Reset your health in the new year

Many people mark the first day of January as a new beginning and a chance to reset bad habits. After a busy holiday season, Christopher Swales, MD, family physician at the Dignity Health Woodland Clinic, discusses how to jumpstart your health and wellness and develop better self-care habits in the New Year.

Physical health
Regular physical activity is important for reducing disease, keeping bones and muscles strong, and improving and maintaining your ability to perform daily activities. Physical activity has been shown to have positive effects on mental health. Moving your body can also help relieve depression and anxiety through the body’s release of endorphins, chemicals produced by the nervous system that can relieve stress and promote feelings of well-being.

Even 30 minutes of daily movement can give you a better mood, increased energy, and better sleep. With cooler temperatures this time of year, try sweating indoors while dancing, practicing yoga or tai chi, or using a stationary bike or treadmill.

Mental Health
While many people make New Year’s resolutions that focus on fitness, remember that your sanity is just as important.

“It’s especially important to think about places where we can find gratitude and happiness, and to work on letting go of negative experiences,” says Dr. Swales. “Many studies show that meditation or mindfulness has benefits for both our mental and physical health. ”

Meditation has been shown to help people with insomnia sleep better and for longer, and can help those with chronic pain manage their symptoms and discomfort. If you’re not sure where to start, there are helpful smartphone apps like Calm and Headspace that offer guided meditation sessions and sleep aids like white noise and bedtime stories.

Exploring the outdoors helps reconnect your mind and body. Dr Swales suggests the Japanese concept of “forest bath”, where one takes gentle walks in nature to awaken all the senses. The purpose of this practice is to bridge the gap between the individual self and the big world, remembering that there is more to life than the things that stress you out.

Seeking the help of a behavioral health professional is an extremely important tool for anyone with mental health issues. You don’t have to be embarrassed to get help from someone else. In fact, this might just be what you need.

“I would recommend advice or therapy to anyone,” says Dr. Swales. “Everyone needs to talk to someone, and sometimes it’s easier when that person is completely independent of your situation. They can provide a perspective that you or your close comrades may not have considered.

If you are experiencing feelings of depression, anxiety, or loneliness, be sure to mention it during your date. Your doctor can provide mental health resources to help you get started.

Getting your sleep back on track
Holidays can disrupt our daily routines. Getting back on track, Dr. Swales now recommends it as the perfect time to rebuild healthy sleep patterns.

“Have a defined bedtime routine and stick to a time that allows up to 9 hours of sleep,” says Dr. Swales. “Most people need 7-9 hours of sleep, so make sure you allow yourself plenty of time to let your body recharge.”

“Sleep debt” is the eventual build-up of exhaustion from not getting enough sleep and can increase over time to the point that your body will have to pay it off due to deteriorating mental, physical or emotional health. . Dr. Swales suggests establishing a sleep routine and sticking to it the best you can: get comfortable, read a book, turn off the lights, and get a well-earned rest.

An important consideration is to keep screens out of the bedroom. If you use devices or watch TV at night, take a break about two hours before bed. Bright light in a dark room can disrupt your circadian rhythm (your body’s internal process that regulates your sleep-wake cycle every 24 hours), and the content you consume can keep your brain in an activated state, making more difficult relaxation and immersion. sleep. Also consider replacing your cell phone alarm with a bedside alarm clock or put your phone in “sleep mode” to prevent notifications from disturbing your sleep.

“Our minds and bodies are connected, so take the time to take care of your mental health, which will benefit your physical health – and vice versa,” says Dr Swales.

Plan your annual wellness visit
Annual wellness exams are a key part of preventive care and help identify health issues early on to provide the most effective treatments. During this year’s annual visit with your primary care physician, your physical health, mental health and cognitive functions will be assessed. Your doctor will perform routine checkups, discuss risk factors for the disease, look for symptoms (even if you haven’t noticed them), and give you the opportunity to ask them questions. Annual wellness exams are a great way to stay on top of your health and identify problems before they get serious.

If you don’t have a primary care physician, visit our “Find a Physician” page to learn more about Dignity Health Medical Group physicians near you.

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