Fired up by the fresh calendar year, many of us make lofty New Year’s resolutions with the very best intentions. It’s no wonder that somewhere around mid-February, we’ve lost interest in our too-big goals and too-steep plans to completely change our lifestyles all at once.
Real talk: Small changes are a heck of a lot easier to pull off, and can add up to a bigger impact. We asked local experts for their most practical, achievable tips on everything from cleaning your home to learning how to meditate. Whether you try just one tip a month or tackle them all from the get-go (you overachiever, you), get ready to sit back and bask in the benefits of your healthiest year.
Less can be more if you’re resolving to move more in 2017, says Steve Hlavac, a certified strength and conditioning specialist at Beyond Measure Fitness Training in Naperville.
“Most people get after it for a couple weeks, but then they start to fall off, whether they lose motivation or overwork themselves,” Hlavac says. “People set unrealistic goals of working out five days a week and they have a ‘bad week’ and work out two or three times, and actually that’s really good.”
Whatever type of activity you choose—from walking to yoga to water aerobics—you’ll be more motivated to stick with it if you enlist a friend to join you, too.
“We spend a third of our life sleeping, so whatever happens during our sleep is going to affect the other two-thirds of our life,” says Juan G. Flores, MD, medical director of the Edward Sleep Center in Naperville.
Skip the nightcap
A glass of wine may help you nod off, but it can cause middle-of-the-night awakenings as your body metabolizes the alcohol.
Invest in a new mattress
“It’s amazing how many patients have a nice car that they change out every four to five years, but then you ask them how old their mattress is and they’ll say, ‘Oh geez, my bed is 20 years old,’” Flores says.
Stash the screens
The blue light from TVs, tablets and mobile phones disrupts the melatonin production that fuels healthy sleep patterns. Swap your bedtime social media scrolling for an old-fashioned book, or if you must watch TV in bed, set the sleep timer. “Even if you’ve fallen asleep and the TV is on, the fluctuations in volume and lights can lead to awakenings,” says Flores.
The best way to stay hydrated is sip throughout the day, rather than wait until you’re thirsty, says Kim Berger, Naperville-based registered dietitian, nutrition therapist and president of the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals Foundation’s Heartland Chapter. Having a reusable water bottle handy makes a big difference, she says, so invest in one that you like enough to bring with you daily. Combat your “bored of water” moments by adding herbs or fresh fruit such as watermelon, cucumber or mint. And unless it’s decaf, that coffee, tea or soda isn’t helping the cause. “Caffeinated drinks … act as a diuretic and can contribute to dehydration,” Berger says.
Two simple ways to level up your nutrition game are to eat more fruits and vegetables and swap ill-advised vending machine runs with healthier snacks.
Try adding extra chopped veggies to your pasta, soup or omelet, or make slow-cooker chili with half the meat and twice the beans, says registered dietician and nutritionist Christine Palumbo. “When making pancakes, you can stir in grated carrots or apple,” she says. “For oatmeal, you can throw in frozen berries, raisins or even pureed pumpkin.”
Edward-Elmhurst Health registered dietician and nutritionist Mary Gardner says protein-based snacks will keep you satisfied longer: Try apple slices and nut butter, raw veggies with a cheese stick or yogurt and trail mix. “Have a handful of nuts or peanut butter with snacks,” she says. “You’ll be less apt to overeat at your next meal.”
Clear the clutter with these tips from Angela Loveless, owner of Naperville-area business Actually Organized by Angela.
Wrangle the mail
“Establish a system for mail when it comes in. Recycle anything that you don’t need immediately. Designate a spot to keep bills, magazines, catalogs and items that require further action.”
“If you can reset at the end of the day with a 10-minute tidy, the next day starts so much nicer,” Loveless says. Set out lunchboxes and backpacks for school, gather any papers you need for work and make sure your car keys are back in their rightful spot. “Even if you have dishes drying, clear the sink so you can make the coffee and fix the breakfast,” she says.
Put away the laundry
After you’ve washed and folded the laundry, complete the job by actually putting it away. If you find that it’s sitting in the basket for days, it’s probably because your drawers or closet are too full; see “Purge” on page 57 to remedy that!
