You already know this problem: Humans are in the midst of the worst chronic disease epidemic ever faced in our history.
- Americans are the biggest consumer of weight loss products (80%) in the world, yet still lead the world in obesity and unhealthy lifestyle.
- More than 70% of adults across the United States are already being diagnosed with a chronic disease and more than 75% of the nation’s healthcare cost being spent on managing and treating these conditions.
- Nearly every single chronic condition you can think of will not successfully be treated with prescription drugs or surgery. They can only offset the symptoms. This list includes: cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, infertility, hypertension, sleep apnea, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, depression, anxiety, stress, and many more.
- Heart Disease continues to kill more people than any other condition despite the fact that more drugs and surgeries are being performed to treat it than ever before
- Cancer continues to skyrocket and we are spending billions trying to treat it.
Reality Check: We are not getting obliterated by war, famine or disease spread from one person to the next. Today, billions are suffering from biological imbalance. Unfortunately, there’s every sign that things are going to get worse before they get better.
Today is the first generation of kids in modern history that’s expected to live shorter lifespans than their parents. If current trends continue, in two decades, 95 percent of Americans would be overweight and one in three would have diabetes.
So what needs to change?
We need a new approach to medicine, one that emphasizes healthcare over disease management. What would such a new medicine look like?
It would have three characteristics.
- It would recognize the exposome as the primary driver of health.
- It would embrace an evolutionary and ancestral perspective.
- It would apply a functional medicine approach to care.
So let’s look at each of these in a little more detail.
The Human Exposome is the Primary Driver of Health
The exposome is a concept originally proposed by Dr. Christopher Wild in 2005, and it refers to the sum of all nongenetic exposures in an individual lifetime, starting from the moment of our conception through the moment of our death.
For decades it seemed as though genetics would hold the key to human health and disease. Unfortunately, those promises didn’t really pan out. The limitations of using genes to predict and prevent disease became apparent pretty early on (especially following the sequencing of our entire genome in 2003.
Ironically, Craig Venter, who was one of the first to sequence the human genome, was also one of the first to recognize its limitations when he said, “We simply don’t have enough genes for this idea of biological determinism to work.”
We now know that genetics accounts for less than 20 percent of human disease and that the remaining causes are environmental, which is to say, they’re related to the exposome.
The exposome encompasses the food we eat, the air we breathe, social interactions, lifestyle choices, and inherent metabolic and cellular activity.
So what does this all mean?
The bad news is that the choices our parents and even our grandparents made affect our disease risk and our health and that choices that we’ve made—perhaps before we knew as much as we know now—affect our children’s and even grandchildren’s health.
The good news is that genes are not our destiny. Genes have an influence over our health, but changes we make in real time can affect our gene expression and, not only our own health, but if we’re still procreating, our children’s health and their children’s health.
Not everybody who has genetics that predispose them to a higher risk of a particular disease actually go on to acquire that disease or die early, and the environment or the exposome is almost certainly the main factor that determined which of those people that were at higher risk got sick and which stayed well.
So while we can’t control what our parents or grandparents did or our genes, we can control these diet, lifestyle, and environmental influences.
Embracing our Ancestry is Essential for Health
For 66,000 generations, humans ate primarily meat and fish, wild fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and some starchy plants. We were physically active. We didn’t sit for long periods.
We lived in sync with the natural rhythms of light and dark in direct contact with nature and in close-knit tribal and social groups. Both our ancestors and contemporary hunter–gatherers who have been studied were lean, fit, and remarkably free of chronic inflammatory disease. They were also superior to us in nearly every measure of health and fitness, from body mass index to blood pressure to insulin sensitivity to oxygen consumption to vision to bone density.
You might be thinking, “So what? Why should we care about the health of our Paleo ancestors? They all died when they were 30 years old.” It’s true that our Paleo ancestors did have shorter life spans on average, but those averages don’t consider challenges that are largely absent from modern life, including high rates of infant mortality, warfare, trauma, accidents, exposure to the elements, and a complete lack of emergency medical care.
Studies have shown that when these factors were considered, contemporary hunter–gatherers and our ancestors lived life spans that were closely equivalent to our own today, but the difference is that they reached these ages without acquiring the inflammatory diseases that characterize our old age. They didn’t have obesity. They didn’t have heart disease. No diabetes, gout, hypertension, or most cancers. In other words, if our ancestors survived the threat of early childhood and escaped the threat of trauma, they lived long and healthy lives.
