Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Top 10 Simple New Years Resolutions




10. Show Up


Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially enter and run the Boston Marathon has said “there is an expression among even the most advanced runners that getting your shoes on is the hardest part of any workout.” As a runner who belongs to more running Meetups in my city then the number of runs I’ve actually gone on in the entire year, I can attest to this.
Furthermore, I think this saying probably applies to any activity requiring shoes. Strapping shoes on is so difficult that I have ranked it as the most difficult of my 10 simple resolutions. I dare you to prove me wrong!
Guidelines
To achieve this resolution (i.e. Show Up) you are not merely required to leave your couch and arrive somewhere else- but you also have to be present. The length of the journey and what you do when you get there is up to you, but consider this: ‘showing up’ might involve some sort of active engagement on y0ur part (i.e. learning something, meeting new people, performing, participating in a lively debate).
Keep it Simple
Put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking out the door – Kris Kringle, (Santa Claus is Coming to Town)
Eighty percent of success is showing up. – Woody Allen

9. Listen to the Voices


This year, make a commitment to listen for those voices in your head and challenge them.
We observe, we tell a story, and then we feel. …Since we and only we are telling the story, we can take back control of our own emotions by telling a different story.
These are the claims made in Chapter 6 of Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler). The chapter proposes that if you “question your feelings and stories,” “look for other possible explanations,” and “get back to the facts” you can break the loop. It points out 3 common story themes: 1. the villain, 2. the victim, 3. helplessness.
Keep It Simple
Try to identify the stories you are listening to in that lightning fast moment between something you see or hear and your response.
Keep it Up
Try to replace your stories based on the willingness to consider that others involved are reasonable, rational and decent people.

8. Expense Yourself


Most people who are working one job know exactly how much money they bring home every month – but how many people know exactly how much money they really spend? In an ideal world, everyone would balance their personal books – but in reality, many of us have already crossed into another universe where the money we use has very little to do with the money we actually generate…
Just doing this once might blow your mind. You may find yourself taking leftovers to work for lunch, growing your own vegetables, or cancelling your cable.
Guidelines
Get all business-like and compare household revenue to expenses.
Keep it Simple
The simplest way to review your spending habits is to look at your bank account and credit card statements and categorize your purchases. For more accuracy, you could track your spending (including small cash purchases) for one month.
Keep It Up
Even better: set a budget based on your actual income and track and manage your spending from now on, using the envelope method or free software such as mint.com.

7. Distant Gratification


Take a break from this world of short cuts, fast food, and even shorter attention spans and plan for some distant gratification. As Tony Robbins once said, “most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year – and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade.”
Keep It Simple
The simplest examples of this resolution in action: plant a tree or bury a time capsule in your yard.
Or, consider long-term goals – - think about how much can be achieved in a year – or 5 years – if a little bit of progress is made every day. For example you could write a novel (10 pages a week) or walk 100 miles (45 minutes a week). You might decide to save for a visit to Chile, learn to play chess, or sponsor a child in another country- all by making small investments of money or time stretched out over a long period.
Keep It Up 
Instead of stressing out about a concrete deadline or specific result, focus on moving forward. Remember Hofstadter’s Law, “It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law” (psychcentral.com). In most cases, it’s best not to check progress until a considerable amount of time has passed, and don’t beat yourself up – just keep going!
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Ernest Hemingway

6. Eat Vegetables


The USDA site choosemyplate.gov describes over 20 ways that vegetables are good for you, including reducing the risks of birth defects, cancer, kidney stones, heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, bone loss, high blood pressure, constipation, and infection.
Guidelines
Make half your plate fruits and vegetables, suggests choosemyplate.gov.
Keep it Simple
Even if you just eat one more vegetable than you did in 2012, you’re going to be successful.
Or, you might try to gradually add more vegetables to your regular weekly meals – stir spinach into your favorite pasta sauce and stuff those chicken breasts with asparagus and cheese.
Don’t like vegetables? Invest in a few books and sneak them into smoothies and meals (Skinny SmoothiesThe Sneaky Chef).
Keep It Up When you are buying groceries make sure fruits and vegetable purchases reflect your new eating habits (for example, review your shopping cart before you get in line at the cashier). Or, purchase a share in a CSA and receive a box of produce from a local farm each week. That way, you will consistently receive vegetables (and the reminder to eat them) and you will probably be exposed to some new produce that you might not otherwise pick up at the store.
Local fresh fruits and vegetables are best, however frozen vegetables are a nutritious and convenient alternative. Make sure you have some in your freezer so that you always have some vegetables on hand.
If you are really serious about a veggie heavy diet, restrict meat to dinner or weekend meals only.

5. Hello, Neighbor


According to an article at psychologytoday.com by Linda Wasmer Andrews, a “study from Umea University in Sweden showed that people who said they trusted their neighbors were twice as likely as those who didn’t to rate their health as good.” Plus, “research from Duke University found that people aged 55 to 80 who were high in interpersonal trust lived longer, on average, over the next 14 years than those who were lower in that quality” (Trust Your Neighbor, Boost Your Health).
Even the most casual, surface interactions with other members of your community can lower stress and give you a sense of belonging. If your neighbors know you, they are much more likely to notice if your house is being robbed or if you need medical help. You also benefit from sharing local information with each other (local schools, local events).
Keep it Simple
“Who are the people in your neighborhood? The people that you meet each day.” Jeff Moss, Sesame Street songwriter.
Say hello to people you pass on the street (‘Good Morning,’) and work your way up to chatting with neighbors, clerks and people waiting in line or waiting to cross the street).
Keep It Up
Keep it up, and simple greetings will transform into short conversations and a local network of neighbors.
Attend local community events: block parties, school plays, craft fairs, theatre productions, live music.
Drop Christmas cards (or cookies!) off at your neighbor’s houses, shovel someone’s walk or water their plants when they go on vacation, hire a neighbor kid to mow your lawn.

