The New Year, it seems, is a time when everyone takes inventory of their lives and vows to make a fresh start. It rarely works. In fact, the diet and fitness industries make the majority of their money by signing people up who don’t have the follow-through to keep with it, but keep paying for the hope. Don’t be discouraged, though. The mistake most people make is making changes that are too big. Their lives simply don’t have room to add an hour plus at the gym or for cooking separate meals. But all is not hopeless. You can make real and significant changes in your life without making overly dramatic changes.
1. Hug More Often – Consciously spend just an extra 30 seconds a day hugging each member of your family, including your pets. That alone will help lower blood pressure, ease anxiety and even help your memory. Interestingly, hugging strangers actually causes more stress.
2. Workout During Commercials – Little bouts of exercise really add up. If you watch two hours of TV a day, you will be subjected to about 30 minutes of commercials. Instead of sitting on the sofa fast forwarding through the commercials, use them as an opportunity. Run or walk in place, do jumping jacks, do pushups or do some weight exercises. Just get moving. If you’re anything like me, you’ll continue the activity long after the commercials end.
3. Read at Least 10 Pages of a Book Before Bed – Reading is becoming a lost art. We spend much of our free time in front of computer screens instead of in front of a good old fashioned book (books on tablets are okay). Vow to read a chapter a night and if that’s too much (my current book has chapters that are over 100 pages), read 10 pages a night. Your brain will thank you and you’ll be more interesting at parties.
4. Spend 15 Minutes a Day Cleaning Something You Don’t Normally Clean – Take off the handles on your stove, clean behind your refrigerator, vacuum the insides of your sofa, clean a couple of windows. You will be healthier and a lot less stressed.
5. Call One Friend a Week – I have friends that cover more than half the country. I rarely talk to them, but I really enjoy when I do. This year, I vow to talk to one of them once a week.
6. Inventory Your Friends – Sometimes, we have people in our lives who add nothing. In fact, they often leave us feeling worse about ourselves than before we talked to them. If you have friends that aren’t making a positive contribution to your life, dump them. It doesn’t have to be dramatic. Just say something like, “I really don’t think we bring out the best in each other. Perhaps, it’s best if we focus our energies on our other friendships.” I had to do that. My friend didn’t take it well (although she agreed that we didn’t bring out the best in each other), but I stood firm and I feel much happier for it.
7. Digitize One Thing a Day – Recently, my Ninjas delivered a beautiful media center that I bought at a little antique shop in Pacifica. Despite the fact that it’s pretty sizable, several boxes of CDs and DVDs still remain in storage. I can store my electronic media to iTunes (or the equivalent). Video media can be played back on most BluRay players, Apple TV, Roku and TiVo. If I digitize just one a day, I’ll have 365 fewer movies and CDs I’ll have to worry about storing. They aren’t built to last forever. This will keep you from having to replace them years down the road. If you’re not comfortable with iTunes or a cloud storage option, store them on an external hard drive. Scan interesting magazine articles. Sell books that you have no future interest in reading. You’ll be happy come your next moving day.
8. Deal with 10 Pieces of Clutter a Day – Either find them homes or get rid of them.
9. Replace Sugary Treats With Dark Chocolate – It’s nearly impossible to overeat dark chocolate and, unlike most candy, it actually has health benefits.
10. Buy a Slow-Cooker – Make a big batch of something tasty and healthy. The leftovers will keep you going for at least a couple of days and it will keep you from eating fast food.
11. Smile and Say Hello to One Stranger a Day – Who knows, you might actually make a friend or two.