So, what happened? What transformed us from a healthy, vital people largely free of chronic disease to a sick, fat, and unhealthy people?
It was a one-two punch, and agriculture was the first blow.
Scientist Jared Diamond calls agriculture “the worst mistake in human history.” Hunter– gatherers were virtually guaranteed a healthy diet because of the diversity and nutrient density of the foods they ate, but once humans settled down and started farming, there was a major shift in our diet. In short – refined carbs went up and quality fibrous vegetable, fat and protein consumption went down.
Vitamin shortages also became common. Our new diet relied heavily on a limited set of crops such as wheat, rice, and corn, and it was lower in more nutrient-dense animal products. This led to diseases such as beriberi, pellagra, rickets, and scurvy that are caused by nutrient deficiency and were rare in hunter–gatherers but became much more common in people living in agricultural societies.
We also saw an increase in tooth decay and anemia due to iron deficiency, increases in infant mortality, and decreases in average bone density. All of these diseases, again, were rarely experienced by our hunter–gatherer ancestors.
The second blow was the Industrial Revolution.
There is no doubt that agriculture led to an overall decline in human health, but the Industrial Revolution was really the knockout punch. It brought us to where we are today when white sugar, flour, and vegetable oil make up over 50 percent of the calories that the average American consumes on a daily basis. We’re more sedentary than we’ve ever been before.
We sit while we work and increasingly even sit while we play. We’re chronically sleep deprived. A third of Americans sleep fewer than six hours per night, which is up from just 2 percent in 1965. We’re working harder than ever. American men and women are working 12 to 13 hours more per week today than we were in 1968. Stress levels are off the chart for most people.
We don’t feel like we have enough time for rest and leisure, and even when we do go on vacation, many of us compulsively check our email and social media accounts.
Finally, many of us live and work in isolating and alienating social environments that are disconnected from the natural world we evolved in and from other people.
The profound mismatch between our genetic heritage and the modern environment that we live in today is responsible for the epidemic of modern disease that we’re suffering from, and it also explains why the Paleo diet and lifestyle have helped so many people.
A Functional Approach to Medicine & Optimizing Health
The third principle of achieving health is that it applies a Functional Medicine approach to care.
As I said before, conventional medicine has some amazing characteristics. It’s remarkable in terms of trauma and emergency medicine and acute care, but again, I think we can all agree it’s not very good at treating chronic disease, which is the number-one problem that we face today.
Functional Medicine is investigative. It treats symptoms by addressing the root of the problem, which leads to more profound and longer-lasting results, whereas conventional medicine tends to be more superficial, in that it masks or suppresses symptoms but doesn’t address the underlying cause, and this tends to create patients for life.
For example, if you have high blood pressure, you get on a drug to lower it, and you’re basically told to take that for the rest of your life, and the same is true for high cholesterol.
Functional Medicine tends to be more holistic. It treats the body as an interconnected whole, and we recognize that in order to treat one part, all other parts must be addressed, whereas conventional medicine is more dualistic. It views the body as a collection of separate parts. In fact, there’s a doctor for every different part of the body, and there’s often very little communication between these doctors or acknowledgement of a connection.
In functional medicine, the patient is respected, empowered, educated, and encouraged to play an active role in their healing process, whereas in conventional medicine, the patient’s opinion is often discounted or ignored, little time is spent on education, and the patient is even sometimes actively discouraged to play a strong role in their healing process.
Functional medicine is integrative. It combines the best of allopathic and alternative treatments. It doesn’t exclude drugs or surgery when they’re necessary but does tend to focus more on diet, lifestyle, supplements, and herbs as the primary interventions, whereas conventional medicine is more limited in its scope. It typically relies almost exclusively on drugs and surgery despite risks, and while it does pay some lip service to the importance of nutrition and lifestyle, physicians are undereducated on these topics and often don’t have much time to devote to them in the typical patient interaction.
Functional medicine is preventative. It’s guided by the ancient Chinese proverb, “The superb physician treats disease before it occurs,” whereas conventional medicine tends to be a little more reactive. It really aims to manage disease after it occurs and often doesn’t intervene until disease has progressed beyond a certain point of no return.
As many of my patients know, I run a busy chiropractic office in Austin, Texas… but I also have a thriving Functional Medicine practice that allows me to consult with and help people all over the US and abroad.
Still, many of my you have been asking me questions surrounding Functional Medicine and what it entails.
