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Healthy New Year’s Resolutions For the MedShadow Team

MedShadow Staff
MedShadow Staff
Emma Yasinski
Emma Yasinski Staff Writer

As the great philosophers Smash Mouth once sang, “the years start coming and they don’t stop coming.” Another new year is creeping up on us, and MedShadow’s staff is planning some health-related resolutions ahead of time so that we can “hit the ground running.” Smash Mouth would be so proud. 

If you’re looking for some 2024 inspiration, look no further! Our research-backed new year’s resolutions to improve and maintain our health are below. Let us know which ones resonate with you, and if you’ve got ideas of your own, add them in the comments!

Better Sleep

Regularly getting high quality sleep is one of the most important habits you can build to increase your fitness, maintain your weight, protect your mood, and even prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s. And this year, three MedShadow staffers are targeting sleep with their resolutions.

Emma

I’ll start with myself. I’ve always had trouble sleeping. As someone who works from home, I sometimes wake up, eat breakfast, and just start working right away. I won’t go outside or get direct sunlight until much later in the day. That’s unfortunate, I’ve learned, because getting outside for a few minutes each morning is one of the most impactful ways to improve sleep. Of course, a shot of light to the eyes helps wake you up in the morning, but it does a lot more than that. Light therapy, exposure to sunlight or bright artificial lights, especially in the morning, has been shown to help improve symptoms of insomnia, by regulating our circadian rhythm and helping us fall asleep at night.

Plus, our circadian rhythms don’t just govern the time we wake up and fall asleep, but they control the function of almost every cell in our bodies. Getting a large portion of light in the morning is associated with maintaining a lower BMI, for example. Live in an area with little winter light? Consider a light therapy lamp instead

Angela

Angela’s also looking to upgrade her shuteye. Her strategy will be to stop looking at screens an hour before bed. 

“I know it’s bad for me,” she says. “It keeps me up longer and leads to weird dreams.”

The sun emits blue light, the highest energy light on the visible spectrum, which tells our brains that it’s time to be awake and alert. It does this in many ways, one of which is to send signals that stop us from producing melatonin, a hormone that makes us sleepy. 

But the sun isn’t the only thing that generates blue light. Blue light also emanates from the screens of our phones, computers, and televisions. When we are looking at those screens right before bed, it’s difficult for our bodies and brains to prepare for sleep.

One way to ensure less screen time around bedtime is to create an environment for success. Remove sources from your room that might tempt you. Charge laptops, tablets, and phones in another room like the kitchen that will make it far less likely for you to squeeze in another minute before bed. Don’t have televisions in the bedroom. Watch in a room like the living room, and keep your bedroom a “screen-free” space for peace and sleep.

Max

Max, who often has to work on the MedShadow website in the wee hours to avoid disrupting our readers’ experiences, also hopes to get more and higher quality sleep. His work requires him to be looking at screens often, and he knows he can’t avoid those even at strange hours, but finding ways to reduce their impact on his sleep is at the top of his 2024 to-do list.

Special screens, eye glasses, and even “night mode” settings can help to reduce blue light streaming into your eyes. This may help to reduce their impact on your circadian rhythm.

For more ways to improve your sleep, check out MedShadow articles here:

Beat Insomnia, 12 Ways to Improve Brain Health with Sleep

Melt into Deep Sleep Using YouTube’s Guided Meditations

8 Foods to Fight Insomnia

Can Insomnia Be Cured with an App?

Mental Health

Mental health is crucial. We have to take care of our minds if we hope to be able to maintain our physical health, or show up for our family, friends and colleagues. That’s why MedShadow’s Editorial Content Manager, Melissa Finley, and the foundation’s Founder, Suzanne Robotti are both going to focus on their mindsets in 2024.

Melissa

Melissa has previously shared with MedShadow readers how much a walking routine has helped improve both her physical and mental health, but as the weather chilled this fall, and her schedule got busier, she says, “I allowed my schedule to overtake my daily walks, and I’ve noticed a massive change to my mood.” This year, she’s going to focus on designating time to make sure she always fits in her walks. 

A review of 15 studies published in April of 2022, including over nearly 200,000 participants, showed that even small amounts of physical activity improved participants’ mental health. Even smaller amounts of relatively low-intensity activity reduced the risk for depression.

Depending on the habit and the individual, a habit can start to feel automatic within 18 days of starting it, or it can take the better part of a year (up to 254 days), according to a 2009 study. Until that mindset shift happens, scheduling time for activities you want to become habitual can be a big help. It can also help to make the habit rewarding. For example, use your walk to listen to audiobooks you enjoy! It can take anywhere.

