Welcome to 2021!
Welcome to my 28-day Wellness Challenge--for anyone interested in trying health-promoting activities for the next 28 days! You may already do some of these things, or you may just be starting on your wellness journey, but there is room for everyone to try something new. I encourage you to reflect on how you feel each day after doing the recommended activity which can help you decide which activities you want to make into habits moving forward. Each day I will share a more in-depth explanation of the activity and some resources to help you complete it. And if you like doing these healthy activities but are having trouble making them habits that stick or want to talk about more individualized recommendations, please schedule a time to discuss with me further. -- Jenna, PA-C
Day 1 ~Eat all the colors of the rainbow this week
Colorful foods are not only fun to look at, but they are also full of phytonutrients, antioxidants, and vitamins that are incredibly beneficial to numerous aspects of our health. Try to include as many colors and varieties as you can throughout the week. Bonus if you can eat all the colors in one day! Next time you’re at the grocery store or farmers market, see how many colors you can buy to keep a rainbow of options ready at home. My current colorful favorite foods that I get at the farmers market are- oyster mushrooms, watermelon radish, butternut squash, tokyo bekana, purple daikon, and murasaki (purple outside, yellow inside!) sweet potatoes. –Jenna, PA-C
Day 2 ~ Listen to Guided Meditation
According to Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), mindfulness is “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally”.
Mindfulness and meditation are shown to improve mental health, reduce stress, decrease inflammation, increase focus, improve sleep, and more. There are many ways to incorporate meditation and mindfulness into your daily life. One of my favorite ways to start is by listening to a guided meditation. There are now countless guided meditations available online (mostly free) about a wide range of topics, varying in length from 5 minutes to 60 minutes or more. Taking the time to listen to one today will be well worth it.–Jenna, PA-C
Day 3 ~ Avoid Using Technology/Electronics/Screens at Each Meal
The pandemic has made technology and screens even more pervasive parts of our lives — and for good reason, they are helping people safely work, learn, and stay socially connected while being physically distant. However, we all could use a break from screens, especially if it involves mindlessly scrolling while eating. I challenge you to avoid technology and screens at each meal today and instead be more present and mindful while eating. While avoiding the distraction from technology, you may be able to be cognizant of where your food came from, acknowledge the effort that was taken to prepare it, and savor the unique flavors. You may even find yourself more in tune with when your stomach is full and how your body feels after eating. –Jenna, PA-C
Day 4 ~ Go For a Walk at Lunch
Walking is one of the best and easiest things to do for your health. Whether it is a 5 minute or 45 minute walk, get up and get moving on your lunch break today. You may find that your mind is clearer and you are able to focus better after walking. Walking post-meal can aid in digestion and improve blood sugar. Bonus if you are able to get outside safely with a coworker or friend (masks on!) and walk together. –Jenna, PA-C
Day 5 ~ Thankful Thursdays! List 3 Things You Are Thankful For
According to Robert Emmons, perhaps the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, gratitude has two key components. “First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good thing in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received. This doesn’t mean that life is perfect; it doesn’t ignore complaints, burdens, and hassles. But when we look at life as a whole, gratitude encourages us to identify some amount of goodness in our life. The second part of gratitude is figuring out where that goodness comes from. We recognize the sources of this goodness as being outside of ourselves. It didn’t stem from anything we necessarily did ourselves in which we might take pride. We can appreciate positive traits in ourselves, but I think true gratitude involves a humble dependence on others: We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”
Practicing gratitude can benefit our mind, body, relationships as the infographic below explains. Try writing down or saying out loud three things you are grateful for today. –Jenna, PA-C