My philosophy to health is pretty simple: Move Well, Eat Healthy and Cultivate Happiness.
As a chiropractor, my goal is to make sure that your spine is healthy, your joints are mobile and you have no physical limitations in movement. Functional Medicine allows me to address the other 2 components: eating well and cultivating happiness.
In this article, I’d like to discuss my approach and how it works.
Conventional medicine has a doctor for every part of your body. There are cardiologists for your heart, gastroenterologists for the digestive system, neurologists for the brain and nervous system, podiatrists for your feet, and ophthalmologists for your eyes.
Due to specialization, conventional medicine often focuses on individual body systems, rather than trying to understand the whole person and ultimately that individuals underlying causes of disease and chronic illness.
In light of this, symptoms are used to name a disease and find a corresponding drug. That’s typically your treatment.
- High blood pressure gets you blood pressure lowering pills.
- High cholesterol, gets you cholesterol lowering pills.
- Infections of any kind almost always get you antiobiotics
- Imbalanced hormones, gets you hormone replacement therapy.
- Etc. Etc. Etc.
Basically, your symptoms are treated with no regard for the “cause”.
In functional medicine, the goal is to view your body as an interconnected whole, within a larger environment.
In other words, your health is the sum of all nongenetic (your external environment) and genetic (internal environment) exposures in your lifetime, starting from the moment of conception to death. It encompasses the food we eat, the air we breathe, social interactions, lifestyle choices and inherent metabolic and cellular activity.
Functional Medicine doctors recognize that in order to treat one part of the body, all other parts must also be considered. This breaks apart artificial divisions of the body.
What Functional Medicine Addresses
I have a hierarchy of importance for which factors to address when starting with a patient:
- Diet, Lifestyle and Environment.
- Nutrient imbalance, gut and HPA-axis
- Cellular Dysfunction, Toxic Burden, Hormone Imbalance
- Chronic Infections and Immune Dysregulation
- Treating symptoms for diseases that cannot be fixed
Diet, Lifestyle and Environment
As a good rule, any doctor interested in improving health should begin with diet, lifestyle and environment. It is what it is and there’s no way to self-medicate, supplement or artificially create what life requires.
Nutrient Imbalances, Gut Infections or Dysbiosis and HPA-axis
There are two reasons why we address this next:
First, these factors are often at the root of, or at least strong contributors, of other pathologies such as hormone imbalances (Low T, Thyroid problems, PCOS, etc), cellular dysfunction (Energy balance, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Weight) and immune dysregulation (autoimmune disease, cancer, arthritis, tissue repair).
Second, even if there are other problems occurring, this will lead to a significant clinical improvement towards helping any other condition.
I believe that up to 80% of health problems can be addressed by simply getting #1 (Diet, Lifestyle, Environment) and #2 (Nutrient imbalances, gut infections or dysbiosis and HPA-axis) in check.
Cellular Dysfunction, Toxic Burden, and Hormone Imbalance
In some cases we have to dig deeper. This involves assessing methylation, heavy metals, mold/biotoxins, impaired detoxification, thyroid, sex and metabolic hormones. Again, most of these problems can be addressed by improving diet, lifestyle, nutrient imbalances, gut health and stress.
Chronic Infection and Immune Dysregulation
Some patients have infections (Lyme, co-infections, parasites) that are pretty nasty and almost always require a more specialized and even integrated (Medical Prescription) approach.
How can you get started?
If you’re interested in a functional medicine consult, here’s my flow:
The consult has 2 parts: A 20 minute case review and an hour to 2 hour case review
STEP ONE: INITIAL 20 MINUTE CONSULT
After purchasing an initial consult, we will setup a time for us to meet over the phone or in person. During this 20-minute appointment, I will interview you to determine which lab tests to order for your Case Review, based on your chief complaints and your history.
This appointment has two purposes: to make sure that I have all of the information needed to gain a comprehensive understanding of the factors affecting your health and to give you a head start on your treatment before you meet with me.
The exact lab testing ordered after the Initial Consult depends on your individual circumstances, but may include:
- A comprehensive blood chemistry panel. This is the single most efficient, effective and affordable tool for quickly evaluating your health. It screens for a wide range of conditions, including several types of anemia; gut, viral and bacterial infections; insulin resistance and hypoglycemia; liver and kidney issues; and thyroid and adrenal problems. It offers important clues for how to structure and focus your treatment to get the best results. It also provides a baseline of biomarkers that can be used to objectively track the progress of your treatment over time.
