We’re 50 days into the New Year/New Decade. It’s always easy at this point of the year, after a fresh start, to bog down, to lose momentum, and slip back into old familiar habits. February can be tough: the weather is unpredictable, illness threatens to run rampant at our places of work and in our kids’ schools, we start to feel the grind of the mid-semester, and although the days are mercifully growing longer, the warmth of spring still feels far away.

Don’t despair! Take a deep breath, and if you made some commitments to your health and well-being at the beginning of the year (or anytime for that matter), now is actually a great time to double down on them. In fact, now is when you might need them the most!

That’s why our second round of challenges through our MUS Online Incentive Program are focused on healthy daily habits—being consistent with the most important practices that can boost vitality and energy when we need to stay strong!

Our popular Get In the Groove fitness challenge is simply tracking weekly exercise, to help build a consistent routine. Whatever it is you enjoy doing in regards to movement, just make sure you keep at it! The current American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. The guidelines also recommend a mix of aerobic activities and muscle strengthening activities such as resistance training or yoga.

When our lives start to feel hectic and cluttered, often our nutritional choices aren’t the greatest. That’s why another challenge this round is to make a Healthy Switch, whenever possible “upgrading” to a healthier snack, food, or drink option than the one that while convenient, might not be the best. Here are some examples:

  • Replacing a sugary drink or alcoholic drink with water or seltzer.
  • Replacing the candy bowl in the office with a fruit bowl.
  • Replacing sugary snacks with nuts.
  • Replacing chips with a crunchy veggie like baby carrots or celery sticks.
  • Replacing refined flour with whole grain options.
  • Replacing ice cream with Greek yogurt.
  • Replacing juice or processed fruit snacks with real fruit.
  • Replacing milk chocolate with dark chocolate (my personal favorite!)

Remember, theses seemingly small choices add up over time for big impacts, but they can also be the daily difference in avoiding the dreaded afternoon slump, or giving you that extra bit of energy to be a more awesome person at home.

Finally, long Montana winters can take a toll on our mental health, so practicing daily habits to minimize the risk of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), can keep our outlooks bright and sunny even when the days are cold and dark. Our Beat the SAD challenge, submitted by Wellness Champion Carrie E. from UM, encourages daily behaviors to avoid SAD. This list includes:

  • Light therapy, either with real sunshine or a light box.
  • Exercising with a group, or outdoors.
  • Taking your Vitamin D supplement!
  • Relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga (Try WHIL!)
  • Music or art therapy

There’s even a new Team Step Challenge that will help you tie these fitness, social, and mental health elements together!

We hope all the new In the Groove challenges give you a boost to keep that New Year/New Decade momentum going strong! By the time you’re finished with these challenges, we’ll be officially into spring, and the days will feel long and bright!

Stay Well!

Neal

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