With the New Year many of our patients make resolutions to live a healthier life – to lose weight, to quit smoking, to eat better, and/or to exercise more. All of these lifestyle changes are incredibly important, but what advice can we give patients who are already fairly healthy? What New Year’s resolutions can we suggest for healthy patients to take their wellbeing to the next level?
Here’s what the latest evidence suggests…
Less screen time, more green time
A growing body of evidence indicates that less time in front of screen and greater exposure to natural environments (e.g. parks, the bush, and beaches) is associated with better health and wellbeing.
This is especially true of patients who live in largely urbanised areas.(1,2) A recent study highlighted the importance of this “green time”, finding that this time in nature significantly improved multiple markers of wellbeing. Interestingly, the study found that it did not matter how this 120 minutes of contact was achieved (e.g. one long vs. several shorter visits/week) – it was just to spend time in nature!(1)
On the flip side of this, another study has shown that spending too much time in front of screen (i.e. laptops, iPads, iPhones, etc) is associated with a variety of health harms including obesity, depressive symptoms and poor quality of life. Less screen time was found to be far better for overall mental and physical health.(2)
Eat a rainbow diet
Over the past decades, thousands of published studies have shown that eating more fruits and vegetables improves physiological and psychological health.
Newer research has emerged to suggest that these plant-based foods contain a plethora of not only vitamins and minerals, but perhaps, most importantly, phytonutrients. These phytonutrients have known pleiotropic effects on cellular structure and function, ultimately resulting in better health. Most plant-based foods are known to contain more than one colourful pigment, which typically corresponds to a phytonutrient category (e.g. orange/beta-carotene, green/chlorophyll, and purple/flavonoids).
So, fundamentally, eating a “Rainbow Diet” equates to better health!
The recommendation to eat a “Rainbow Diet” can actually motivate patients to eat more healthily – this was shown in a recent review that found that encouraging patients to “eat by colour” increased how much fruits and vegetables they included in their diet.(3)
Make sleep sacred
Finally, encourage patients to make sleep a priority in 2020.
Studies have shown that lack of sleep and poor quality sleep are both associated with all-cause mortality risk and increased risk of diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, depression, and osteoporosis.
In addition, lack of sleep has been shown to cause negative changes in mood and mental wellbeing. Conversely, high quality sleep for at least 7 hours per night improves happiness, positive feelings, vitality, energy, and life satisfaction.(4)
Make Education your priority in 2020
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- White, MP, Alcock, I, Grellier, J. et al. Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Sci Rep. 2019:9;7730 (2019)
- Stiglic N, & Viner RM. Effects of screen time on the health and well-being of children and adolescents: a systematic review of reviews. BMJ Open. 2019:9;e023191.
- Minich, DM. A Review of the Science of Colorful, Plant-Based Food and Practical Strategies for “Eating the Rainbow”,” Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. 2019:1;100-119.
- Lima, M. G., Barros, M., Ceolim, M. F., Zancanella, E., & Cardoso, T. Sleep duration, health status, and subjective well-being: a population-based study. Revista de Saude Publica. 2018;52:82-88.