While the title here mentions health resolutions, it’s more about simply looking after our health, wellness and wellbeing. I’m not a fan of New Year resolutions these days, but I do think the start of a new year can be a refreshing turning point for new habits and a different perspective, or a chance to renew our focus on what matters the most to us.
The key is to not put too much pressure on yourself and instead to focus on the small, doable steps or habits designed to support our bodies and minds in a more well-rounded fashion. This is not about getting thin or fit or gorgeous or rich. This is not about ridiculous pressures and self-flagellation.
There are a few things we might be able to do to better manage our chronic illness and pain, to benefit our overall wellness, or to boost our wellbeing. I obviously can’t include everything that came to mind for this post, so here are just 16 alternative wellbeing and health resolutions for the New Year.
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16 Alternative Wellbeing & Health Resolutions For The Year Ahead
1. Perk Up Your Posture
Posture can be underrated, yet we’re always taking up some kind of posture naturally whether we’re standing, sitting, lying or moving. Try to recognise how you hold yourself when you go about your day to day. Shoulders down and back, muscles more relaxed, bum in, back straighter, head up. Try not to hold on to too much tension in your muscles or rigidly fix in place, particularly if you’re sitting for an extended period. As far as health resolutions go, posture isn’t one likely to be prioritised or even thought about on anyone’s list unless there’s already a problem.
Prevention is better than cure and a better posture can help not only in staving off problems by supporting our muscles, bones and joints, but it can could also help with our confidence and breathing.
For those that are “bed bound” at times or spend the majority of their day propped up in bed, posture is particularly important. I’ve been predominantly propped up in bed when not moving around since 2015 because I can’t sit normally in a regular chair as a result of nerve damage that’s particularly debilitating for my back and hips. I thought I was doing well with lots of pillows behind me to keep me as straight as possible, a laptop tray to elevate the screen so I don’t look down or hunch over. Apparently not.
Sitting in a regular chair helps the core muscles and the muscles in the back, and so without that strengthening daily use it’s possible for certain muscles have become too weak. The trapezius muscles have taken up the slack and massively overworked themselves, which has resulted in subluxed and dislocating shoulders, highly elevated shoulders, clavicle outlet syndrome, tightness around my chest and the diaphragm being pulled up, squashing my lungs.
It’s no picnic, and not something I ever would have considered being possible until it happened to me. It has required hundreds of pounds worth of private physiotherapy massage in 2021, and I’m not much further on from where I started.
Take a look at how you sit, stand, move and lie. How does it feel in your body? Do your muscles feel too tense? Are you hunched over at all? Try to stretch out your neck gently and roll your shoulders when you can. Invest in a better set-up if needs be, such as for using your computer elevated or with support cushions for your back when in a chair.
Get enough movement where possible, work on de-stressing to alleviate tension in the muscles. Try warming epson salt baths, self-massage around the neck/shoulders, and so on. Seek the advice of a physiotherapist if you need it.
Related Reading : Byre Folding Bed Wedge Review
2. Medication & Supplementation Organisation
If you take a few different medications and/or supplements, keeping on top of them may start to get a bit messy. We have to remember what to request on prescription and what to pick up in store, as well as actually taking them all correctly as directed.
If you find yourself missing doses or not always taking the supplements you’d like or need to take, now might be a good time to come up with a new form of organisation.
Put a note in your calendar or set alarms for days you need to check med prescription requests or pick up new supplements.
Find a way that allows you to ensure you’re getting your doses as required. Perhaps a printable tick sheet, an app or a pill box will help. It depends what suits and works for you as an individual.
Related Reading : Auvon Pill Box Review
3. Breathe Deeply
Alongside a good posture comes deep breathing, for those able to do so. This is even better if you can get out into nature for some fresh air.
Focusing on breathing is often done for meditation or mindfulness practices. If you’ve not tried meditating or you haven’t in some time, it might be worth considering giving it a go to see whether it works for you. It can take some time to get into but you can do it when, where and for however long you want, making it a convenient form of stress-relief to bring some balance and quiet into your life. Whether you do unguided or guided meditations, you can try deeper belly breaths or simply sit, calm yourself and focus solely on your breathing.
Try some slow, deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth each day. You could deepen this by lifting your arms up in front of you on the inhale. Breathe deeply and through the tummy to inflate the lungs adequately. You can try doing this lying down, breathing smoothly in and out with your tummy going up and down with the breaths; the movement should be up and down vertically rather than horizontally.
