The Christmas decorations have been put away, your tree has been taken down and the holiday cheer seems like a distant memory. Your purse might also be a little lighter and you’re possibly a few pounds heavier. It’s no wonder January can be a difficult month!
January is traditionally a tough time for most people because it is hard to keep yourself motivated. If you’ve made a new year’s resolution to get healthier, that’s great. But even if you haven’t, starting the New Year off on a healthier note is still an excellent goal to have.
So here are some easy, stress-free tips to help you get off to a healthy beginning.
1) Get some sleep
If there’s one New Year’s resolution that can make a dramatic change to your life it’s this: Get more sleep. Seriously. According to a 2006 Harvard study, chronic sleep loss can contribute to health problems such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and a decrease in the immune system’s power .
Most people assume they can get away with just 5 or 6 hours of sleep and although a small majority can, most of us cannot. A full 7 hours of sleep will keep you happy, healthy, alert and functioning at your best.
2) A checklist of health
Use the New Year to take control of your health. Stay on top of all your age-appropriate checkups and exams. For example, are you up to date on the following?
- Pap smear
- General health exam
- Colorectal cancer screening
In the spirit of taking control of your health, also consider other health-related areas where you might need a little extra help. Stopping smoking, birth control, family planning or a pre-pregnancy check are all places where you might need some assistance. Although it’s tempting to put off scheduling these check-ups, don’t delay. Start the New Year right with a clean bill of health.
3) Exercise, exercise and more exercise
Just the word ‘exercise’ is enough to bring a sense of panic and fear to some, but it doesn’t have to. Whether you have a new year’s goal to lose some weight or even if you don’t, getting more exercise and being physically active will do wonders for your health. Reducing your risk of heart disease, improving your mental health and strengthening your bones and muscles  are just some of the benefits of exercise.
4) Track what you eat
Nutrition plays a big role in healthy living. This January, start a mini project to track what you eat. The benefit of this task is two-fold: You’ll get an overview of your nutritional habits and be in a better position to start changing them. Use a food journal or download a smartphone app that does the same thing.
Are you consuming too many processed meals? Are you drinking enough water or not enough? Is your fruit and veggie count too low? By tracking what you consume, you can start to make micro changes to your diet -small fixes that will improve your health.
A well-woman exam is a great place to begin your journey to better health. Your provider will carry out a pelvic and breast examination as well as other routine tests that are specific to your case. They’ll ask you questions about any symptoms or problems you may be having and offer advice on areas where you need help. The well-woman exam is recommended at least once a year for all women over 18 years old.
6) Staying optimistic and staying on track
The January blues are a thing. Gloomy weather, stretched finances and a lull from the post-holiday high may set in soon. Stay on track by using some of the following tips:
- Keep physically active. It doesn’t matter what you do, just move. Go for walks, run, swim or take up a new gym class like spin classes, hot yoga or exercise boxing.
- Get on top of your stress. Consider activities that are designed to help you relax: Meditation, acupuncture and tai-chi are just a few examples
As January rolls into February and spring is suddenly upon us, be sure to monitor your health. Set little check-points along the way to keep up the momentum and see how you’re doing. If you falter a little, that’s okay. Be sure to come back here to remind yourself of the basics. We wish you a safe, happy and healthier 2019!
 Harvard health publishing. Importance of Sleep : Six reasons not to scrimp on sleep. January, 2006
2) Medline plus. Benefits of exercise. US National Library of Medicine. Topic last reviewed: 30 August 2017