A brief guide to health and wellness

Laureen Horan

With the arrival of the new year, many people are ready to kick bad habits, implement healthy routines and grab life by the horns. While some people find success with their resolutions, it’s not uncommon for people start the year off strong and then lose their steam a few weeks later. 

Generally, the reason for this is because people want to just suddenly drop all their unhealthy habits and make changes over night, putting little effort into improving their long-term wellness. Making major lifestyle changes takes patience and will-power, so start with small steps to maintain healthy habits for years to come.

The first changes, of course, usually begin with diet. As college students, we are generally busy and broke. While a trip to the grocery store might seem daunting, it’s more cost-effective than blowing money for the convenience of fast food. Additionally, eating fast food even just once per day is likely affecting both your wallet and your waistline. 

Let’s say you want to stop by Wendy’s for lunch. You spend roughly $9 on a burger, fries and a soda. That one meal will not only nearly max out a person’s recommended daily caloric intake, but for $9, you could’ve gotten some lean beef burger, some protein-enhanced pasta noodles and a jar of tomato sauce and made enough spaghetti to last you two or three meals. Why spend $10 on Subway every other day when that $30 could purchase enough bread, lunch meat, produce and simple snacks to last for a week? Eating out less and meal-prepping more often can help you reduce the dough on your tummy but keep the dough in your pockets. 

Just as important as what you eat is also what you drink. On a daily basis, the average person should be drinking half their weight in ounces of water per day. Keeping your body hydrated can boost your energy levels, improve your mood, help digestion, clear up your skin, help you lose weight and help increase focus as well. Juices, sodas and other high-sugar beverages are harmful to dental and internal health, and the sugar generally causes a “crash” later on, causing headaches, fatigue and inability to concentrate. Drinking at least 16 ounces of water in the morning before breakfast can help jump-start your organs and give you lasting energy all day without the jitters or bad breath that comes from coffee. 

It’s no secret that exercise is the key to toning the body and building muscles, but trips to the gym and certain workouts are exhausting and time consuming after a busy day of class. Doing simple exercises at home for just five to ten minutes each day can improve balance, posture, flexibility, strength and stamina. There are millions of different quick workouts available for free online, so find some that work for you and align with your wellness goals. 

Beyond diet and exercise, focusing on mental wellness will also contribute to a maintaining a healthier lifestyle. Using a planner to organize deadlines and assignments can improve time management skills, ultimately reducing stress later on. While browsing online and chatting with friends is fun and relaxing, it’s addicting. It can be hard to take breaks from our tech devices, but also very mentally rewarding. Unplugging from social media even just for a day or two and eliminating all the notifications and negativity for a bit can help you reconnect to your environment and refresh your mental state. 

Most importantly, practice general self-care. Between work, school, campus activities, maintaining a social life and relationships, young adults tend to spread themselves very thin and wear themselves out quickly, which can deteriorate optimism and energy. Remember to put yourself first sometimes, whether it’s buying something on Amazon you’ve wanted for months, taking a long hot bath or just having a night at home to do nothing. Though you may feel guilty for taking a break, giving yourself some time off will help you be healthier, happier and more productive.