When we’re unwell, stressed, have health impairments or are simply exhausted, breathing is likely to become more shallow and we might lose a little of the strength and tone in the breathing muscles like the diaphragm. Paying a bit more attention to our posture and breathing can help keep this as optimal as possible.
4. Stress Less
They say that “stress is a killer”, in which case I’ve outlived myself by several years. Stress has become an ingrained and accepted part of our society, so much so that it’s practically a skill to be lauded and an obligatory competition to participate in, at the same time as bestseller books come out telling us to de-stress.
If we’re not stressed, then we’re not doing enough or suffering enough. If we are stressed, then we’re a negative influence for those who don’t want stress in their lives. It’s all rather confusing and a lot of that, I think, comes back down to the social views and norms that have developed over time.
We all know that stress is not good for our mental or physical health when it is prolonged and intense. A little stress here and there can be helpful, such as by acting as a motivator. It also enables us to really appreciate the brighter, quieter days. However, if you’re finding your stress levels are continually high and the episodes are pretty severe, then all you’ve got are the negatives.
After a while of ongoing high stress, it can take a toll on the body physically, mental health will suffer, and you might notice yourself feeling resentful that you’re so stressed or that you have no time to do anything pleasant or enjoyable in life because you’re so busy.
There are plenty of stress-relief suggestions that I could put in here, but most of us will know all about them anyway and yet we continue to be stressed. It’s easy enough to give the advice, but harder to take it ourselves. We then need to ask ourselves, “why can’t we take our own good advice and tackle the stress?”
Dig a little deeper and see what’s holding you back. Do you feel guilty if you’re not stressed? Do you feel too much expectation on you to do more and achieve more? Is it a situation that’s out of your control that’s causing problems? Do you feel like you don’t deserve to go easy on yourself?
Once you find what’s causing some of the stress and why you’re not able to reduce it, you might be able to make a few tweaks here and there. But you’re the only one that can allow yourself to take your foot off the pedal and decide that you’re worth looking after.
5. Enjoy Your Food
This ties into less stress, because the more we berate ourselves or forbid certain foods, the more stressed and miserable we can become. Whatever you’re eating, try not to label it as being “good” or “bad”. Try not to tie yourself up in knots calorie counting or planning or deciding whether you “deserve” a treat. Listen to your body and what it wants, ask yourself what you fancy, and work towards a healthy balance without judgement.
Food can be nourishment, fuel and enjoyment all rolled into one. Enjoy it, be a little more mindful when eating, get comfortable, and savour it.
6. Super Stretches & Small Movements
Build in some gentle stretches when you can, especially if you’re in one position for a while. Your body might just thank you for it.
Small but frequent movement is better than none at all, which is good to know if you can’t manage more robust exercise. Forget what others might be doing or considering as exercise, like running a marathon or sweating it out at the gym. Speak to your doctor if you have weight or other health concerns here but in general, a little more gentle movement when you can manage it might help your overall wellbeing, your cardiovascular system and your circulation.
7. Appreciate Nature
Nature can be both calming and invigorating, and many find that just being in the outdoors or around animals benefits their mental health. During the pandemic, the effects of the not getting out into nature enough has probably hit home more than ever.
If you can and it’s safe to do so, consider getting a little closer to nature in whatever way you can or find helpful. A walk in the park, feeding the ducks, sitting in your garden, planting flowers for your windowsill, spending time with a pet. It all counts.
I personally find that a little walk around greenery with lots of rest stops can soothe my frazzled brain, even if just briefly. I don’t get to do it often enough. When it’s physically difficult to do such things, there may be some ways around it to make it more doable. For instance, I don’t walk to the park because it’s too much for me now, so I’ll drive over. I don’t expect to stay long, I take my walking stick, I go slow and get photos along the way, and I make sure to take breaks. I just don’t do it anywhere near often enough, so this is one I’d like to do more of in the New Year. Just sitting in the garden to clear your mind, hear the birds and smell the flowers can incredibly calming and refreshing.
Try not to be disappointed if you can’t spend long at your destination or on your walk, you can only do what you can manage and you don’t want it to do more harm than good. Make sure you have whatever medications or painkillers you need, and whatever mobility supports you might require or find helpful.
