Monday, February 2, 2015

Quick and Easy Healthy Habits for the New Year

For some reason I've never been totally into New Years resolutions and yet the last year or two they have been growing on me. Perhaps it's because I usually make my resolutions before the school year and not the calendar year. Perhaps it's because as I grow older I have so many more goals and desires and have the need to check in on them more frequently. Perhaps it's just because now that we are parents, the new year feels like as good a time as any to slow down and really ask ourselves if what we are doing with our parenting and our own lives are on track with our perceptions, expectations, values, and goals. It also helps to take a huge step out of your current day to day life to reflect on it and for the last two years we have taken two weeks off in California just before the new year to do just that.

I know that we are only a few weeks into 2015, but I am already so proud of myself for the minor lifestyle revisions I've made. It's amazing to me how much power can come from teeny tiny changes. Here are the eight easiest ways that I have enhanced my life to feel refreshed, more satisfied, and more energized. This is by far the best I've felt since having a child!

Healthy Habit #1: Wake up to move instead of wake up to work out

The number one priority I have had basically since becoming pregnant is to work out regularly again. In the last three years, I have had phases or bursts of motivation, but nothing that truly made me feel better about myself. I ran here and there…just enough to beat depression last year and I played soccer for one season once a week. The soccer team was so awesome, but really helped check off my need to socialize more than my need to get energized. I knew I needed to do something that wasn't overwhelming. I started to realize that I had been using all the wrong language and perspective when thinking about starting this new habit. Instead of making a new years resolution to exercise daily, I reframed my goal to get moving daily. Smaller…more manageable. Semantics, yes, but doable…definitely! I now wake up and walk out to my living room, find one of the many amazing ballet/barre/fitness routines available on pinterest and get moving. I don't really time myself although it tends to take me about 15-20 minutes. I don't worry about how long my heart rate is up or if I'm doing as many reps as they say. I just move. Funny thing is…after the first few days, I was not even half as sore as I had imagined I would be. I am also currently not allowing myself to take a rest day. A rest day implies that what I am doing is too hard and I feel like for now, if I let my brain go down that road, I will find other reasons to take an additional rest day and so on. One of my excuses had been that I was afraid Micah would wake up early and interrupt and want to eat right away. Most days he sleeps through my work out, but on the days he does wake up early, he has been fine waiting to eat so that he could watch me or just play with his toys near by. Now I am not only feeling healthier myself, but I am occasionally modeling a huge component of a healthy lifestyle for my son. That feels pretty priceless.

Healthy Habit #2. Consistent wake up and more consistent bed time

This change in habit connected big time to my goal of getting up to move. How many times do you wake up later than normal and feel like you got even less sleep? With my new job, I have a little more variety in my morning schedule and start times, so I had been taking full advantage of a few extra minutes of sleep whenever I could snag them. Yet, I often felt just as tired. So, while on vacation I thought maybe if I just plan to get up before my toddler and at the same predictable time every day regardless of my work schedule, I would start to train my body to want to wake up naturally at that time, therefore training it to be less tired when waking up at that hour. For me, that has been 6:00am. Really, I feel like even if it was 5am, as long as I woke up at the exact same time each day the result would be the same. More energy. Less lethargy. Of course a more consistent bedtime is also important and yet this one is definitely going to be a bigger struggle for me. Once I told Phil that my natural state of being is a night owl and he thought that was the funniest thing. Maybe not so funny in the retell, but I definitely feel more alert and productive at night versus the morning. Which is why morning work outs were too overwhelming to even imagine. Instead of setting a consistent bedtime, I've decided to really try to listen to what my body is trying to tell me. If I am feeling tired, I'm going to listen to my body, try to let go of whatever last thing of the day I want to accomplish, and actually hit the pillow. 

Healthy Habit #3. Downsized my handbag to just a clutch

Seriously, just do it! It feels amazing. I am so over trying to carry a diaper bag sized bag with those "just in case" items. It dawned on me that if men can get by with almost nothing, why can't I? Additionally, it has always given me such guilt knowing that wearing a big heavy bag is so bad for my posture and health. Every time I walked into my chiropractor's office or my massage therapists room, I'd hang up my big ass bag with guilt dripping off my forehead. This New Years I finally just said, what the heck and did the downsize. Clutches seem to be super popular, so someone must be using them regularly! I figured, I might as well just try it for a week or so and see what happens and folks…I haven't gone back yet. Now if I can just figure out a way to downsize all my day to day work stuff (binders, iPad, writing tools, etc.) I will be the happiest of campers!

Healthy Habit #4. Portion control by scheduling meal and snack times... Limit the grazing!