Day 6- Start your day off with drinking a full cup of water before anything else
After you wake up and before doing anything else to start your day (especially before using phone/computer/tv and before drinking coffee/tea or eating anything), try drinking a full cup of water. Drinking water can help refresh body, mind, and spirit to start your day and set the pace to continue hydrating throughout the day. Your body is dry from not drinking anything overnight while sleeping, so drinking water first thing while help hydrate you and get your body going. Adequate hydration helps stool move through the colon and can decrease constipation. Ample hydration is also important for brain function. Taking the time to drink a cup of water can also help you start your day grounded and ready to tackle the day ahead. You can try drinking cold, room temperature, or warm water and/or adding lemon/lime juice to your water to see how you enjoy it best! –Jenna, PA-C
Day 7- Declutter/organize one space in your home
"Take some time today to declutter and/or organize a space in your home. The chaos of clutter can contribute to feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Even with as little as 5 minutes of decluttering you will likely feel more organized, be able to find things better, have more space for the things you truly love. One great way to start is to create three piles- things to donate/sell/throw out, things to put in storage, and things to keep." –Jenna, PA-C
Day 8- Go outside for at least 10 minutes every day this week
Try to schedule time to go outside in the fresh air at least 10 minutes every day this week. Whether you go for a walk, sit and read, eat a meal, play catch, watch the sunrise or sunset (safely with masks on or with your pod of course!), find a way and time to get outdoors. Especially with being cooped up with the pandemic, it is important to find safe ways to get outside. –Jenna, PA-C
Day 9- MEATLESS MONDAY! Try meatless versions of your favorite meals
Eating meatless is good for your body and the planet! Reducing meat and eating fiber-rich plant-based foods instead is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes. Decreasing meat consumption can help reduce greenhouse gases and lessen demand for land, water, and energy used in livestock production.
Try eating plant-based for one or all three meals today. Search online for plant-based versions of your favorite meals. Or maybe you already eat plant-based -- try searching for a childhood or restaurant favorite that you’ve never made plant-based at home before. You’ll be surprised how good the same spices and flavors can taste without the meat and animal products. You may even find yourself feeling full more quickly with increased fiber from the plants.
Day 10-Practice breathing exercises upon waking and before bed
Deep breathing exercises have been shown to possibly be helpful for insomnia, anxiety, depressive symptoms, stress, immune system response, alertness, concentration, and vitality. There are many breathing techniques you can practice (two pictured below), ultimately it is best to find the one you like and are most likely to do! Try starting with 2-3 minutes of breathing exercises in the morning and again before bedtime. Stop the exercise if you feel dizzy at any point and as always, talk to your provider if you have any questions about your specific health, medical conditions, or medications. You can also schedule to join Judy’s next HeartMath 101 series to learn more about specific breathing exercises. –Jenna, PA-C
Day 11 -- GET UP AND MOVE YOUR BODY AT LEAST ONCE EVERY HOUR
Day 12 -- NO SCREENS (PHONE, COMPUTER, TV, ETC) FOR 1-2HOURS BEFORE BEDTIME
Day 13 — LIST 3 THINGS YOU LOVE ABOUT YOURSELF (BONUS: SAY THEM OUT LOUD!)
Day 14 -- AVOID ADDED AND REFINED SUGAR
Day 15 --MEAL PLAN FOR THE WEEK!
Day 16 --DRINK AT LEAST 8 CUPS OF WATER THROUGHOUT THE DAY!
"Water is essential for numerous processes within the body that are happening throughout the day. While individual water requirements can vary greatly on a day-to-day basis due to differences in physical activity level, climate, and dietary water content, it is generally accepted that most adults need to drink at least 64oz/2 liters (8 x 8oz cups) each day. That may seem like a lot, but if you have 1 cup after waking up, 1 cup before each meal, 1 cup mid-morning, 1 cup mid-afternoon, 1 cup late afternoon/end of work, and 1 cup in early evening it is easy to space out throughout the day. If plain water seems boring, try adding a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, mint leaves, cucumber slices, berries, etc to help the water be more flavorful and fun!"