- Additional blood tests for specific conditions, such as high cholesterol, hypothyroidism, autoimmune disease and gluten sensitivity.
- Advanced stool testing to screen for parasites, fungal overgrowth, bacterial infections, intestinal inflammation, dysbiosis and a deficiency of beneficial gut bacteria.
- Urine organic acids testing to screen for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, fungal overgrowth, problems metabolizing fat or carbohydrates, B-vitamin status, methylation issues, detoxification capacity, oxidative stress and neurotransmitter metabolism.
- Urine hormone testing for adrenal and sex hormone status.
You will also be provided the Case Review health history paperwork to complete.
This paperwork includes:
- A detailed health and medical history questionnaire
- A survey of your chief complaints and most important health goals
- An assessment of your most troubling and frequently experienced symptoms
- A diet survey and questionnaire
- A survey of your current supplements and medications
Once we’ve received your lab results and completed the Case Review paperwork, I will give you specific protocols to start working on before moving on to part 2: the case review consultation.
This typically occurs between 60 and 90 days after the Initial Consultation, because some of the labs we use take up to 8 weeks to deliver the results to us after receiving your sample.
STEP TWO: THE CASE REVIEW CONSULTATION
The Case Review Consultation is a 60-minute to 120-minute in-person, phone or video appointment.
Prior to the consultation, I will have reviewed the results from the labs that were ordered along with your Case Review paperwork, medical history, diet and supplement survey, assessment forms and relevant prior lab work. I will also create a Report of Findings, which is broken into three parts:
- A summary of the underlying patterns that are contributing to your symptoms.
- An outline of the suggested treatment plan, including dietary, supplement and lifestyle recommendations.
- Recommendations for further testing (this will typically be minimal, if necessary at all, because of the completeness of the Case Review process)
During this visit, I will present the Report of Findings as well as your treatment plan. I will also review all of your test results with you and answer any questions you have about the findings or the treatment plan.
In my health journey of now over 20 years, I have found that a large part of our problem with sleep is the abnormal brain pathways we’ve built up by
- Not Sleeping and
- Poor Behavioral/Lifestyle habits.
Through repetition, these brain pathways have caused sleeplessness to become hardwired into our brain.
In other words, it becomes habitual.
So with the recommendations and techniques that I’m going share with you, we will literally be re-building your brain pathways for perfect SLEEP.
This technique is actually very cool when you understand its potential beyond sleep alone. Neuroscience now understands that our brain is very much like a computer, where software can be uploaded with “training programs” for various skill sets. You stick in a USB stick or download the software and within 60 seconds you’ve got a new set of tools at your disposal.
Obviously, you can’t simply download a program from the internet into your brain (yet). But there is one technique similar to Pavlov’s conditioning experiments with dogs (using pairings of the bell and food to trigger salivation simply by association) that you can employ to upload “training programs” to your brain.
Like I said, this technique is so powerful that you can actually use it for other areas of your life. You can program any emotional state you’d like.
- Replace fear with confidence.
- Wash out anxiety with peace.
- Become a sleep master rather than dragging through the night.
Similar techniques have been used for decades by super gurus like Tony Robbins, Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffet, Pro Athletes of all kinds and even top neuroscientists.
Let me share a study with you conducted by Dr. Biasiotto from the University of Chicago.
In this science experiment, he split people into three groups and tested each group on how many free throws they could make. He then had the 3 groups perform the following tasks:
- Group 1: practice free throws every day for an hour.
- Group 2: practice free throws every day for 1 hour (but only visually in their mind)
- Group 3: The third group did nothing.
What did he find?
- The first group improved by 24%.
- The second group improved by 23% without touching a basketball!!!!
- The third group did not improve which was expected.
Of course this experiment isn’t saying that we don’t have to practice or put any effort into getting better. What it does tell us is that our brain can be influenced by what we choose to think about.
Imagine what you could do if you implemented both practice and the mental rehearsal technique of visualization. The sky is the limit.
If you apply this to every aspect of your life, it can do wonders for you and those around you.
This short guide will help you to start the process of downloading a new “training program” to enhance your sleep (and anything else you want in life).
This is my gift to you!!! I Hope you like it…
But don’t just like it, Take it, and take action!
Programming Your Brain with The Deep Sleep Software
Have you ever been driving while listening to music, and when a particular song comes on, your brain immediately serves up a set of memories about a specific time in your life or singular event that was meaningful to you?