Practicing meditation for just a few minutes a day has benefits, including “clarity of thought, reduction of stress [and] overall improved health,” says Michelle Rae Sobi, owner of Power Edge Yoga in Naperville. But where should a meditation newbie begin? “I’m a big fan of Oprah and Deepak’s 21-day challenge app,” says Sobi, “and it’s free.”
“Take it slow. Set a daily reminder for two minutes. Over time, increase to five minutes. If that goes well, continue increasing. Just a few moments can create an instant reset,” she says.
“Listening to guided meditation such as Aqueous Transmission by Incubus can do the job in seven minutes.”
Trendy week-long juice cleanses aren’t the only way to detox. Try these three easy tips to purify your life—literally and figuratively.
“Do one thing at a time,” says Rae Sobi. It can be as simple as eating dinner sans TV or sipping your morning coffee without checking your email. “Relish in your experiences every chance you get.”
Sift through your cleaning cabinet and toss toxic cleaning products. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s guide to nontoxic cleaners (ewg.org/guides/cleaners) for pointers.
Social media stress
Spend one hour culling through your social media channels and either unfriend or unfollow people who cause you undue stress or frustration with their posts, rants or updates.
“Do something that you’ve always wanted to do but are slightly scared of. It’s fulfilling and exhilarating,” says Kandice K. Henning, executive director of Alive Center in Naperville. It doesn’t have to be as drastic as world travel or skydiving; taking a cooking class or learning how to knit can be rewarding, too.
“Some say that it slows down time when we try new things. When we do the same old things all of the time, we are stuck in a groove that makes things go faster,” says Henning. “Live like a child finding wonder in the world and slow down time!” says Henning.
Craving better connections in 2018? Read on for advice from Fred Willman, life coach with 45 Degrees Coaching in Naperville.
Think quality over quantity with professional connections. Fifty solid connections on LinkedIn that you have an ongoing rapport with are more valuable than 500 empty contacts.
“New can be old, resurfaced,” Willman says. Reconnect with an old friend you’ve lost touch with via social media, or make plans for a face-to-face coffee date or phone call with a pal you typically only text with.
Make specific goals to put family first. “Make a point to eat with the family at the table and away from electronics,” he says. “Plan a family fun night with board games or do projects together around the house.”
Drowning in stuff? Try these speedy purging tips from professional organizer Angela Loveless.
Toss extra plastic containers (especially those with missing lids), anything chipped or broken, ugly souvenirs and gifted gadgets you’ve acquired and have kept out of guilt.
Toss everything that has a 2017 expiration date.
“That beauty product or cleaning product that you impulsively bought and aren’t using. If you get rid of those items, generally you have enough space for what you really need,” Loveless says.
Donate coats, boots and snowpants your children have outgrown.
Dressers and bedroom closets
“We wear 20 percent of our clothes 80 percent of the time. Evaluate your clothes by asking yourself, ‘Would I buy this today?’ [and] ‘Do I feel good wearing this?’ Donate what doesn’t fit.”
Craving a clean sweep? Here are four ways to clean up your act, from skin to sinks.
Count on it
In the kitchen, clean your oven once a month and microwave (don’t forget the handle!) once a week, says Dan Brosseau, owner of Two Maids & A Mop in Naperville. In the bedroom, wash sheets, blankets and pillow cases every week in warm or hot water; duvets should be cleaned monthly.
Guilty of going to bed with your makeup on? Stash a pack of no-rinse makeup remover wipes in your nightstand for those too-tired-to-care nights.
“An old toothbrush is your friend!” Brosseau says. “Use it to clean hard-to-reach locations in your bathroom (behind and around faucets, drains, toilet seat hinges) and in the kitchen (seals on refrigerator doors, vents in appliances) and of course, [switch/outlet] plates in all rooms.”
Make sure you’re washing your hair the right way. “I tell my guests at the salon, shampoo is meant for the scalp and conditioner is meant for the mid-lengths and ends, where hair doesn’t get the natural oils from the scalp,” says Sarah Hietschold, a stylist at Zano Salon & Day Spa.