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9 simple health goals that you can keep

Try these small changes to improve your health in 2021. 1. Walk more Brisk walking (https://www.alltrails.com/), even for just 10 minutes a day, can improve your circulation, boost your mood and improve your sleep. If you want to start walking more in 2021, try doing it in 10 minute chunks to make it less daunting. Remember, you can tell if you're walking briskly enough if you're able to talk, but you're breathing faster than usual. 2. Experience nature Mental health charity Mind found that proximity to nature can have positive wellbeing benefits, including helping you feel more relaxed and less angry. If you're able, visiting green spaces (https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/) more often can be really beneficial. One study found, for example, that just hearing birdsong can boost mental well-being for four hours or more. You can bring nature into your everyday life by having flowers in the house, looking after house plants, growing your own food or exercising outdoors. 3. Spend less time sitting down Sitting is the new smoking – the body wasn't built for spending hours at a desk or in front of the TV. It increases your risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and breast, colon and colorectal cancer. Why not try the Pomodoro method (https://www.forbes.com/sites/bryancollinseurope/2020/03/03/the-pomodoro-technique/?sh=39f6f6683985) to break up desk time? Set a timer to break each hour into two 25-minute blocks separated by two five-minute breaks. Work intently during the work periods and move about during the breaks. Use your breaks to stand up, do a quarter squat, do some rotations, or just go for a walk round the office. This technique can also boost your focus when you're working. 4. Get good sleep Being sleep deprived (https://www.annalisekirk.co.uk/hypnotherapy/insomnia) can negatively affect your mental and physical health. It can even make you prone to major illnesses, from obesity to depression. Reducing screen time before bed, sleeping in a cool room, and going to bed at the same time each evening all help with a good night's rest. Apps such as Sleep Cycle can help you pinpoint any issues and help you to improve your sleep. 5. Stretch Many of us want to become more flexible and introducing stretches into your daily routine can help you achieve that. Dynamic stretching can help improve flexibility and range of movement, and decrease the risk of injury. Make a habit of stretching when you wake up, or while you're waiting for the kettle to boil. Discover more ways to boost your flexibility, including stretches to try. 6. Make food more fun Challenge yourself to cook and eat something one new recipe every week. As well as vitamins and minerals, there are hundreds of micronutrients known as phytochemicals in food. Eating a wide variety of food is an easy way of ensuring we get a good nutritional mix. If you're looking to shake things up, why not try one of our delicious, healthy recipes, with ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 7. Plan meals A focused food shopping list cuts calories and waste, and saves money, as you only buy what you need (and throw nothing away). Take the time to plan your meals, and write out a list before you go to the shops. 8. Reach out to others We're all busy, but in 2021 take time out for your relationships. The Mental Health Foundation says that having good quality relationships can help us to live longer and happier lives with fewer mental health problems. Try to schedule calls (or in-person meetings) with your friends on a regular basis rather than leaving it up to chance. You can increase your sense of belonging by joining clubs or volunteering in your area. If you can't get out and about, there are plenty of online communities you can join - from book clubs to parent/grandparent groups. For your romantic relationships, reflect on whether you're in a healthy relationship. 9. Drink plenty of water Drinking enough water is crucial to good health. The NHS (https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/water-drinks-nutrition/) recommends drinking 6-8 glasses of water a day (or 1.5 to 2 litres in total). This includes lower fat milks, and low sugar or sugar-free drinks, tea and coffee within this intake. You can meet this target by buying a reusable water bottle and keeping it with you throughout the day. If you know your bottle holds 500ml, you know you have to refill it 3 to 4 times to drink the recommended amount. Don't forget that you need more water if you exercise, or on hot days. Gary Fillery