The year 2020 sounds futuristic, doesn’t it? It’s almost impossible to believe that this science-fiction-sounding year is upon us. But if you’ve been putting off your health goals for the future, there’s never a better time to implement healthy habits than the present. So let’s dive in and discover some easy ways to make 2020 your healthiest, best year yet…
One of the single greatest things you can do for your mental well-being is meditating every day. According to a Gallup News Poll, 8 out of every 10 people are negatively impacted by stress.
Meditation is incredibly effective for remaining calm when your life seems like a never-ending tempest. How can sitting still and focusing on your breath or a mantra (a repeated phrase such as “peace”) counteract the laundry list of life’s stressors?
After all, with financial concerns, presidential elections, mass shootings, health care, and climate change, it’s a wonder any of us can cope with stress at all.
But according to a review of 47 studies, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, meditation can at least modestly manage anxiety, and depression as well as pain. Even a modest improvement in stress levels can have a profoundly positive difference in life; it can be the difference between “keeping it together” or not being able to maintain a job.
And in the futuristic year of 2020, meditating is as easy as pressing a button. Thanks to a plethora of meditation apps such as Calm and Insight Timer, you can simply follow along to guided meditations.
If you find yourself unable to let go of negative thoughts while meditating, don’t give up. Think of meditation like learning guitar or a foreign language. At first, you won’t be very good at it, but eventually it gets easier and easier.
#2: “Adapt” To Stress
In addition to meditation, certain medicinal plants help your body adapt to stress. No, we’re not talking about medicinal marijuana. Rather, so-called “adaptogenic herbs” (adaptogens) may help control the amount of stress hormones such as cortisol that circulate in the blood.
One of the deleterious effects of stress is that it requires the adrenal glands to constantly produce stress hormones. This may result in a domino effect of health problems. In addition to controlling stress hormone levels, adaptogens may help you feel more calm if you’re anxious, and more energetic if you’re fatigued.
Not all herbs are adaptogens. Only a small percentage of all therapeutic plants are considered adaptogenic. Examples include ashwagandha, rhodiola rosea, reishi, maca and ginseng. But like all supplements, not all are created equal. Do your research before you buy a supplement. For best results, choose a formula that contains at least a few adaptogens. But even one may better help your body respond to stress.
#3: Start Eating Later / Finish Eating Earlier
As we covered in these 8 ways to break the dreaded weight loss plateau, intermittent fasting is one of the easiest lifestyle changes you can make to lose weight and experience other health benefits.
There are several different ways to fast intermittently. But if there’s one simple takeaway from this popular trend you should start doing everyday in 2020, it’s this: fast for at least 12 hours a day.
It sounds easy. But many people fall into the habit of having late-night snacks on the couch while watching TV, followed by eating something in the morning, shortly after waking up, followed by eating something every few hours…
The problem with this pattern of eating is that it can cause your insulin and blood sugar levels to fluctuate throughout the day. Furthermore, eating often, even if it’s smaller, healthier meals, interferes with the small intestine’s migrating motor complex (MMC).
The MMC sweeps bacteria and fiber from the small intestine into the large intestine. Think of the MMC as your gut’s janitor that cleans up after every meal. Eating frequently interferes with your body’s fat burning processes. It can also cause an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine, leading to weight gain and bloating. Unless you have hypoglycemia or type 1 diabetes, try eating only 2 or 3 times a day. Eat more filling, nutrient-dense foods with your meals.
#4: Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
To prevent cavities and heart disease, you brush your teeth and floss after every meal, right? (Not flossing can cause harmful bacteria to travel to the heart, so if you’re not flossing after every meal or at least every night, add it to this health blueprint for 2020!)
Well, just like a healthy set of chompers and gums requires daily practice, so, too, does good sleep quality. And according to the Centers for Disease Control, more than a third of American adults are sleep deprived on a regular basis.
To improve sleep quality, establish a sacred sleep routine. Go to bed at a regular time every night. Start winding down by 10 p.m. That means no more emails or social media updates to check . Turn the TV off. Make sure all other electronics and lights are off at least 30 minutes before bed—with one exception. With all the lights and gadgets off, follow along for 10-15 minutes to your smartphone mediation app. (Put your phone in airplane mode so that WIFI is not running.) Even 5 minutes of meditation can help calm your sympathetic nervous system.
Several studies (like this one) show an association between insomnia and weight gain.
#5: Don’t Be A News Junkie
Perhaps you think that being a good citizen requires that you be informed about current events. While scanning news headlines on your phone from time to time isn’t necessarily bad for stress, following the news every single day can greatly contribute to general anxiety.
Not following the news doesn’t mean that you have to bury your head in the sand and be ignorant of what’s going on in the world. But if you reduce your news consumption, you’ll likely feel more calm and centered (especially if you also meditate or do yoga every day).
Try going just 3 days without following the news. You’ll likely feel more peaceful. If you simply can’t be an ill-informed citizen, at least do a news detox for a day or two every now and then.
#6: Ditch Simple Carbs
Sugary snacks and carb-rich foods that quickly convert into sugar are in big part to blame for soaring health costs and rising rates of metabolic diseases. You don’t have to go on an ultra-low-carb-diet like the Ketogenic plan, but significantly reducing the amount of added sugars in your diet and high-starch foods can have a tremendously positive impact on your health. Thanks to Miracle Noodle, it’s never been easier to replace pasta, noodles, rice and bread with low-carb alternatives.
To a happy, healthy 2020!
Judd Handler is a health writer and certified Metabolic Typing Advisor and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition therapist.