Our mind is constantly making associations. Good and Bad.
Chances are you’ve already done this technique with your sleep and you don’t even know it…
The problem is that you didn’t control it and it could have been done backwards.
Maybe you’ve established a NEGATIVE association with lying in bed…
An association of worry, anxiety, frustration, irritability or inability.
Chances are the minute you lie down in bed you feel it, only you didn’t know where are what it was coming from.
Your bed literally becomes the place associated with…
- Tossing and Turning
- Heat and Discomfort
In fact, you’re likely a pro at this technique, you just didn’t know it – much less how to benefit from it. So let’s start learning how to use this gift we’ve been given.
How to Install Your Deep Sleep Software
The first step is of course to install the software. I refer to this as “software” because it creates new brain pathways for quick-access to the emotion or feeling you just “installed”.
We are going to install the Deep Sleep Software and then give you a button or trigger to launch the program when you need to feel the sense for “Deep Sleep”.
Don’t Check Out Here! The following exercise requires total concentration and focus, so find yourself 10-20 minutes when you can close your eyes and not be disturbed.
When’s the best time to do this exercise…
Immediately before you fall asleep at night or just after you wake up in the morning.
Let’s get started.
Start by taking a deep breath and then exhaling slowly. Allow your eyes to close and a wave of relaxation to flow down your body. Do this 3 to 4 times, with your eyes remaining closed and allow yourself to become completely relaxed. It’s also a good idea to try counting down from 50. This process puts you into the alpha brainwave which is the frequency for relaxation, creativity and clarity. Think of it as prepping your brain for a clean install
When your mind is clear and calm, think of a time when you felt really relaxed, when things were just perfect. Maybe it was right after a massage, or an earlier time in your life when you woke up from an amazing night of sleep. Whatever that memory was, step inside your body and see what you would have seen when you were actually experiencing it. What did you hear? What did you feel? How heavy was your body? Were there smells or tastes or colors associated with it? The more sensory information the better. And if you can’t think of a time when you were relaxed, then fabricate it… just make sure it’s vivid and you run through all the details as if it actually happened.
I need you to really go for this. Feel how your entire body was perfectly calm, blissed beyond measure and heavily sedated with relaxation. Your mind was clear. You’re happy and everything was perfect.
When you start to feel the relaxation sensations, step into the feelings and let them double. Sink deeper into that state and amplify what you’re experiencing. Allow the feeling to overcome you.
When you get to a point where you know these feelings are about to peak, gently touch your thumb and index fingers together to form a ring (it doesn’t matter which hand you do this with). This will be your “trigger” or “control” button. Hold your fingers together as you continue to experience this image of incredible calmness.
This is important: Say to yourself mentally, “Whenever I want to feel fully relaxed and ready to fall into deep sleep quickly with ease, all I need to do is press my fingers together and it will be.”
Now touch your fingers, then break your state by thinking about something completely different for a few moments. Or simply count up from 1 to 10. It’s important that you stop your trigger or control (touching your fingers) before your feelings begin to diminish
When your mind is elsewhere, and the positive feeling has gone, return your fingers to their trigger state. Allow the feelings to flow and do not fight them; just let them arrive. You should feel the wave of relaxation begin to wash over.
If the feelings don’t get as intense as you’d like them to be (and I can almost guarantee they won’t the first few times), don’t worry – simply repeat the process and continue anchoring your software. This helps your brain to associate what you’re trying to accomplish. The more you do this, the better you will get at it, and the stronger your trigger or control button will be.
Running the Deep Sleep Software
Ok. So now that you’ve installed your software and tested to make sure it’s running, use it. When you lay down at night to go to sleep, simply turn on the software by using your trigger or control button. Remember to allow the feelings to flood your body. Let it expand and this will strengthen the software every time you use it.
If you do this correctly, you will see immediate results.
And remember, you may need to do this a few times to actually get your brain reprogrammed. After all, it wouldn’t be cool if we could just re-program our brains that easily!
Sleep deprivation can lead to many health problems such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, anxiety, and more. To feel your best, it’s vital to get proper sleep.
Make Sleep a Priority
Before mentioning any other suggestions, it’s important to note that if you don’t allow enough time for sleep, nothing is going to change! The amount of sleep that is required varies from person to person, but research shows that on average we need anywhere from seven to nine hours per night.