Whether it’s a 5 minute walk (or roll in a wheelchair), an hour long hike or 20 minutes in the back yard, it all counts. It’s just about getting some fresh air, feeling grounded, being present, appreciating the small miracles in the world around us and letting nature refresh you.
8. Regular Laughter Therapy
Laughter is good for the soul and it can help release some tension that builds up throughout the day. There are two elements to this suggestion. One is seeing the lightness to life and finding things to laugh about, and the other is being able to laugh at yourself.
Firstly, try to see the lighter side in things if you can, even if just to take the edge off your days and the frustrations you’re living with. You could try to search out the funnies wherever you can depending on what kind of thing you enjoy. Comedy TV and movies, stand-up shows, joke books, funny animal clips on Youtube, silly memes. Each small chuckle can add up and relieve a little stress, bit by bit.
Secondly, learn to laugh at yourself a little more and take it in your stride; this can help with acceptance and with tackling any sense of embarrassment over health issues or other conditions. For instance, I crack lame jokes about my stoma and try to be more blasé about because if I didn’t, I would have been crushed by embarrassment a long time ago. I try to be a little more open about symptoms of a myriad of conditions and joke it off a bit, again because it’s too big, too heavy, too embarrassing otherwise. It helps offset a little self-consciousness and lightens some of the pressure on your shoulders at the same time.
9. Set Routines : Dental & Skincare
In the midst of everything else we’re dealing with, sometimes the basics get left behind. Oral health is important in more ways than just keeping your mouth feeling fresh or your teeth looking shiny. Bacteria, cavities, gum disease and other issues can have wide-ranging effects on the rest of your body without you necessarily realising it.
Keeping your whole mouth as healthy as possible takes some work, but just ensuring to brush well twice a day with a decent toothbrush and a suitable toothpaste is key. Add on what you can, like flossing with floss tape or interdental brushes whenever you can, even if it’s just once a month, and using a mouthwash to target any known concerns, like tooth sensitivity or sore gums.It can take time to gradually build up a routine and doing something is better than doing nothing.
Skincare is another element that can be beneficial to keep on top of. While advertisements suggest it’s all about looking good, it goes beyond that. We’re doing something to take care of ourselves, something mid-way between a health obligation and a treat.
Skin is the human body’s largest organ. It deserves care and respect. With the change in our lifestyles due to Covid or our health issues, things like not going out as much, not socialising, not having occasions to dress up, and generally lacking confidence makes it more likely we’ll skip over skincare. Cleansing, exfoliating and moisturising can make a difference to how to feel in ourselves and improve the health of our skin both now and in the future.
10. Let Go Of Perfectionism
Perfection is an elusive concept, yet it is still widely chased and sought after. There are many things we might seek perfection in, whether it’s ourselves, others, the way we look, the things we own, or how we conduct a task. With stress, OCD or pain, the itch for having things just right can start to burn.
Letting go of the need for perfection is not easy and it’ll depend on what ways it affects you. But doing something about it now will benefit you in the long run with just incremental changes and a gradual lessening of that itch. The world and everything in it is perfectly imperfect. Embrace that, take a deep breath, and let go of the need for everything to be just so because it can’t and won’t happen.
11. Try Something New
If you feel stuck in a rut, it might be time to try something novel, on whatever scale suits you. It could be something you do, the way you think, the people you talk to, the food you eat, the clothes you wear, the products you use. Maybe just try one new thing to see how it feels without any unnecessary pressure on having to like it or needing to do it regularly. Try shaking things up a little if you’re feeling stuck and break from the routine every now and then.
12. Indulge In Your Comfort Zone
Comfort zones seem to get a pretty bad rep in self-help articles and New Year resolution lists. I think it can be good to challenge yourself and try something new once in a while, but life with any chronic condition changes the playing field and puts comfort zones into a much warmer, snugglier light.
I find my comfort zone – including my small routines, my bedroom set up, cuppa tea, blankets and so on – to be something that keeps me grounded and a little more able to manage day to day. It’s not a bad thing and I don’t think we should feel shamed into feeling like it is. We all have different needs and our situations are different, too. If your comfort zone and routines are helpful to you, then indulge in them and make them as comfortable, calming and supportive as possible.
13. Congratulate Yourself
I bet there are a lot of us who feel as though nothing they do is enough, who talk to themselves with more malice than compassion, or who always berate themselves for the things they’ve not done rather than the things they have.
