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Monday, Jan. 15, 2018

18 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH IN 2018

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A new year is often seen as a chance for a fresh start, so seize the moment to begin a new exercise routine, end an unhealthy habit, or try a new hobby you’ve been interested in. If you’re looking to improve your physical and mental health in 2018, these 18 tips can get you started on the right track.

1. Have an attitude of gratitude.

Finding something to be thankful for every day can change your whole outlook on life! Whether you are thankful for the health of your loved ones, a reliable job (even if it may not be perfect), a fresh cup of coffee or a peaceful walk with your old dog, acknowledge it and be thankful!

2. Wear sunscreen.

Every day! Even during the cold winter months you should take a few seconds to smear on a little SPF 30 sunscreen on sun-exposed areas of your body. Not wearing sunscreen can lead to skin cancer, and even aging and wrinkles. Do your face a favor and wear a little sunscreen. Your skin will thank you for it!

3. Invest in a good skin care routine.

A gentle cleanser followed by sunscreen and antioxidant skin serums in the morning will start the day off right. In the evening, wearing a moisturizing mask after washing away the day’s makeup is important for your preventative anti-aging routine. Speaking with a board-certified physician who specializes in anti-aging skin care can also help guide you to which creams and serums, such as Retin-A, are important for your antiaging routine. Improving the appearance of your skin can change improve your selfesteem and quality of life. Seeing a boardcertified facial plastic surgeon can be the first step!

4. Eat something green.

Leafy greens do a body good for several reasons. Eating “roughage,” or insoluble fiber, helps keep your gastrointestinal track on track, which is suggested to lower your risk of colon cancer. Studies have even shown that increasing your fiber intake, even if it is the only dietary change you make, will help you to shed pounds. It can also help decrease your risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Leafy greens are also full of vitamins and minerals such as magnesium.

Nearly 60 percent of people don’t get enough magnesium in their diet, which is associated with poor sleep, anxiety and constipation.

5. Move more and often.

Exercise is an awesome and immediate mood booster and antidepressant! When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, or feel-good chemicals in your brain. There are many convenient exercise groups and clubs in the Shreveport/Bossier City area that are great ways to get out, make friends, get fit and feel good about yourself! If an exercise group isn’t your thing, even taking the dog for a walk or taking the stairs at work is a good start. Start small and you certainly can stay on track!

6. Find spirituality.

It is easy to get caught up in the little things of day-to-day life, and going to church will help you stay centered and remember what is most important in life. Attending church weekly is an essential way to remind yourself of what the greater good in life truly is. You must have love for God and one another to have peace with yourself.

7. Eat a well-balanced diet.

A diet that is high in vegetables and lean meats is key for overall physical and mental health. Starchy foods such as rice, potatoes and breads, and foods that are high in fat, such as fried foods, are a direct ticket to inflammation and poor health.

8. Stress less.

Stress has been shown to be a key instigator in the inflammatory process. Studies have shown that strong emotional reactions lead to release of inflammatory markers, which are harmful to your body in many ways. It also leads to increase in blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease, stroke and other serious ailments.

9. Sleep more.

The America Heart Association presented research that getting less than six hours of sleep was associated with a significant increase in three different inflammatory markers – interleukin-6, CRP and fibrinogen. Practicing good sleep habits, like putting down the iPad before bed and having a good sleep routine, can help. Getting sufficient hours of sleep but still feel tired? You should speak with your doctor about getting tested for sleep apnea. Snoring, being overweight, large tonsils and certain facial features can make certain people likely to stop breathing in the middle of the night, which leads to decreased oxygen levels. Sleep apnea is associated with heart disease, strokes and Alzheimer’s disease, so should be taken seriously.

10. Balance your omega fats.

Not all fat is bad fat. Omega-3 fats, found in salmon, tuna, flaxseed, olive oil and certain nuts, have many proven health benefits. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help balance bad cholesterol levels, decrease blood pressure, improve brain development during pregnancy and childhood, improve eye health, fight depression, fight inflammation, and help ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease and other mental disorders. They are also suggested to improve the appearance of your skin, among many more benefits. The bottom line is to be careful in balancing the fats that you eat. Bad fats can be found in vegetable and animal fats, and can lead to heart disease, causing inflammation. Talking to your doctor for tips to attain a good balance is very important.

11. Drink more water.

Many people do not consume nearly enough water. Every cell in your body needs water! Staying hydrated will improve your energy levels, make your skin smoother and more hydrated, improve bowel function, decrease muscle aches and promote weight loss.

12. Get help for dangerous addictions.

Cigarettes, alcohol, drug abuse, gambling and other high-risk behaviors are serious and potentially deadly habits that can be affecting not only you, but the ones you love. Depending on the severity of your habits, there are different levels of assistance available to help. It could be nicotine patches or medications to help with smoking, or there are several levels of support to help with more severe additions, such as inpatient or outpatient rehab for drug and alcohol addiction. The first step is acknowledging that addictions are a problem. The second step is knowing that it is OK and essential to reach out for help.

13. Improve your self-image.

Identify what is affecting your self-esteem.

Is it a weight issue, personal achievements, or something about your appearance? Identify things that you can change, set goals and stay focused. Make changes in your life to be a better you, not to please anyone else! Connect with people who love you and support you. If you find your self-image is holding you back from making changes, then speaking to a therapist or doctor may be necessary to get your mind back on track.

14. Stretch it out.

Improving flexibility helps with joint stiffness, muscle aches and frequent injuries. Spending a few moments every morning to warm up and loosen up can make you feel better all day. Investing in yourself and taking time to do yoga will not only help you feel better physically, but mentally as well.

15. Try a new food that’s good for you.

Especially Indian food! Turmeric is a spice used in Indian cooking that has very high levels of the compound curcumin. This substance is a powerful anti-inflammatory that has been shown to decrease risk of heart disease, improve brain function and even treat cancers.

16. Take probiotics.

A good life starts with a healthy gut. The benefits of probiotics go far beyond helping you stay regular. Certain inflammatory conditions, such as eczema and certain allergies, have been shown to improve with regular probiotic use.

17. Do a digital detox.

Essentially, put down your phone! Social media is directly associated with an increase in depression and anxiety. A constant exposure to other people’s success and social lives can cause you to feel inadequate and depressed. The antidote? Take a break! If you are feeling down, turn the phone off and find something about YOUR day and YOUR life that makes you feel good.

18. Pay it forward.

Volunteering or just doing something nice for someone else can be more rewarding that anything that you do for yourself.

Making a few small changes early in the year can yield benefits for many years to come. Remember, the goal is not to conquer Mount Everest in a day, but to start slow and achieve long-term success!

Paige Bundrick, MD, is an assistant professor of otolaryngology, facial plastics and reconstructive surgery, at LSU Health Shreveport.

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