A fresh start- The New Indian Express

By Express News Service

KOCHI: 2023 is here! And most people are busy sticking to the resolutions. However, despite the best of intentions, many treat the initial few months as an endurance challenge, trying to do everything at once. And keeping the resolutions becomes a daunting task, and once the glow of the New Year wears off, many struggle to make good on their plans. This year, let’s not jump on bandwagon. Instead, let’s start small and simple. Here are a few lifestyle changes that anyone can follow. 

 Digital Detox
There’s no denying we are plugged in more than ever before. It has some benefits, sure. However, there are some serious drawbacks as well. Considering the lifestyle we are leading, it is not practical to be entirely cut off from the digital space. But some level of detoxification is required to relax your grip on it. According to Dr Arun B Nair, consultant psychiatrist at the Government Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram, a digital detox can help with time management. “Fix daily time usage and when and how long to use. The ideal usage is 1-2 hours. Exceeding this can cause sleep deprivation, attention deficit and irritability. Also, if you tend to check your phones as soon as you wake up, do it only for 30 minutes. Respond to the things that matter. Setting a digital free time can have a positive impact. Every day, take out two hours and spend quality time with your loved ones without the phone. Make sure to not use any device during the set time frame. Switching off gadgets at least an hour before your bedtime will also help,” he says.

Be present
Practising mindfulness would be of the least priority for many. However, it will make you calm, lower stress and  reduces tension. “Mindfulness is not just about meditating and quieting your mind. Being in the present is key. We have to be mindful while we eat, work, and even sleep,” says Dr Akhila Vinod, naturopathy doctor and yoga therapist. According to her, mindfulness can be achieved when one starts with their daily routine. While having food, instead scrolling through your phone just focus on the food. Being mindful of relationships and family is also important. “Try to interact with each other when you are together,” adds Akhila. Being mindful of the body is crucial too. “Overexertion at work shows that one is not mindful of their body. If one consciously tries to infuse mindful practices every day, it’ll soon become a habit,” she says.

Reduce sitting and screen time
Nowadays, most jobs require using computers. However, staring at one for prolonged hours can cause pain and injuries on the shoulder, wrist and hand and strain your eyes. “Mind your back posture. Slouching for a longer time can tire your muscles easily. Make sure to do some stretches and walk for at least ten minutes,” says Nipun. Also, sitting in front of a screen can cause eye fatigue, dryness, itchy eyes and blurry vision. Medical experts suggest the comfortable viewing of the screen is when the forehead is in line with the top of the monitor so that the screen is two inches below the eyes. Adjusting the brightness of the screen can go a long way. And then use the 20-20 -20 model. It’s simple: for every 20 minutes, focus on an object that is 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Sharpen your memory
The brain is involved in pretty much everything you do, so it needs some care too. Just like physical exercises can rejuvenate your body, brain exercises are important. According to the medical journal Healthline, several exercises can offer the best brain-boosting benefits. This includes jigsaw puzzles which improve cognitive abilities and a game of cards that improves thinking skills. Other than games, one can hone mental sharpness by building vocabulary. Research shows that many regions of the brain are involved in vocabulary tasks, particularly areas important for visual and auditory processing. Interestingly, learning new dance moves can help the brain’s processing speed and memory. Learning a new skill and teaching the same to someone else can help strengthen the connections in the brain. The other activities are taking new route to work, learning a new language, listening to music and such.

 Veggies and millets
Many people would have already formed a diet plan or have jotted down healthy eating habits. Though the internet is teeming with information, many don’t know what to consume to stay fit. Instead of an intense diet, that you may leave halfway down the road, here are some eating habit that are easy to follow. “Considering the lifestyle we lead, our requirement for nutrition has changed. But most of us are unable to meet it,” says Gouri Krishna, nutritionist and integrative nutrition health coach.  “The standard Kerala diet has puttu, idli, idiyappam and rice. From a health perspective, it is nutritionally deficient as they are loaded with refined grains, which can cause metabolic disorders, like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and fibroids,” says Gouri. Her solution: Switch to whole grains like brown rice and millets. “Also make sure that your plate is 70 per cent plant-based. Always stick to low-sugar fruits, including green apple, pomegranate, berries, less-ripened papaya and the like,” she adds. According to wellness expert Rajeev Ambat, CEO and founder of NuvoVivo Center for Obesity, Lifestyle Disorders & Research, the average Malayali’s intake of veggies is inadequate. “Many use vegetables as a side dish. Have a bowl of veggies during breakfast and dinner, as it is the time you are likely to eat more. Try different vegetables daily,” he says. He also suggests avoiding processed meat, including sausages, salami, and frozen meat.

