The problem with most New Year’s resolutions is grandiose vagueness: “Be more grateful!” “Move more, eat less!” And so on. Quickly forgotten. You know the drill. So writer Temma Ehrenfeld made these 2023 resolutions specific and achievable. Most are backed by solid science as well. Happy New Year!
1. Stay connected. Every day, spend at least 15 minutes in conversation with someone you love outside your household, advises Vivek Murthy, who served as U.S. Surgeon General in the Obama administration. Murthy’s beautiful book, Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World explains that we are wired by evolution for more connection than American lives easily offer.
Your body will thank you. Among older people, for example, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report says social isolation has been linked to a 50 percent higher risk of dementia, a 29 percent higher risk of heart disease and a 32 percent higher risk of stroke.
2. Get sun, ideally early in the day. Sunlight increases stores of vitamin D and nitric oxide and regulates your sleep cycle.
3. Go to the park often. The Japanese speak of “forest-bathing” or Shinrin-Yoku. In one famous U.S. study, scientists gave volunteers tests of their attentiveness and mood before and after a 50-minute walk through a leafy area at Stanford, which maintains a huge campus. After their dose of greenery, the volunteers were less anxious and more focused. Another group took a walk beside a busy multi-lane highway in Palo Alto and didn’t emerge nearly as refreshed.
4. Enjoy a 10-minute workout every day. Consider switching between a muscle-building routine (known technically as resistance training) and an aerobic workout that gets your heart pumping. These short bursts of activity can give you a taste of the long-term benefits of exercise, which include better mental health, lower risk of diabetes and dementia, and protection for your muscles and bones as you age.
5. Give food your full attention. That means no texting, reading, working, or watching TV while you eat! Or consider sticking to the rule for one meal, perhaps dinner. This is a core practice of “mindful eating” programs, which science suggests can help us avoid gaining weight and cut anxiety and other negative emotions about food.
6. Try a (very modest) fasting routine. Many people lose weight this way but the benefits go much further. Eating with breaks – for example, only between noon and 7 p.m. – seems to cut inflammation and improve insulin resistance while managing blood pressure, independently of weight loss.
8. Practice the 70 percent rule from the Marines. When you have a decision to make, gather all the information and resources that you can. But recognize that you can never be fully sure or fully prepared. When you feel that your decision is based about 70 percent on knowledge, let intuition guide the remaining 30 percent and choose. What’s 70 percent, what’s 30 percent? That’s a guess, too. The key here is to act, though not blindly. Once you’re in motion, new information may come your way that you’ll lack while frozen in indecision.
The year 2022, as we emerged from pandemic restrictions into much political conflict, was a challenging one for many of us. But that’s all the more reason to resolve to do all we can, for ourselves and others, to make the coming year better in every possible way.
We wish you a joyous 2023!