When an old year draws to a close and the new one floods in, people worldwide commit to New Year New Me promises. Many of those promises take the form of January health challenges. As a result, participants can choose whether they maintain their momentum for the remainder of the year.
Although some January health challenges are little more than fads, others convey excellent benefits. Here are three to consider starting today and committing to for the next 30 (or beyond):
The most popular of all the January health challenges: Dry January
As the third-leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the United States, alcoholism takes a serious toll on the population each year. From alcohol poisoning through to alcoholic hepatitis, the period preceding an alcohol-related death can also be quite harrowing.
Dry January is the simplest of January health challenges: you abstain from drinking alcohol for a month. But, what are your physical rewards?
Most notably, abstaining from alcohol during January means you’ll enjoy a better night’s sleep with more refreshing effects. Alcohol disrupts the neurotransmitters that dictate how well you sleep, which means a wine-fuelled slumber isn’t as refreshing as a sober one. Other benefits include:
- Weight loss due to a reduced calorie consumption from the alcohol itself and fewer craving-related snacks.
- An improvement in skin tone and texture, potentially due to better hydration.
- Brighter and happier moods, which are essential if you’re combatting a January slump.
On a long-term basis, this is one of those January health challenges you should consider continuing long-term.
One to consider trying: Veganuary
While meat lovers (myself included) may balk at the idea of trying Veganuary, the month will come with plenty of benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, those who overload their plates with meat increase their risk of heart disease, strokes, and diabetes. The experts there recommend trying meatless days once or twice a week to combat such effects.
Research also shows that those who abstain from eating meat eat fewer calories. So, why try Veganuary rather than making small changes gradually?
Over the course of the 30 days, you’ll have the chance to kickstart your love affair with eating more plant-based foods. You should also discover creative ways to eat fewer meat-packed meals on a long-term basis. Overall, treating your body to more fruit and vegetables and less meat results in:
- A reduced risk of colon cancer.
- Consuming fewer calories overall.
- Lower cholesterol levels.
- Greater exposure to antioxidants.
As one of the trickier January health challenges to navigate, Veganuary may feel difficult for you to try on a long-term basis. However, as the average American eats more than 120 kg of meat each year, adopting one or two meat-free days per week could work to your advantage.
A January health challenge for your mental wellbeing: banning shopping
January health challenges aren’t just about tackling what you put in your body. Sometimes lifestyle changes can have a positive effect on your mental health. Trying a shopping ban is one of those changes.
When I say trying a shopping ban, I don’t mean banning all spending in its entirety. Instead, buy only the essentials: such as food, toiletries, and anything else you absolutely can’t do without. If you can use an alternative at home or if you’re simply spending money for the sake of it, put your credit card away.
But how does this qualify as a health challenge? Research shows that clutter contributes to feelings of overwhelm and can negatively impact your mental health. Similarly, poor financial management is a leading cause of relationship breakdowns and increases your risk of anxiety and depression. When you spend less money and re-allocate your finances elsewhere, you could keep those winter blues at bay.
Although the world isn’t short of January health challenges, the three above are well worth committing to. They’re diverse and non-restrictive enough to try alongside one another. Whether you choose to continue them into February and beyond will depend on how they make you feel.