Spring Ahead
Ashley Jowett
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2022

Spring Ahead

Scientists all over the country are using remote monitoring technology and consumer data to draw disturbing conclusions about how our health habits have changed throughout the pandemic. People have gained weight, increased alcohol consumption, decreased exercise, and delayed primary care. All of these factors lead to an increased chance of serious diseases, like heart disease, as a population, in the years to come.

Many people associate spring with renewal and a “fresh start.” That makes it a great time to evaluate our current habits and make plans for reversing the negative ones we picked up during the pandemic. Here are some ideas for initiating healthy changes now and making them stick.

Start small. Lots of organizations have produced lists of small changes you can make to improve your health, including the Association of American Retired Persons (AARP) and healthline.com. While not all of the suggestions are right for everyone, they are certain to provide ideas. Discuss with your healthcare provider, if you are unsure. Then, start with just one. Once you make it a part of your routine, try another. That’s incremental change that can really add up!

Get ready. The National Institutes of Health recommends evaluating your readiness to make healthy changes using their set of online questions. Knowing where you are in the process can help you see your way forward toward a successful end.

Make a plan. Harvard Health Publishing, part of Harvard Medical School, recommends a seven-step plan that includes goal setting, setting a doable goal, making the commitment, and providing yourself with a reward, among other steps.

Think holistically. OrthoIndy Hospital in Indiana has produced a comprehensive guide that addresses some of the emotional factors, including how to mitigate negative triggers and uncover your own belief in your ability to change, in a comprehensive guide.

Dig deep. Chear, the Center for Healthy Eating and Activity Research, a program of the University of California San Diego, urges people to meet their basic needs, like sleep and water intake, before setting their healthy-living goals or making a plan. Another unique part of their 10-point plan is “finding the why.”

For instance, you might say, “I want to lose weight.” Then you would ask yourself, “Why?” The answer might be something like, “So I can move around easily.” “Why?” “So I can play with my kids.” “Why?” With each why, you get closer to your deepest motivation, the thing that really has the power to propel your progress.

Across the board, resources encourage realistic goals, building on success, and maintaining focus. If you find that it is too difficult to build one healthy habit, try one that seems easier. You can come back to the harder one once you have gained some additional experience. Before you know it, you will have built a whole list of healthy habits that add up to a healthier life.

Kristin Irace, RD, is a registered dietitian at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care, in Bennington.

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