We can do and achieve a lot in any given day, but it depends on your definitions. If you’re aiming high and expecting yourself to do things you know you’re not physically or mentally capable of right now, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. If you only acknowledge the imperfections of what you’ve done or the never-ending list of things you’ve not got around to doing, then you’ll also overlook your many achievements.
There are likely numerous reasons to pat yourself on the back that you’re not even aware of, for both the big things and the tiniest of things. What is a success and an achievement to one person, may seem like nothing to someone else, and vice versa. You need to find your equilibrium and your rate of checks and balances for defining accomplishments.
Still fighting for your healthcare rights after being fobbed off for years? Huge achievement. Spoke up for yourself even though you were terrified? Huge achievement. Still living after you thought you couldn’t keep going any longer? Got up and brushed your hair today? Took a shower, got dressed, attended a medical appointment? Sorted your bills or written a letter you’ve been dreading writing? Got out of the house despite overwhelming anxiety? Wrote a blog post that put your honest feelings on the line? Did the washing up, made your bed, took the bins out? These are all celebration-worthy accomplishments.
It’s time we stopped chiding ourselves and feeling like we’re never enough, and started seeing what we have done with a sense of pride.
14. Find Your Tribe
Living with any condition, be it chronic illness, chronic pain, other disability or mental illness, can be a challenging and daunting experience. It can also be a very lonely one, all the more so if we don’t have people in our offline lives to support us, rally around us, cheer us up, or “get” where we’re coming from.
The online world affords us a plethora of support avenues, blogs and social media groups. It helps to connect those walking similar paths and that connection can be priceless. You’ll hopefully find people who have a greater understanding of what you’re going through, people who won’t judge and who you can draw some strength from when you’re part of a community like this.
15. See To Health Concerns & Check Ups
Check ups can be easy to put off, especially during pandemic times where getting an appointment is harder than getting into MI5 or the CIA. Whether it’s a physical, optical or dental check-up, putting it off won’t make it go away. If there’s anything that needs rectifying, it’ll only get worse the longer you leave it or you’ll be stuck unable to get a problem at the last minute if things do worsen.
I’ve put off the dentist throughout the pandemic and although I know I need to go, booking the appointment takes a level of willpower I don’t seem to possess right now. The longer I leave it, the harder it gets to book it and the more anxiety-inducing it becomes. I also know that if I leave it much longer that I’ll be taken off their list and I’ll be totally stuck with no dentist given the problems accessing an NHS service these days.
Booking and attending routine appointments will rip the band aid off so you can get them out of the way rather than prolonging the inevitable.
Related Reading : The Health Checks You Should Not Be Missing
16. Embrace Your Body
We only have one body and we are the only ones that have to live in it. Nobody else does. Nobody else gets to say how we should feel or how we should look.
Too many spend their lives disliking or downright hating their bodies for one reason or another. The thing is, it’s usually never enough; if you want to lose weight and eventually you do, you still feel fat or you still feel unattractive. It’s an elusive fantasy when you base contentment or happiness on how your body looks.
The picture gets more complex with chronic illness. There’s the likes of weight gain from medications, weight loss from malabsorption or depression, baggy eyes from insomnia and poor sleep, broken veins, pale skin, thinning hair, a stoma bag. We may not be the person we once were, but nobody is.
Only we can embrace our bodies and appreciate what they do for us. When they start falling apart, it can be more than disheartening. We feel like we can’t trust our own bodies and a dysfunctional relationship blooms.
Treat yourself and your body with a little more kindness. Ditch the negative self-talk. Nurture yourself, look after yourself.
Screw the ideals and the images of what people “should” look like. Screw the “perfect body” media promos and clothing advertisements. It’s all BS.
You are you. Beautifully you. Nobody else can compare. You have to live with yourself and your body, and it’s about time we started embracing every inch, accepting and hopefully eventually loving who we are, health issues included. No excuses, no shame.
Wishing everyone a Happy New Year ???? Let’s hope it’s a bit brighter and a lot less Covid-y!
For my 2022, I’d just like to slow down a little, make time for breaks, do a little more for enjoyment, get into a better skincare routine, work on my messed up shoulders, and get out into nature a bit more. And perhaps read a little less news as I’m getting increasingly angry, depressed, cynical and frustrated with it all, as I imagine many of us have experienced.
Do you have any areas you’d like to work on next year? Do you feel you need more time to focus on what matters most to you, do you want to work on better managing chronic illness, or would you like to take up new habits to support your wellbeing?