-Dr. Kathy Johnson, PhD, CMC
New Year’s resolutions are notoriously difficult to keep. Changing habits and behavior is challenging at any age but becomes much more difficult as we get older. Grand sweeping resolutions are rarely successful, neither are ones with goals that are too big or with vague end points. Try making a modest resolution with specific, regular, and measurable goals. These are the types of resolutions you can keep and that, after a year, will have changed your habits for the better. Here are ten possible resolutions that are in keeping with the Balanced Care Method™, any one of which can lead to a better 2010:
1. Increase your fruit and vegetable eating by one serving per day
The Balanced Care Method™ recommends that fresh fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains, compose the bulk of your daily diet. No matter how many you’re eating now, though, adding a serving per day will only improve matters. What is a serving of fruits or vegetables? About ½ cup of cooked vegetables, 1 cup of raw leafy greens, a small piece of fruit (many oranges and apples on the market count as 2 or even 3 servings each), or a ¼ cup of dried fruit. So sprinkle some chopped dates on your oatmeal, grab an apple as a morning snack, have a salad before dinner – these are all simple and delicious ways to add a serving a day.
2. Switch out one cup of coffee every day for a hot mug of antioxidant-rich green tea
Green tea has many health properties – and much less caffeine than coffee. Be sure to brew your green tea with fresh, rapidly boiling water and steep for 2 to 3 minutes for the best result. A squirt of lemon juice or a teaspoon of honey can be added to taste. There are many flavored green teas on the market – try genmaicha, a brown rice and green tea combination with a toasty warming taste perfect for cold winter days.
3. Add one serving of tofu, edamame, soy milk, miso, or tempeh to your weekly diet
These foods are all made from soy beans and are rich in flavonoids. While they are not standard in the Western diet, they are everyday foods for some of the world’s longest-lived and healthiest-lived people. If these foods are new to you, use soy milk in a smoothie or stir some cubed tofu into soup. If you already snack on edamame or use soy milk on your cereal, that’s great. Try adding a bit of crumbled tempeh on a salad or some baked tofu (available seasoned and ready to eat at many grocery stores) in a sandwich. Miso, a paste of fermented soy beans, has rich savory flavor. Just a spoonful adds depth to salad dressings, soups, and stews.
4. Eliminate alcohol
Limited alcohol intake is good advice no matter what age we are. Eliminate alcohol entirely or reduce your drinking to one small drink per day (if you don’t have any adverse medication warnings). Improved energy, sleep, balance, and memory are all possible benefits from reduced alcohol consumption.
5. Add 5 minutes of physical activity to your day each month
Simple math reveals that if you do this you will be an hour more active each day at the end of the year! That’s a hefty resolution in the end, but just adding 10 or 20 minutes total is a lot, too. Marathon training and heavy lifting are not required. A short walk, a bit of gardening, light housework, simple stretches – these are all ways to be physically active and help you keep the mobility you have.
6. Learn a new game
The game can be social (most card games, board games, word games) or individual (sudoku, crosswords, solitaire); the object is to give your brain something new to learn and have fun in the process. Even the most rigorous mental activities lose their punch and memory-improving power when they become too familiar. Trying new things is a great way to keep minds active (and entertained!) at any age.
7. Read (or Listen to) a New Genre
Life-long readers tend to know what they like. They can also get a bit stuck in what they like. Read, listen on tape or iPod, or have someone read to you a book from a genre you don’t usually read. Mystery readers could try a good biography; romance fans might give a riveting non-fiction account a try; dedicated history readers could reach for a novel. Worst case scenario is you get to re-affirm what you like; best case scenario is you fall in love with reading all over again in a new way.
8. Reach Out
Call or email someone you haven’t heard from in awhile or get in touch with one person with whom you wish you were still in touch. This may be an extended family member, an old friend, or a lost love – the idea is to reach out and make a connection, if only to wish each other well.
9. Meditate, pray, or quietly reflect for five minutes every day
While it is important to stay physically active and socially connected, taking time for quiet and reflection is key to life balance and stress management. Set aside five minutes each day to meditate, pray, or sit alone in peace and quiet. Better focus, reduced stress, and better sleep may await you with regular sessions.
10. Play It Safe
The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to make sure your home is safe. Check that you have the following phone numbers next to every phone: emergency (911 in most areas), non-emergency number for non-life-threatening situations, health care providers’ numbers, pharmacy number, poison control number, a list of your medical conditions and medications, and family and friends contact numbers. In some places – rural areas or locations near major highways – cell phone 911 calls are patched through to a state-wide office. Note any special number a cell phone user may need to call to be directed to local emergency services if necessary. Your home should also have a fire extinguisher on each floor, smoke alarms with fresh batteries on each floor and in every bedroom, basic first aid supplies, flashlights by beds, and nightlights in bedrooms, bathrooms, and hallways.