Chatelaine -New Year Resolutions

10 healthy, happy resolutions

Out with last year’s hateful, I-swear-not-to promises, the ones that flopped (and always do). Instead, bust out the noisemakers and celebrate with 10 super-healthy resolutions that are actually easy to keep.

Dana Lacey, Chatelaine January 2009

1. Nap every day
This is one guilty pleasure you can stop feeling guilty about. Sleep experts have long touted the health benefits of getting enough shut-eye, including a lower risk of disease and obesity and even of early death. Now many researchers believe that the human body is meant to have a mid-afternoon nap. Studies have shown that napping may boost your memory, replenish energy and lower your risk of dying from heart disease by more than a third. So replace your three-o’clock coffee break with a quick doze at your desk. If your podmates (or your boss) protest, tell them that napping also boosts productivity: One NASA study found that pilots who napped showed a 34-percent boost in performance and a 54-percent boost in alertness.

2. Stretch twice a day

The yoga masters say that your life will be as long as your spine is supple. And the medical experts seem to agree: Stretching melts away tension, improves circulation by increasing blood flow to your muscles, boosts flexibility and balance, and straightens your posture. The good news is that you don’t have to spend five days a week in a yoga studio to get the benefits. Instead, try these five quick classic stretches. Hold each move for 30 seconds and, in a mere five minutes a day, you’ll be on y our way to a happier, healthier body.

  • Touch your toes. Then slowly raise your body and your arms upward and stretch our your spine, legs and arms.
  • Ease neck and shoulder tension by rolling shoulders forward, then backward.
  • Lying on you back, put your feet up against a wall to stretch out your lower back and legs. As your body becomes more flexible, move your bum closer to the wall.
  • Open up your chest by standing and resting your arm against a wall, perpendicular to the floor. Slowly turn your body away from your arm.
  • On hands and knees, arch your back, then round it to stretch your upper body.

3. Jump on a bike

This year, take up cycling, a cheap, efficient way to fit in a daily workout. Only 30 minutes of exercise a day can lower your cancer and heart-disease risks, not to mention shedding pounds. Forgot to buy milk? Hop on your bike. Instead of aerobics in your living room, ride through a new neighbourhood with a friend or your kids. Whether you’re a commuter or just a Sunday afternoon cruiser, cycling gets your heart pumping, and it can burn 300 calories an hour or more, depending on your weight and fitness level. And the endorphin rush after a good ride triggers positive feelings. Even better: Unless you live in Victoria, this is one resolution you don’t have to start until spring. But make a note on your calendar now to visit your local bike mechanic in April for a tune-up.

4. Take your sex life seriously

No doubt: Some nights, you really do have a headache. But if it’s been weeks (or months) since you’ve heard from your libido, it’s time to send out a search party. A healthy sex drive means a healthy body: Studies have found that a roll in the hay can lower your blood pressure, relieve stress, ease pain and improve your sleep. And, if that isn’t enough, sex also burns calories. The first step is to think sexually. Easier said than done? Seek a little help from erotica. Our challenge to you: This month, buy a new sex toy or some porovcative reading or viewing material. (For female-friendly product reviews, check out the website Libida.com.) Then dim the lights–or don’t–and have some fun.

5. Keep in touch with your friends

If you haven’t gabbed with your friends lately, pick up the phone: Having a strong social network has been linked to a healthy heart and stronger immune system and a longer life. “that sense of connection is absolutely the heart and soul of being a woman,” says Ruth Gallop, a professor of psychiatry and nursing at the University of Toronto. She talks to her pals regularly, and some of her friendships have lasted for more than 30 years. Follow her lead and plan a girls’ night every few months for some face time.

6. Tell it to the doctor

Nobody likes being prodded or pinched, but your yearly checkup gives you a chance to get your heart tested, your eyes examined and your skin checked for irregular moles, not to mention getting a Pap smear and, depending on your age, a mammogram. But what’s the most important part? Being upfront and honest with your GP. Doctors suggest that there’s a big gap between what patients say and what they do, which can lead to serious health risks. So fess up.

7. Keep a journal

Not just for navel-gazers and memoirists, expressing yourself–even a few words for a few minutes every day–is a good way to cope with stress and work through emotional stuff. And the effects can be powerful: One study found that emoitnal writing helped cancer sufferers manage pain. If the blank page feels intimidating at first, styart small with a list of to-do’s, books you’ve read or co-workers you’re crushing on. Don’t worry if you’re clumsy with words; this space is yours alone. Make a habit of carrying your journal with you and take advantage of bus-stop waits and coffee breaks to jot down thoughts and get to know yourself better.

8. Buy organic

You want to eat well, be gentler to the planet and save money. But the produce at grocery stores is often imported and treated with pesticides. Luckily, many grocery stores now carry cheap organic fruits and vegetables. Or visit your local farmer’s market for fresh groceries–and peace of mind about where your dinner comes from. Many cities also have organic delivery, offering a box of competitively priced fruits and vegetables dropped off at your front door. Check online for companies in your area.

9. Exchange a vice for something better

You don’t want to spend hours, say, watching bad television, but still, night after night, you end up vegging out on the couch. Solution: Find a substitute. Unwind with a novel you’ve been dying to get to. Borrow a book about woodworking from the library. Dig out your kids’ fingerpaints and go wild. Who knows, you might discover a new passion. Even if you don’t, and your woodworking project goes disastrously wrong, you’ll have tried something new. Hooray for broadening your horizons (and breaking up with The Hills).

10. One step at a time

Now that you have the resolutions, here’s the disclaimer: You don’t have to try all of these at once. Making changes takes time and energy, especially if they’re going to be permanent. So choose one resolution and break it down: It you’ve committed to writing every day, the first goal is to buy a journal. Easy, right? The second: Don’t forget to pack a pen. Once you’ve achieved a goal, it’ll take a few weeks to make it a habit. Only then should you move on to the next step. Remember, each resolution is an experiment, not a test. You can’t fail. After you’ve mastered a resolution, pop open the bubbly, toss some confetti and celebrate.

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