Start with the basics 
Physical wellness is part of almost everyone’s New Year resolutions. And it is one goal hardly ever achieved. Before plunging into intense workout sessions and a complicated diet, why not start slow, and get to the basics first? Slow and steady wins the race, right? In our fast-paced lives, hitting a gym regularly would not be possible for the vast majority. “Strength training and cardio workouts are ideal. Walking for half an hour in itself is good cardio. It will help with fat loss too. Since losing weight is also a goal for many, walking is an easy and simple option,” says Nipun Viju, fitness coach. If you have no plans to spend on equipment, body-weight exercises are also an effective way to build strength, endurance and flexibility. Push-ups, lunges, jumping jacks, high knees and Russian twists are some exercises one can do at home. Other than exercise, there are simple ways to boost overall well-being. The most important one is drinking enough water. “Many people are dehydrated. Set a timer, wherever you are, to remind yourselves to have some water. Some suffer from Vitamin D deficiency. Expose yourself to the morning sunl at least 15 minutes a day,” adds Nipun.

Slow down
There is no one who is not aware of the negative effects of overworking, be it in jobs or social life. And yet, people struggle to slowdown. Getting some rest is not just about long vacations; brief moments of break too are vital.  Since many aren’t accustomed to prioritising rest, taking a break often comes with a pinch of guilt. In the book ‘Happiness Advantage’, Shawn Achorm says, “Instead of labelling your free time as ‘unproductive’, remind oneself that the time taken as leisure is to recharge your energy and make room for creative thoughts and ideas.” As for sleep, adults require at least seven hours of it. “Especially living in the hustle culture, people think that sleeping at any time is enough. It is not. If it is possible to go to bed by 10pm and wake up by 5am, that is better,” says Gouri.

Keep a journal
What better time than now to start journaling? New Year is upon us, a lot is set to happen in the months to come. Jotting down about your day can help you relax during tense times. It will help you deal with stress and make you self-aware. Begin slowly, write just a sentence or two before progressing to writing one whole chapter. A journal can come in handy, especially during a bad time, it’ll help sort things out. Reading back on what you wrote will give a clearer sense of what went wrong. Journalling will also help capturing wonderful moments vividly. Brutally honest journals don’t just amp your mental well-being, it will help improve your writing as well. If you are not a fan of writing in a book, there are apps that allow you to add photos, videos, and recordings as well. Diarium, Journey, and Day One are a few examples.

Environmental wellness
People are slowly becoming aware of how their actions impact the world around them. As a result, small steps are being taken to connect more deeply and sustainably with the environment. Of late, gardening has become a way to connect with nature. “In the name of having more greens, people are depending mainly on leafy ornamental plants. Though not bad, growing some plants that are edible and have medicinal value too would be beneficial,” says I B Manoj, environmentalist. For city dwellers, space constraint is an issue that restricts them. However, this new year, let that not be an issue. “Rooftop gardening is one method. From herbal gardens, food forests, fruit plants, you name it, they can be grown in a container. Instead of setting up a lawn, plants that bear fruit or veggies can be grown instead. They won’t require much maintenance also,” adds Manoj.

Morning tips
Yoga instructor Sudakshna Thampi, proposes some simple tips that can be easily inculcated to everyone’s daily schedule. She urges everyone to start with a strong morning practice. “When I wake up, I do a mind dump, I write everything that’s on my mind. And in that journaling exercise, the mind is cleared”. She also says prayer can change the state of mind, bringing one to a better state. “It is also good to get a little bit of movement, be it walking or running. Meditation and breathwork also helps,” she says.

Pick up one hobby
This year, pick some creative hobbies. They will make you productive and give you a sense of purpose. With so many tutorials online, picking up one is easy. Hand lettering is slowly becoming everyone’s favourite, Origami, starting a blog, cross-stitching, botanical illustration, sketching and watercolouring are other easy and great choices. Reading books or listening to books are also a great and productive hobby. Remember, keep it simple and interesting.