At the start of a new year, it’s tempting to focus on all the big things you’d like to change about your life. But if you want new habits or routines to stick beyond February, it’s best to make them bite sized. Even making one small change to your lifestyle can have a big impact on your health.
Here’s some health inspiration for the year ahead:
Get your flu shot, COVID-19 booster or both
Flu season hit Nova Scotia early and hard, but it’s not too late to get a flu shot. Everyone aged six months and older is encouraged to roll up their sleeve. Getting vaccinated is quick and easy, and a great way to protect yourself and those around you. Best of all, this year’s flu vaccine is a good match for the strains circulating now.
Vaccination is a small gesture that goes a long way to protect our health-care system, which is being pushed to the limit by the spike of respiratory viruses. Being up to date on all your vaccines – including your COVID-19 shots – can mean the difference between a few days home sick versus weeks in hospital or even worse. Adults in Nova Scotia can safely get both the flu shot and COVID-19 booster at the same appointment.
Move a bit more
Forget about signing up to an expensive fitness class in 2023. Instead, make time for movement that you enjoy and can fit into your existing routine: head outside for a quick lunchtime walk, take a stretching break or walk to get the mail.
Research shows people who take even short breaks during the day are more productive and learn new skills more easily. The Doctors Nova Scotia Healthy Tomorrow Foundation has launched the Make Your Move at Work program and toolkit to help employers and employees move more during the workday. The focus is on simple things that can get the blood pumping, like going outside for a quick 15-minute walk or having a walking team meeting.
Be intentional with screen time
This is less about sticking to a rigid time cap (“I’ll only spend one hour on my smartphone per day!”) and more about reflecting on how your smartphone activity affects your health and your relationships. For example, you may want to cut back if you’re losing sleep scrolling your phone for hours at night or if you can’t stop checking your phone or email during family activities.
Try putting your device away at mealtimes and when spending time with friends and family members. Keep your phone out of your bedroom (and try not to use it one hour before bed). Dig out your old alarm clock and use that to wake up instead of your smartphone. If you’re struggling to limit your time on a particular game or app, set the timer on your phone for 20 minutes. When the timer goes off, put your device down and do something else for 10 minutes.
Prioritize your mental health
With so much emphasis on physical health, it’s easy to overlook your mental health. There’s no end to things that can help you feel better on the darkest days of winter: practice daily gratitude, make time for self-care, spend some time in nature, stop negative self-talk or add mindfulness to your daily routine.
If it’s overwhelming to figure out where to start, think about one small goal you’d like to achieve – feeling less stressed at work, for example. Pinpoint what may be contributing to your stress and look at practical ways of addressing some of those factors. The key is to make it a priority – don’t put it off for another year.