Suzanne

Suzanne takes pride in the fact that she’s dedicated to maintaining her physical health. 

“I exercise a lot. I’m the most hydrated woman in North America. I even floss,” she says. Still, she finds that her mental health sometimes falls by the wayside. “I’m stressed, and I feel pulled in a million directions. And I want to go in every direction, but I can’t.” 

Trying to do too many things at once may make you feel busy and productive, but studies show that when we try to multitask, the quality of our work suffers

Suzanne is going to prioritize her mental health and productivity in 2024 by focusing on those tasks that are most important to her. 

“My New Year’s resolution is to do only what I love to do, as much as possible,” she says. For those tasks that don’t necessarily play to her strengths or passions, she’ll entrust other members of the MedShadow staff!

For more ways to manage stress and improve your mental health, check out MedShadow’s:

Mental Health Matters: What to Know About Mental Illness

Stress Need Not Be Your Constant Companion

Fitness

Improving your fitness is a consistently popular resolution among the masses, with good reason. Getting regular and varied exercise is one of the best things you can do to prevent and treat diseases, from diabetes to cancer.

Garnell

Garnell’s already a regular exerciser, but he’s passionate about trying out new routines and strategies to see what makes him feel his best. Rather than starting his resolution on January 1, he started setting his alarm 45 minutes earlier so he could fit in 15 to 30 minutes of fasted cardio before starting his workday. 

Both fasted cardio (exercise before eating) and cardio you do after eating can lower your body fat and improve a variety of markers of health such as cholesterol levels. However, doing cardio first thing in the morning, before you’ve had breakfast, may be even more effective at improving your insulin sensitivity. 

Still, you should be careful when exercising on an empty stomach. If you start to feel dizzy or lightheaded, it’s important to stop. You could be dehydrated or have low blood sugar.

Garnell had expected to see some changes in his body composition, but instead he says that getting his cardio done in the morning was easier for him to fit into his schedule than evening workouts. Plus, it has improved his focus throughout the day!

Kimberly

Kimberly hopes this year to complete a couch to 5k program—a training program in which beginners who have not been running with any particular regularity combine running and walking to work up to finishing a 5k. She’s doing so in hopes of improving her overall fitness and lowering the likelihood that she’ll be prescribed statins for high cholesterol. 

Cardiovascular exercise is one of the best ways to keep your cholesterol in check. But, Kimberly will likely see myriad other benefits from the workouts, too. Running even just five to ten minutes a day lowers your risk of death from any cause. Plus, her new routine will likely help improve her sleep and even lower her risk of developing osteoarthritis. Running can strengthen your joints, provided you don’t try to run too much, too soon and end up injured.

Kimberly will need to be extra careful to take her time building up to running the 5k, since she’s struggled with chronic foot pain from running and walking called plantar fasciitis. About one out of every five people who attempt a couch to 5k plan stop because of injuries before reaching the 5k. Many couch to 5k training plans last only nine to 12 weeks. Experts recommend finding a longer plan and building up more gradually, especially if you’ve had an overuse injury in the past. Consistency is key!

Dante

Dante’s plan is to stretch at least three days a week, which he hopes will increase his mobility and lower the risk of any future pain. More than 20% of adults in the United States report chronic pain. If it’s safe for you, exercise can be one of the most effective ways to manage pain.

Older adults who were given stretching, strengthening, balancing, and low-impact cardio exercise routines to complete by themselves reported less pain and an improved range of motion in their necks, shoulders, hips, back, and knees. 

Researchers have also found that dynamic stretching, or stretching in which you incorporate movement into your stretching rather than just static holds, immediately improves flexibility and reduces stiffness. Plus, stretching for just five minutes, five days a week led to a better range of motion.  

The National Health Service (NHS) in England offers a few flexibility exercises to get you started!

Did any of these resolutions speak to you? Use the comments to let us know if you’ll join MedShadow’s staff in one of the resolutions above, or if you’ve got your own healthy resolution to share. You might just inspire us! 

DISCLAIMER: MedShadow provides information and resources related to medications, their effects, and potential side effects. However, it is important to note that we are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The content on our site is intended for educational and informational purposes only. Individuals dealing with medical conditions or symptoms should seek guidance from a licensed healthcare professional, such as a physician or pharmacist, who can provide personalized medical advice tailored to their specific circumstances.

While we strive to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information presented on MedShadow, we cannot guarantee its completeness or suitability for any particular individual's medical needs. Therefore, we strongly encourage users to consult with qualified healthcare professionals regarding any health-related concerns or decisions. By accessing and using MedShadow, you acknowledge and agree that the information provided on the site is not a substitute for professional medical advice and that you should always consult with a qualified healthcare provider for any medical concerns.

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