The realization that we (our family…society) acceptably graze all day long and prioritize snacking came to Phil and I at about the same time. We realized that we especially went a little overboard on our big road trip with constant snacking and yet, we also realized that we really typically don't eat on much of a schedule. It also helped that I was reading Bringing up Bebe (one of my top 7 parenting books!) to open my eyes to this common American practice of overgrazing. The book describes the French cadre or framework in which families only eat four times a day. Phil and I have always wanted to be no budge parents…eat it or don't eat it…go hungry if you want kind of parents, yet we realized we had already slipped way far away from this ideal in practice. For some reason it was as though we couldn't bare the thought of Micah being even a bit hungry for a few hours. The book helped remind us that if we want our kiddo to eat most of the things we eat, then we have to get over the fear of temporary and short lived hunger. As soon as we returned from our road trip we began abiding by a scheduled breakfast, morning snack time, lunch, afternoon snack time, and dinner. We also added snack and lunches to our weekly menu plan, so that Gramma Susan doesn't have to get into mini toddler battles over food with Micah. Now she just tells him, that's what Mommy and Daddy planned, so you can eat it or not. We've adopted the saying, "You don't have to like it, but you do need to try it". We are not totally enforcing the trying it part as of now, but we are enforcing the part where he goes hungry until the next meal if he chooses. The funniest part about the whole shift, was how obvious it became to us how much grazing we had become accustomed to ourselves. It was a good lesson of practice what you preach! I'd say with the combination of not grazing and moving each morning, we are feeling a lot healthier this year already. Give it a try! If you don't want to quit grazing and snacking cold turkey, then just give yourself one three hour chunk of your day or so to test it out. Your body will thank you!

Healthy Habit #5. Drink water throughout the day

I used to be really good at this. As a classroom teacher, when I was constantly talking all day, it was easier for me to remember to drink water. I am not as good on the weekends or when I'm quietly observing and coaching teachers. So, I'm just trying to be more aware. I'm not going as far as tracking my water intake, but I do aim for drinking at least two or more full reusable water bottle's a day.

Healthy Habit #6. Essential Oils

2014 got me seriously thinking about essential oils. It was like a research year. I acquired a Facebook friend who sells them thanks to her own families successful experience with them as healing tools to many ailments their children were experiencing. Since then she has used them to react to situations and ailments and has also used them preventatively. I read about many episodes like a crazy attack of bee stings her children experienced in the summer and were instantly provided relief and then longer term healing thanks to their essential oils. In the summer I took one of her free online information sessions that gave me an amazing introduction to the amount of possibilities oils can provide. By the end of the year I was totally convinced that my family could not go on without them. My holiday gift to myself was to purchase the starter kit with ten samples. Already my first week back at work I had a pretty bad tension headache on the verge of becoming a migraine and as I was about to pop in the Advil into my mouth, I remembered the oils! I put back the pills and grabbed lavender, peppermint, and maleluca and dabbed a few drops of each on my neck and forehead. I can not even begin to explain to you my surprise. I expected each scent to give a soothing and calming sensation, but I was not prepared for the instant physical cooling sensation and the almost instant disappearance of my headache. I am not one to exaggerate! I am still riding the high of this discovery. These oils feel life changing and I understand why those who sell them are so intensely passionate about them.  My second experience with them has been to preventatively combat sickness while traveling.  I added a few drops of On Guard (too many probably…I'm still on a learning curve here) to my water bottle and even while traveling with a group of sick colleagues and stuffy airplane air, I remain healthy!

Healthy Habit #7. Ergonomic at work:

I finally went ergonomic at work with a slanted laptop stand and an exercise ball chair. This one has been a long time coming. I get really bad knots in my neck and frequent tension headaches. I thought they were mostly related to being around five year olds all day, yet I still was dealing with similar pains now that I'm dealing with adult education. I have minimized all of the issues thanks to regular chiropractic and massage therapy twice a month, yet a few hours at the computer and a desk seem to mess it all up. I am not one to complain, yet I finally started vocalizing my curiosity about stand up desks and my colleagues helped me realize that my posture was truly so poor! I luckily was able to get one of those exercise ball chairs to help a bit and I've ordered one of those ergonomic laptop stands. In the mean time, I turned over a plastic blue tub and was amazed at how instant the difference was! Neck knot be gone! I think we don't realize how bad sitting at a computer is, especially if we don't do it for hours regularly. So this is a move I highly recommend!

The adult version of this is not so cute for photos ;-)

Healthy Habit #8. Prioritize another type of movement. 

Prioritize your bowel movements that is, cough, cough! A little caffeine and a little dedicated time goes a long way! I know, I know...way too much information, but seriously. I have to include this with my healthy habits for the new year. Research shows women have a harder time prioritizing this healthy habit and suffer in many ways because of it (how would you like to be the researchers that have this as the topic of your day to day work? Oofta!). My own action research says that teachers/educators have an even harder time prioritizing this one. So, TMI or not, I'm including it here. Working to become digestively regular helps with general wellness, energy, positive outlook, and of course helps get you in the mood to take care of your partners needs and vice versa if you know what I'm saying...! ;-) 

What healthy habits have you just tried on as a New Year's resolution? Have you also tackled any of my healthy habits? What other healthy habits have you consistently incorporated into your daily lives? Which ones do you struggle with? Which ones were the easiest teeny tiny changes (physically or mentally)? I'd love to hear from you!


  1. Ugh, exercising with kids! So hard to find the time! I can't get up before my kids since I sleep in between them and leaving them alone in bed without me wouldn't be safe. But who am I kidding, there's no way I'd be getting up before them anyway!! So I take them to the childcare at the gym. But between the nap schedule of 2 kids and the activity schedule of my almost-3 year old, it's getting harder and harder to get there. I was thinking of getting a stair master for home. But they're so expensive and take up so much space! So I bought a jump rope instead. And it works great!! ;)

  2. I had such a mental road block for exercising, Julia! Finally I just realized I was blowing it up out of proportion and I also realized that maybe it wouldn't be horrible if Micah waited for his breakfast and watched me work out (or played on his own instead! Imagine that!). :-) Good for you for trying to fit it in! I totally need to get a jump rope…great idea!


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