December is a magical time to spread kindness, good fortune, and cheer. It is a season for embracing traditions, spending time with others, and believing in the hopes and promises of the new year to come. The hustle and bustle of the season makes it a busy time of year with shopping, preparing feasts, and visiting friends near and far. For some December can even bring sorrow with loved ones who are missing, traditions that no longer occur, and stress that cannot be overcome.
As we celebrate the season, take time to reflect on the greatest gift we can posses; the gift of good health. Being healthy encompasses mind, body, and spirit with the absence of injury and illness. Health allows us to live life to the fullest in a positive, productive, and pain free way. Lifestyle choices dramatically shape our health, and can improve our mental and physical wellbeing at any age. For people with acute or chronic illness, and even people with incurable disease the benefits of healthy lifestyle choices promotes the greatest health they can achieve.
The start of a healthy lifestyle begins with a positive outlook. Researchers believe people with positive outlooks are more motivated to make healthier life decisions, focus more on their long-term health goals, and protect better against the inflammatory damage of stress. Heart disease patients with a positive outlook were more likely to live longer and patients with a positive outlook had higher physical activity levels, slept better, and were less likely to smoke. While some people are born optimists, ultimately a positive attitude is a choice. You can train yourself to be a positive person; start by smiling more.
Eat healthy by choosing foods that are minimally processed and highly nutritious. Instead of foods that come in packages target a plant based diet rich in vegetables and fruit. Enjoy lean protein such as fish, eggs, and poultry in smaller amounts. Eat whole grains over refined varieties, low fat and nonfat dairy, and select healthy fats such as nuts and olive oil daily. Understand that all foods can be enjoyed in moderation, but maintaining a healthy balance is key. Skip foods that aren’t worth the calories and savor every bite of indulgent foods you truly love.
Exercise has been shown in studies to help reverse aging at a cellular level. Exercise not only burns calories, it protects our health by increasing oxygen delivery to our cells, increasing the fluidity of our blood vessels and arteries, and improving blood flow throughout the body to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. For 24-48 hours after exercise we can see a healthy decrease in blood pressure and an increase in insulin sensitivity up to 40% after a moderate-intense exercise session. Exercise also helps improve our sleep and releases endorphins which can elevate our mood.
As this year draws to a close take a little time for yourself and reflect on where you would like your health to be this time next year. The small choices we make every day have an impact on our health over a lifetime. This holiday season give yourself the best gift money can’t buy, the gift of taking care of your health.