It's a New Year. You know what that means....resolutions. Ugh. In the past, I have been horrible when it comes to New Year Resolutions. For a number of years I have made resolutions to increase my upper body strength. Recently, it has been in the form of some type of push up or plank challenge. I hate push ups and planks. Which is why it required something like a resolution to get me to do them.....and why it always failed. My New Year Resolution for 2020 changed all of that. I decided I would do a handstand. Crazy, I know. I haven't been able to do a handstand in ages but I absolutely love handstands. Some of my happiest memories as a child were viewed upsidedown walking around on my hands. Those memories of joy is what encouraged me to begin practicing. The joy I felt when practicing is why I was able to meet my goal and fulfill my resolution. Little did I know that a joyful resolution would be so important in 2020.
This is what I learned. There are four things to keep in mind when making a New Year Resolution in order to have the best chance at fulfillment. First, do something that brings you joy. The health and happiness of my niece is what brings my sister-in-law joy. She once resolved to provide healthier food choices for her daughter. Her goal was to make her a visually appealing lunch with a variety of fruits and vegetables every day for a whole school year. She enjoyed putting together the lunch and adding little notes to brighten her daughter's day. This single year's resolution became a habit that she continued throughout her daughter's grade school years. It brought her joy and in return it brought health and wellness to them both. Since there was more healthy food in the house she tended to eat better as well.
Secondly, make it achievable. Set a specific, measurable goal. My resolution for myself was to improve my upper body strength, but I set my goal to be an unassisted handstand that I could hold for at least a few seconds. Your resolution may even have multiple goals. Daily, weekly, quarterly, whatever you need to help motivate and track your progress. Meeting smaller goals throughout the year is much easier than trying to meet a very ambitious single resolution. I set multiple workout goals for myself before I tried doing an assisted handstand for the first time. Then I set new goals when I began working on the unassisted handstand until I was able to reach my final goal and fulfill my resolution.
Next, a resolution should fit your lifestyle, you shouldn't have to change your lifestyle to fit your resolution. If I had to drive to a gym everyday in order to practice my handstand, I would have never met my goal. Even before COVID led to the temporary closure of gyms, people were not very likely to significantly change their lifestyle in order to get to one. Studies have shown that if your gym is more than four miles from your home, you are much less likely to visit it more than once a month. My husband's 2020 resolution of getting to the gym more evolved into a home gym. With the money he saved from the canceled gym membership, he was able to purchase a few things to "build" his home gym. It doesn't take much, some hand weights and a floor mat got him started. This is much more suited to our lifestyle and it allowed him to enjoy the company of our dogs during his workouts that he would have missed out on in the gym. He was able to meet multiple workout goals throughout the year in order to fulfill his resolution.
And finally, no matter what you choose as this year's resolution just remember to be kind to yourself. The point of the whole thing is to find ways to better ourselves and feelings of guilt and shame for an unmet goal certainly don't help with our overall wellness. I'll admit that my original goal was to hold the handstand for ten seconds and I envisioned this perfectly aligned masterpiece of physical achievement. That did not happen. Did it even matter? Nope, because I was already fulfilling my resolution just by trying. That's when I adjusted my goal to something more achievable and gave myself credit for doing more toward improving my upper body strength than I ever have before.
Find something that brings you joy, set a specific and achievable goal to motivate you and incorporate it into your lifestyle so that it becomes a habit that will bring you joy for years to come. Then, if you stumble along the way, just remind yourself that we are all a work in progress. Have a joyful year!
The biggest story coming out of 2020, of course, is COVID-19. We all probably learned more about the COVID virus than we ever wanted to know including how inflammation plays a role in how our bodies respond to it. Those most severely affected by COVID tend to be the elderly, obese, immunocompromised and those with chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and various respiratory disorders. All of which are associated with systemic inflammation.
The increased risk that chronic systemic inflammation poses to our overall health has become even more apparent and it's important that we learn all we can about it. This article discusses the emerging evidence that external stimuli can lead to epigenetic changes that contribute to an exacerbation of inflammation and increased risk for several diseases (some of which are stated above). Epigenetic changes are reversible changes in how our body reads and responds to our DNA. A good example of this would be twin siblings, one a smoker and the other one not. Their DNA is exactly the same but the smoker develops lung cancer. The DNA in the smoker began acting differently due to an external stimulus (smoking) which led to a production of cancer cells. Fortunately, if stopped early enough, these epigenetic changes can be reversed.
The article reviews factors that can lead to pro-inflammatory epigenetic changes and poor health as well as anti-inflammatory epigenetic changes and improved health. Some of the factors that can lead to pro-inflammatory epigenetic changes are consumption of high-fat/high-sugar diets, micronutrient deficiencies (folate, manganese, and carotenoids), obesity and associated complications, bacterial/viral infections, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, sleep deprivation, chronic stress, air pollution, and chemical exposure. Those that promote anti-inflammatory epigenetic changes are caloric restriction, n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (found in fish such as salmon and tuna), Mediterranean diet, vitamin D, zinc and polyphenols (found in fruits, vegetables, dark chocolate and wine).
The article also discusses how physical activity can cause both pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory changes which is why it is important to progress exercise appropriately. If you're heading into 2021 with COVID fatigue and at a loss as to what else you can do to help, try helping yourself. See which pro-inflammatory things you can remove from your life and which anti-inflammatory things you can add in their place. Get started today making epigenetic changes for the good.
Make sure your first steps into 2021 are well supported. Take a few minutes to do this self check and start out on the right foot...or left, whichever you prefer.
Video tips on how to work on those feet in case the self check didn't go as well as you hoped.