Whether you greet the New Year with a roar or with a meow, odds are that you've given more than passing thought to where your life stands now, and where you want it to lead.
But if you haven't taken a complete inventory of all aspects of your life and made a to-do list for the next year, no need to worry. We've asked an expert to suggest ways in which you can start or continue to put your house in order. After all, why let another year pass by before making changes that can improve your life right now?
A word of caution, though. As with any list of good intentions, some are easier than others. Set yourself up for success by choosing "resolutions" that are do-able for you right now and tackle them. Then pick some that you can visualize as long-term goals and work on them a bit at a time. Jot them down, tape them to your bathroom mirror, and keep them in your everyday consciousness. A year from now, take time to congratulate yourself on how much closer you are to living the life you want to live.
By Steven Jonas, MD
- Decide that you are going to be good to yourself about your health-no more thinking about yourself as a bad person because of an unhealthy habit. Each of us does some good things for our health: we might not exercise, but we don't smoke. We might smoke, but we don't abuse drugs or alcohol. When and if you decide to tackle ways to improve your health, start by congratulating yourself on what you're doing right, not beating yourself up for what you're doing wrong.
- If you want to improve your health (and wanting to is the first step to success), first assess where you are now. The oft-repeated major elements of healthy living are: regular exercise, eating right, not smoking cigarettes, not abusing alcohol or other drugs, managing stress, practicing safer sex, and being safe at home, in the car and at the workplace. After your assessment, choose one area in which you would like to make a change and one in which you think you can make a change. Then, after careful thought, set your goals and go for it. But remember, take just one step at a time. It's unhealthy to try to do everything at once.
- Motivation is a process that links a thought or a feeling with an action. If you want to get "motivated" to make positive changes in your health, focus in on what's blocking, impeding or inhibiting that linkage in you. Once you have figured that out, you will have won more than half the battle for incorporating some new healthy behavior into your lifestyle.
- Adopting a healthy lifestyle is one thing. Finding disease early, before it has become apparent to the naked eye or touch is another. That's called "screening." Your doctor should have a list of screening exams that are appropriate for you, given your age, family history and risk factors. Make sure that you and s/he follow it. If your doctor isn't into periodic screening, think about finding one who is.
- One of the best things we can do to promote our own health is to take control of our lives and our bodies, while at the same time recognizing that there are some things we can control and others we cannot. The key to leading a healthy lifestyle is taking control of what we can and letting go of what we cannot. If, for example, you have tried and tried without success to lose weight, the best thing to do is let go of that and turn to some other behavior, like regular exercise or eating a balanced diet, where you will have a much better chance of success.