To begin, start with allowing eight hours for sleep. However, if you’d like to be a bit more specific about how much you need, you can try the following experiment:
How Much Sleep Do I Need?
- Track your sleep duration – you’ll do this for every day of the experiment
- Test your reflexes – go to humanbenchmark.com and test your reflexes for the first three days
- Add 30 to 60 minutes of sleep for 30 days. You can do this by going to bed earlier (recommended if you tend
to be a “night owl”) or waking up later
- Test your reflexes (again) – go to humanbenchmark.com and test your reflexes after 30 days of longer sleep
duration and see how they’ve changed. If they’ve improved, you’re on the right track!
- See how you feel – do you feel better now that you’re getting more sleep? Probably! Track your symptoms as
you go through the experiment to determine how much better you feel with extra sleep.
As you do this experiment, you’ll want to pay extra-close attention to the following factors that improve sleep quality:
Control Your Exposure to Light
Light is the primary determinant of our circadian rhythm and sleep/wake cycle, and thus controlling our exposure to light is a powerful way to regulate sleep. The first step is to reduce your exposure to light at night by:
- Avoiding or minimizing the use of computers, TVs, tablets, and phones three hours before bedtime. Use
programs like F.lux or your smart phones “night shift” app to reduce the blue light emitted from these devices.
- Dimming, covering, or removing anything that emits light in your bedroom like alarm clocks
- Using blackout shades and/or an eyemask to make your bedroom as dark as possible
- Wearing orange glasses to reduce exposure to blue light (try these if you need to fit them over
Once you’ve reduced your exposure to light at night, you’ll also want to focus on getting exposure to sunlight during the day. You can do this by:
- Taking a short walk when you wake up in the morning
- Eating breakfast outside in the sun
- Using a light machine
Move Your Body
It’s important to get adequate amounts of physical exercise for proper sleep. Make sure to pay special attention not only to exercise, but also the time that is usually spent being sedentary. Try a standing or treadmill desk, take the stairs, and walk more!
Optimize Your Sleep Nutrition
Some people do well eating a smaller dinner (especially those with digestive issues). Others do better with a bedtime snack, such as those who tend toward low blood sugar. In general, though, it’s best to go to bed neither overly full nor hungry. You should also make sure your diet isn’t too low carb or low fat, as these types of diets can also lead to trouble sleeping.
Cut Caffeine and Alcohol (Boo, Hiss!)
These two items can have a profound effect on sleep, so they’re best left out if you’re having sleep problems.
Remember that if you are currently drinking a lot of coffee, it’s best to wean yourself off rather than cutting it out cold turkey.
Manage Your Stress
It’s incredibly important to manage your stress effectively when trying for good sleep. Many of us tend to run around all day like chickens with their heads cut off and then wonder why we have trouble sleeping. Make sure to calm your system by implementing stress management techniques like deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi, and more for good sleep.
Create a Relaxing Sleep Environment
Creating a bedroom that makes you relaxed and ready for bedtime is very helpful when it comes to getting quality
sleep. You can do this by:
- Only using your bedroom for sleep and sex – avoid using electronics in the bedroom
- Controlling the temperature of the room – most people sleep best in a slightly cool room
- Getting a comfortable bed – your sleep isn’t going to be great if you find your bed uncomfortable!
- Reducing the noise level – if there’s a lot of noise outside your bedroom, use earplugs or a noise machine
to block it out
Every year, New Year’s has a way of smacking us in the face. We get through an entire year, manage to survive the hectic holidays, and then have to think about which resolutions we want to make before New Year’s Eve comes around. For most, this is a time to set the intention for the year. Maybe this means eating a little healthier, going to the gym more often, or just reducing stress. Maybe its something bigger- like changing your life course or finding deeper meaning on why you are here in the first place?
No matter what your New Year’s resolutions are, they are almost always about bettering yourself and creating a new you for the year ahead.
The thing about these resolutions is that they don’t have to wait until New Year’s day, you can actually get started on them right now, and it may be better if you do.
Getting started on your goals for the coming year before the holiday’s get under way can help make the coming year the best one yet, and can help you establish goals well before that midnight ball drop on New Year’s Eve.
You can make long lasting changes and feel healthy and radiant even before those holiday family dinners come around. Let’s take a look at why creating high-performance habits before New Year’s will be more beneficial to you in the long haul.
