traditional swimming, endless pools allow you to swim in place and at your own pace.
And when your body aches from all of your exercise, the new year offers new ways to recover and recharge. While infrared saunas have been around for a while, today’s versions detoxify, cleanse, and heal the body using special infrared lighting that heats the body from the inside out. Touted as the ultimate recovery session, infrared saunas can also help you lose weight, relieve stress, and give your immune system a boost.
Another recovery option is cryotherapy, which works by surrounding the body with a frigid mist clocking in at 130 degrees Celsius. The one- to three-minute session works by decreasing cell growth, inflammation, and pain, and by perpetuating cell survival. Spas are popping up everywhere, even in Annapolis.
Trend to Try?
On the nutrition and food front this year, experts say health aficionados will be enjoying the benefits of lupine-based beverages. A lupine is a tall, ornamental plant with seeds that contain numerous proteins. However, gleaning the benefits of the proteins while weaning out the properties in the plant that make the seeds hard to digest has recently been mitigated through research. With benefits that include reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and hyperglycemia, researchers are hoping to have lupine-based beverages in cocoa and vanilla flavors to market this year.
What to Watch for this Year
Here’s something aficionados are going to love! Ever wish you could skip the looky-loos at the hotel gym and just work out in your room? You can now. The Hilton hotel chain has recently introduced its Five Feet to Fitness™ suites where you can work out in the privacy of your own room with state-of the-art equipment just five feet away. So, if you are so inclined, check in and work out to your heart health’s content.