Here are our top ten New Year's Resolution Health Hacks that will help you live your Chief life in 2024! They're science-based and either completely free or inexpensive. We've left out the obvious ones like ditching or reducing alcohol and sugar.
Hack #1: Sleep
Without a good night sleep, everything else won't work. Sleeping at least 7 hours each night is one of the best and most pleasant health strategies. We all know it but we often forget. Less sleep equals less time to recover and repair and less growth hormone, NAD+ and other cell-repairing compounds. Lack of sleep also negatively impacts your gut health and hormones.
So, if you struggle with sleep, it's all about prioritising it by:
- Increase bright light exposure during the day - getting sunshine throughout the day (esp early in the day) will help you sleep at night
- Reduce blue light exposure in the evening - turn off the TV and phone a few hours before bed time
- Try to sleep and wake at consistent times - use your body clock to your advantage
- Try supplements that support sleep - Magnesium, Ashwagandha, L-Theanine, L-Tryptophan and Camomile are good examples (find them in this hot choc)
- Don’t drink alcohol - it may help you fall asleep but it will give you interrupted, low quality sleep
- Don’t eat late in the evening - try to leave a few hours between your last meal and bed time
- Exercise regularly - just not before bed time
Hack #2: Eat fewer calories and more nutrients
According to current science, we Westerners consume much more than we need daily. Besides being too high in energy, a typical Western diet is also low in nutrients. This imbalance between energy and nutrition intake seems to be one of the causes of the obesity epidemic.
Let's use an extreme example of somebody who only eats packaged foods and fast food. This person eats way too many calories, which makes them gain fat but they also suffer from a chronic lack of micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients) that are only found in fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and other plants, meat, fish, seafood, poultry etc.
Due to ingesting too many calories but not enough nutrients, nothing in the body works the way it should. By eating less we don’t mean deprivation, malnutrition and starvation. We are talking about eating until you are half full and having breaks from food instead of constant grazing.
And if you need a snack, go for high nutrient snacks.
Hack #3: Fasting
Calorie restriction and fasting are probably the two most tested methods to shift stubborn belly fat, increase health-span and prevent premature ageing.
It doesn’t matter what fasting or fasting-mimicking method you choose. Almost any periodic fasting diet that does not result in malnutrition is likely to be beneficial. You can skip breakfast or dinner every day; fast for 16 hours and eat within 8-hour window every day (the 16:8 method); eat 75% fewer calories for 2 days per week (the 5:2 diet); skip food for 24 hours each week or do a water fast for one week every three months.
Staying away from food for 12 hours each night is not fasting; it’s an absolute health essential!
Hack #4: Start your day with Protein (not cereal!)
Charles Poliquin is recognised as one of the World's most influential and respected strength and conditioning coaches. As a coach he helped elite athletes win hundreds of medals in over 17 different sports.
When asked for his single best dietary tip for optimal leanness, energy and sustained mental focus he said "it’s simple, try the Meat and Nuts Breakfast".
"Breakfast is the most important meal of the day," said Poliquin. "What you eat for breakfast sets up your entire neurotransmitter production for the day. This is particularly important if attention span and concentration are crucial for your performance."
"The meat and nuts breakfast raises both dopamine and acetylcholine, the two most important neurotransmitters for increasing focus, drive, commitment, and pleasure. Fat loss and muscle gains are also easier when making this one simple change to your diet. The meat allows for a slow and steady rise in blood sugar. The nuts provide a great source of healthy smart fats that allows the blood sugar to remain stable for an extended period of time."
Hack #5: Time in nature
We all intuitively know we feel better after spending time in nature, but the benefits are real and measurable - both mentally and physically.
Shinrinyoku (forest bathing) is a type of moving meditation where you let your senses to absorb the sights, sounds and smells of the rustling trees. It’s been incorporated into the Japanese healthcare since 1982. A weekly dose of forest bathing is being prescribed as a complementary therapy for conditions such as high blood pressure, insomnia and immune disorders and to speed up recovery after surgery.
And being in the wild is better than a local park due to a combination of factors like less noise and air pollution, as well as organic plant compounds released by trees that reduce inflammation and boost our immune system. The benefits last for up to six days so make heading out to national parks a part of your weekend plans in 2024!
Hack #6: Cold showers
Having a cold shower every morning and evening is the cheapest and quickest anti-aging hack. It helps to reduce inflammation and makes you calm but alert. This is because cold exposure stimulates the Vagus nerve.
The Vagus nerve is the longest nerve of the autonomic nervous system; it connects the brain to the gut and other vital organs. It’s a parasympathetic nerve, which means it’s responsible for switching you in the ‘rest and digest’ mode aka calming you down and reducing stress and inflammation. The Vagus nerve also transports the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and GABA from your gut to your brain.
Regular exposure to extreme cold (think ice bath, cryo chambers and exercising in the snow) will increase the brown fat, a mitochondria-rich adipose tissue that’s linked to longevity and health. And, icy cold water improves circulation in your skin, makes you sleep better and boosts your immune system.
Luckily for us in Australia, it's summer which is the perfect time to start incorporating cold showers into your daily routine.
Hack #7: Get out into the sunshine
Never exposing your skin to the sun will eventually lead to vitamin D deficiency. When you don't have vitamin D, it's pretty much like having an infection in the body. Plus it affects your bones, mental health and energy levels. Low vitamin D also causes muscle pain, bone and back pain, and extreme fatigue just to name a few nasty symptoms. It causes your calcium to be drawn out of bones and deposited in your arteries. So, without vitamin D, you will feel old even if you are just 20.
Hack #8: Stretch and watch your posture
When you sit in a slouched position all day long, your intestines, diaphragm and vagus nerve are constricted and can’t function properly. Without going into too much detail this often causes acid reflux, gas, bloating and constipation AND…it impairs your gut function. When your gut is inflamed, your body can’t absorb the nutrients it needs to keep rejuvenating and you start ageing prematurely. Moreover, a synthesis of many important anti-aging compounds such as NAD+, the so-called fountain of youth, depends on our gut function.
Hack #9: Find your why
If you're like most people, when trying to make positive life changes you might start strong for a few weeks and then lose motivation and you're back to square one.
Often this is because we miss the emotional element of behaviour change, which is finding out ‘why’ we really want to change. Focusing on your why is the key to achieving a successful outcome. Dig deep, then a bit deeper, and deeper again until you find your answer.
For example: what's the driver behind wanting to lose weight, or getting fit? Is it to look good? This could be a desirable outcome, but maybe what we really want to feel is more self-confident. Or maybe we want to make sure we live long enough to see our kids get married. Or maybe we’ve seen someone we love get old and we want to maximise our health span, not just our life span. Maybe we’re feeling frustrated with how much our joints hurt when we move, or how some physical activities that we used to find easy, now leave us out of breath.
Emotion drives behaviour. So, the deeper you can connect with the way you're feeling, and then how you want to feel, the easier it will be to drive behaviour change that lasts.
Hack #10: Make a plan
As the saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail. Where most people go wrong in sticking to their health goals is having a plan to get there. It's like trying to sail from Sydney to LA without a map. Support your health goals by plotting out the specific steps/actions that you will need to take to get to that goal. The exercise you will do, the foods you will/won't eat, the habits you will nurture. Be specific - what day, what time, how long, what you need to buy or prepare, etc.
If you want help to kick start your 2024, we've create a free challenge to get you started!