Why You Should Be Implementing Healthier Habits Now
Did you know that it takes the average person a little over two months to create a habit? (1)
Contrary to popular belief, scientific research has found that it takes much longer than 21 days to form a habit; it actually takes about 66 days to build sustainable habits that stick around long term. Of course, this is very individualistic, and behavioral based as it all comes down to commitment levels, and what type of habit you are trying to create, but on average you will need to work on new lifestyle habits for two months before they stick.
So, why does this matter, what does this have to do with implementing healthier lifestyle habits for the new year? If you started to implement changes right now as opposed to waiting until January 1st, you would be much more likely to stick to your resolutions for the entire year. If you start January first, you may lose motivation, and fall off the bandwagon. Getting started now gives yourself a kick start, and by the time New Year’s comes around you may already be halfway to that 66-day mark where a new habit is made.
Don’t wait until the last minute, start making the changes now.
You Can Accomplish A lot More!
If you start thinking about what it is you want to change now, you can accomplish a ton between now and New Years! If you put your goals off until January, you are losing out on valuable time that you could use to get started on them. Just think about all of the things that you can get done within the next couple of weeks, and how much better you will feel once you get started on them. Make yourself feel accomplished jumping into the new year ready to tackle your goals.
There’s Less Pressure:
If you start now, you reduce a ton of stress and pressure from your plate. There is so much pressure surrounding New Year’s resolutions, and unnecessarily so. If you get started now, you will have no reason to feel that stress. You can take your time implementing the changes and feel much more accomplished. Don’t fall into the trap of hyping up your resolutions only to feel disappointed a few months later. Starting now allows you to commit to yourself, and you are more likely to stick to it long-term without any expectations from others.
Start Now to Reevaluate Later
Why wait until January 1st to start working towards something you want? Not only can you start making the changes now, but starting early allows you to reevaluate how things are going on New Year’s Day. Do you need to change your method of reaching this goal, or are you progressing along? Giving yourself some time to test the waters and figure out how to reach your goal best before New Year’s is an excellent way to set yourself up for success.
You’re Much More Likely to Set Realistic Goals
When you start your New Year’s goals early, there’s a better chance you are going to be realistic about them. During New Year’s there is a lot of pressure to set very big goals that may not be very practical for your life. Getting started earlier allows you to determine what is going to work for you, and gives you more time to really dig deep and think about exactly what you want to change or work towards. Start early to be more realistic and more successful with your goals by the end of the year.
How to Get Started
Step #1: Write it Down
The best way to start working on your goals is to write it down. Instead of writing down broad goals such as “lose weight,” or “take better care of myself,” write out a detailed plan. Determine what exactly you need to do to achieve this goal. If you want to take better care of yourself this year, you may want to start penciling in five minutes of meditation per day to help reduce stress. If you’re looking to lose weight this year, figure out how much you want to lose and then determine how much weight you need to lose per month to make that a reality. Getting organized and writing it down whether it be in a journal on your desk, or your phone will help you crush these goals throughout the year.
Step #2: Think About Your Goals Holistically
Instead of picking unrealistic goals, think about what you really need to change in your life to make you a better you. Do you lack relaxation in your life? Maybe you don’t have enough time for fun and enjoyment? Think about exactly what’s missing and make some goals to change that. Creating a new and healthy lifestyle is all about changing the way things are now to make them better and more efficient for you!
At the end of the day, it’s all about jumping into the new year doing just a little bit more for yourself than you did last year.
Step #3: Set up a Reward System
No long-term goal is successful without some type of reward! Once you decide what your resolutions are, think about how you will reward yourself when you stick to them for a certain amount of time. The great thing is that if you start early, you can reach your first milestone by New Year’s Eve! Set a milestone such as exercise four days per week before December 31st, and reward yourself with something healthy. This could be a massage, a new top, or just a day out with friends or family. Having a reward system in place is an excellent way to be sure you keep on top of your goals. Set up rewards throughout the year to keep yourself motivated, and always put a time limit on the milestone to be sure you reach them when planned.
Step #4: Be a Leader
If you’re starting your resolutions early, be a pack leader and have your friends and family join you! Being a leader and role model for a healthier lifestyle doesn’t only help your friends and family, but it helps you as well. This will help keep you motivated, moving towards that goal and reaching each milestone. You would be surprised to see just how much a solid support system does for staying on top of your resolutions.
Step #5: Get Started
Ok, you have everything you need to get started! You have set high-performance goals, you’ve been realistic about them and you’ve a reward and support system, now it’s time to get started. Even if you only start a few days before New Year’s, you are way ahead of when most people start, and you give yourself a little leeway to determine what works and what doesn’t. Get started and keep pushing until you conquer those goals!