Day 18- RESISTANCE TRAINING (bonus: with stretching after)
Inactive adults can experience an estimated 3% to 8% loss of muscle mass per decade after age 30 (and increases to 5% to 10% each decade after age 50). Numerous studies have shown that brief sessions of regular resistance training 2-3 days per week can increase muscle mass in adults of all ages. Additional benefits of resistance training include: improved physical performance, movement control, walking speed, functional independence, cognitive abilities, and self-esteem; prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes and improved insulin sensitivity; lowered blood pressure and increased HDL (“good”) cholesterol; increased bone density; and decreased discomfort associated with arthritis and fibromyalgia. You don’t need any fancy equipment- there are a lot of resistance exercises you can do with just your body weights or with items from around the house if you want more of a challenge (cans of soup, water jug, book, etc). Try 5-15 minutes of resistance exercises such as arm curls, wall pushups or regular pushups, wall sits, planks, lunges, etc. See the example 9 minute whole body resistance workout linked below or the infographic from MD Anderson Cancer Center. As always do what you are comfortable with and stop if you have any pain. Bonus take a few extra minutes at the end to stretch the muscles you just used!
Source: Westcott, Wayne L. PhD Resistance Training is Medicine: Effects of Strength Training on Health, Current Sports Medicine Reports: July/August 2012 – Volume 11 – Issue 4 – p 209-216 doi: 10.1249/JSR.0b013e31825dabb8
Day 19 –THANKFUL THURSDAY–Write a letter to someone you are grateful for
Day 20 — STRETCH BEFORE GETTING OUT OF BED IN THE MORNING AND AGAIN BEFORE GOING TO SLEEP
Day 21 — SOCIAL MEDIA-FREE SATURDAY
Day 22- ESTABLISH A SET BEDTIME FOR EACH NIGHT THIS WEEK
“Adequate and high quality sleep is essential to our overall health and wellbeing. Sleep has been shown to have significant impact on physical development, emotional regulation, cognitive performance, and quality of life. Establishing a set bedtime for each night of the week is one of the keys to getting adequate and good quality sleep. Aim for a bedtime that will allow you 7-9 hours of sleep time (accounting for the time it may take you to fall asleep too!) before needing to wake up and start your day. Having a set bedtime (and ideally a set wake up time too) will help you synch with your body’s natural circadian rhythm to establish a regular sleep-wake cycle. It may be a little challenging to adjust to at first, but prioritizing a set bedtime will get easier the more you stick to it and pay off with how you feel and health benefits in the long run. If you’re interested in learning more about sleep, sign up for Dr. Wendy’s next sleep class or an individual sleep consultation appointment.”–Jenna, PA-C
Day 23 — MEATLESS MONDAY
Day 24 — REACH OUT TO FAMILY/A FRIEND YOU HAVEN’T TALKED TO RECENTLY
“According to research published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, there is “significant evidence that social support and feeling connected can help people maintain a healthy body mass index, control blood sugars, improve cancer survival, decrease cardiovascular mortality, decrease depressive symptoms, mitigate post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, and improve overall mental health. The opposite of connection, social isolation, has a negative effect on health and can increase depressive symptoms as well as mortality.” The pandemic and physical distancing has further challenged our ability to connect with other humans. But it is so important to stay socially connected while staying physically distant and safe. Try reaching out to a friend or family member you haven’t talked to recently to help foster a sense of support an connectivity.”–Jenna, PA-C
Day 25 — TRY A NEW 30-MINUTE WORKOUT (bonus: with a friend)
Day 26 — PERFORM ONE RANDOM ACT OF KINDNESS
Day 27 – LIST 3 POSITIVE THINGS THAT HAPPENED THIS MONTH (bonus: say them out loud)
“Day to day life may not always feel positive, especially with the ongoing pandemic and all that in going on in the world. However, if we take a step back we will likely realize there are more positive things happening than we acknowledge. Our brains tend to want to focus on the negative, but we can work to help our brains see and focus on the positives too! Try thinking of 3 positive things that happened (to you, to someone you know, and/or more largely in the world, etc) this month and see how focusing on that may help you feel happier, lighter, more energized. As a bonus say each positive thing out loud to let the power of it truly wash over yourself!”-Jenna, PA-C