4. Read the Ingredients


Food manufacturers rely on the general population’s disinterest in the details when it comes to ingredients. They will use big labels or official-looking check marks on packaging to advertise products as “low-fat,” “natural” (an unregulated term), “whole grain,” and “100 calories.”  However, the ingredients of these products often include artificial colors, flavors, thickeners, genetically modified foods, and hydrogenated oils to keep costs or calories down. Critics of these ingredients, including respected health experts, warn that they can lead to everything from obesity, hyperactivity in children, heart disease, and cancer (Sofia Layarda, MPH RD, Which Food Additives to Avoid, healthcastle.org).
Guidelines
In her book Go UnDiet: 50 Small Actions for Lasting Weight Loss, Gloria Tsang warns that “highly processed foods are ‘the weakest link’ in any eating plan” and provides 3 warning signs to look for in a 5 second scan: packaging that features colorful cartoon characters are usually high in sugar, foods advertised as fat-free use “thickeners and other artificial ingredients to simulate the texture of the real thing,” and “look for an ingredient list that’s not too long and includes ingredients you can actually pronounce.”
Keep it Simple
Read the ingredients on everything you purchase.
Keep it Up
If you commit to reading the ingredients on every purchase it will become a habit and may eventually inform your choices.
For example, I was surprised to discover liquid sugar listed as the 4th ingredient in a popular whole grain meal for children and MSG in the canned soups I’ve been eating for my entire life.
If you’re not sure what an ingredient is, Google it when you get home.
Eliminating, or even just reducing, one or two ingredients from your diet can make a big difference.

3. Make Eye Contact

eye contact
Katrina Onstad writes that “the most potent tool of body language is eye contact, at least in most Western cultures. Human mothers and infants require eye contact to bond” and “evolutionary scientists propose that eye contact came to be the cornerstone of communication because of the ‘cooperative eye hypothesis,’ which suggests that collaboration and cooperation are optimized when our eyes are locked” (Why are We so Scared of Eye Contact? theglobeandmailcom).
Eye contact improves listening and helps the other person feel really acknowledged. It is also an increasingly brave social act in an environment where everyone else on the bus or on the street averts their eyes.
Keep it Simple
Look at people’s eyes and wait for them to do the same.
Keep it Up
Caution: if you make eye contact you might feel empathy, invoke a response from the other person, or otherwise interact with others.
PS: eye contact should be casual and not make people feel uncomfortable. Don’t be creepy!

2. Drink Water


According to mayoclinic.com, “every system in your body depends on water” and “even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired”.  In the video above, Lynn Goldstein, a registered dietician, explains that water is an essential ingredient for health and that it’s important to drink water BEFORE you are thirsty – because thirst is often the first symptom of dehydration.
Exercise, climate, and other activities such as breastfeeding will increase the amount of water needed, so there isn’t one amount that applies to all people.
Basic Guidelines
The most well known recommendation to drink eight 8oz glasses of water a day is a good place to start.
64oz = ½ US gallon = 2 liters (approximately).
Keep It Simple
You can achieve this resolution by drinking more water than you did in 2012.
Keep It Up 
Consider incorporating one or more of these simple steps into your daily routine:
1. Each day, drink a 16 oz glass of water first thing in the morning and before each meal (maybe with a bonus 8 oz before bed just to top up).
2. Carry a water container around with you and use it to measure your progress towards your target. You can use one 64oz water bottles or plan to fill up a 1 litre bottle twice during the day, or whatever plan works best for you.
3. Swap out the other beverages in your daily routine for water or at least match them up. For example, alternate your coffee or cocktails with glasses of water.
“Thirst isn’t always a reliable gauge of the body’s need for water,” so Mayoclinic.com offers these simple indicators: “clear or light-colored urine means you’re well hydrated, whereas a dark yellow or amber color usually signals dehydration”.  You can used these guidelines to figure out how much water you personally need to drink to remain hydrated and to stay on track. Like the famous potty slogan says, “If it’s brown flush it down, if it’s yellow – go drink some water.”

1. Hug More


Hugs improve everything from communication and self-esteem to the immune system, according to Marcus Julian Felicetti’s article 10 Reasons Why We Need at Least 10 Hugs a Day at mindbodygreen.com.
Keep It Simple
If you are uncomfortable at first, just announce your resolution to your friends – that’s what I did last year, and they hugged me! If you’re still shy about it you can also practice on stuffed animals or trees – whatever’s in arm’s reach.  Add a hug into every greeting and good-bye with bonus spontaneous hugs whenever you feel like it. Extra hugs for your kids and don’t forget your pets!
Keep it Up
In the same article, Felicetti shares a quote by Virginia Satir, who is sometimes referred to as the mother of family therapy: “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth”.





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