Waiting for New Year’s Day is not always the best approach to tackling your New Year’s resolutions. As you can see starting early not only gives you more time to think about what goals you want to reach but it also takes a lot of stress and pressure off of these resolutions.
Goals that are backed by too much stress are doomed to fail.
Take the time now to figure out what your resolutions are, what these are going to mean for your life, and get started on them now. You will be much happier, feel much more accomplished, and New Year’s will have a whole new meaning to it. You can now relax, and enjoy the holiday without stressing about coming up with unrealistic expectations for yourself. You would have already been working on a new version of you even before New Year’s Day arrives.
Did this information help you in any way to start the New Year off right?
What are the top 3 changes you’d like to make this year?
Share your opinion in the comments or email me!
In a study done last year, researchers looked at the brain scans of 126 adults between 22 and 35, who were asked to do a specific task. Some participants were simply told to lie still. Others were given cognitive tasks related to language, motor skills, memory, or emotion. For the study, conducted over a two-day period, researchers divided the brain scans into 268 regions and looked at the neurological connectivity in the regions of the brain. While connectivity in some regions was similar for most participants, certain regions, such as the frontal, parietal, and temporal lobes, were unique to that person.
Interestingly, the unique nature of the person’s brain scans continued across both days of the study. A brain scan of the same person doing the same task could be matched with 98-99 percent accuracy. When performing different tasks, the accuracy went down to 80-90 percent, still much higher than would be expected by a random matching of two brain scans.
Overall, two brain scans from the same person doing two different tasks were more alike than the brain scans of two different people doing the same task. One potential medical benefit of understanding the unique nature of people’s brain scans is the ability to better tailor treatments for individual patients. This could include treatment for disorders such as schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Interesting enough, although everyone’s brain is unique, many of the same brain training exercises work for most people when it comes to stimulating your mind and your memory.
Continue to Learn
According to a Harvard Health Professions article, a higher level of education correlates with better mental function in older age. While this does not necessarily mean you need to go back to college if you did not complete a degree, it does mean continuing education is important. Even less formal education can help. Learn a new skill. Expand upon a previously learned skill. Join a group, such as a book group or a chess club, where you are required to use your mental skills on a regular basis. Even doing crossword puzzles, word searches, Sudoku, or another word or number puzzle can help you to stimulate your brain on a regular basis.
While it may be harder as you age, learning a foreign language or refreshing your previous language skills can help you to stimulate your brain, thereby helping your brain functioning skills. Always make it a priority to continue to learn throughout your life.
Economize Your Memory
While you do want to have a great memory, that does not mean you have to remember everything on your own. Write things down that you need to remember, such as appointments, birthdays, or other important information. This can be recorded in whatever fashion you are most comfortable using, including in a planner, on a wall calendar, or in your phone. Writing it down may help you to remember the information, but having it recorded also allows your mind to focus on other things that you need to remember. Other habits, such as always putting your keys away in the same place, parking in the same spot or the same area in a large parking lot, and knowing where you store important documents can help you better economize your memory.
Make Mnemonic Devices
Remembering lists or the order of things can be difficult. Mnemonic devices, which are words or phrases that provide word association, can make remembering things easier. Mnemonic devices are fairly common in school. For example, many students learn “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” to help them remember the order of operations for mathematical equations: parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction. RICE helps those with injuries, such as a sprained ankle, remember to rest, ice, compress, and elevate their injury.
Mnemonic devices can be used for everyday tasks as well as information you need to remember over an extended period of time. For example, if you forgot to create a grocery list, but you need to buy milk, bread, cereal, sausage, raspberries, and apples, you might create the mnemonic device “My Brother Can Sell Red Automobiles” to help you remember your grocery list.
Of course, the real key to keeping your brain healthy is making sure you continue to stimulate it. If you are having trouble remembering things or you do not often learn new skills, start out small. Brain training does not have to mean you spend ten hours a day, seven days a week learning a new skill. Instead, spend ten or fifteen minutes learning the basics about something new. Spend a little more time on that skill or activity the next day. Never get discouraged if you are not learning something as fast or efficiently as someone else. Remember, everyone’s brain is unique, and sometimes that means you need to take a different approach for things to click properly for you. Learning and stimulating your brain should be a fun experience. Make it one.