New Year, New You
More than parties, champagne and celebrations, each New Year’s Day is about making a clean slate for yourself to change negative habits or beliefs into positive ones. Common areas of focus include weight loss, exercise, stress, career, patience, volunteering, simplicity and relationships. Whether your New Year’s resolution is specific – say, lose 15 pounds – or general, such as “exercise more,” here are concrete ways you can improve your life so 2013 is your best year ever.
Quite possibly the most declared resolution, committing to losing weight is what packs fitness centers for the first month of the year – and then drains them of activity in February. It takes more than going to the gym to lose weight; you must incorporate diet changes into your life to see real results. If you’re already drinking low-fat milk and have switched sugar for a calorie-free sweetener, try drinking half your body weight in ounces of water per day, and only coffee with milk in the morning. Switch out your daily lunch with a salad with lean protein, and choose breakfast and snack foods high in protein and fiber. For breakfast, scramble egg whites with spinach, tomatoes and feta, or choose low-sugar oatmeal with fresh berries. For snacks, select string cheese with an apple, whole-grain crackers with low-fat cheddar, fat-free Greek yogurt with ¼ cup granola and muffins and cereal bars with less than 12 grams of sugar per serving, at least 3 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein. Every day, aim for five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day, and you’ll likely lose and keep off water weight.
If you’re committed to “exercising more,” set more concrete goals to make sure you see them through. Vow to go to the gym four times per week, to do cardio three times per week for 30 minutes each time or to exercise in some form (walking, jumping rope or doing push-ups and sit-ups) for 15 minutes every day. If you’re already a gym rat, research personal training sites and fitness magazines for new exercises to shake up your routine.
Stressors creep up whether we want them to or not. While you can’t control what makes you anxious or upset, you can control how you react to them. If you’re not into yoga, take a few deep breaths and close your eyes until your heart rate returns to normal, or go for a walk when stress creeps up. Alternately, do something productive and distracting, such as cleaning out from under your bed or organizing your bathroom cabinets, or go for a killer workout. If the stressor constantly creeps up – say, it’s from a coworker or in-law, have a heart-to-heart talk with the person, perhaps with a neutral party in the room, to finally resolve your differences.
The opposite of stress is putting someone else before your own needs. When your life is out of control or something just doesn’t feel right within, seek out opportunities to help others, which will both benefit someone else and put your own life into perspective. Visit sites such as volunteermatch.org and serve.gov to find opportunities to suit your own tastes, such as working with youth, pets, the environment, elderly, disabled or sick. You’ll be on your way to feeling better in no time.
Remove the clutter in your life and brain to start living a more simple existence in 2013. Pare down your clothing, shoes and belongings, throwing out what is no longer useful and donating the rest to secondhand stores. Limit your Internet, communications, television and social media time to feel more present and less concerned about things that don’t matter. Go through each room of your house or apartment to eliminate items that create unnecessary clutter, such as excess picture frames or knick-knacks that you have to dust over and over. Resolve to buy less during 2013 by employing a “Buy Nothing” month, in which you only spend on items you need to survive – gasoline, groceries and utilities. Soon, you’ll be feeling like a brand-new, simplified you.
When you cut out the clutter in your life, you’ll find you have more time to spend with your loved ones and you’ll enjoy reconnecting more. Commit to having a dinner party once a month with your closest friends, take your kids to the park once a week or have family game night with your parents and siblings every two weeks. Whatever it takes, carve out the time to enjoy the ones you love most.
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