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  • A Few Self-Care Resolutions to Consider for the New Year

    New Year's Resolutions

    The New Year is just a week away, and although I don’t tend to go in for the whole once-a-year resolution thing, I know that lots of people do. (I prefer to work on continually improving myself and my habits as the year progresses.) The problem I see most people having with them is that they tend to “go big or go home” when setting resolutions and then find they can’t stick to them. If you have your heart set on making one or more New Year’s resolutions this year I’m not going to try to talk you out of it, but I will try to talk you into setting reasonable ones. And I can’t think of anything more reasonable than self-care.

    Sometimes Less is More

    The best resolution is one you can keep and one that moves you forward toward a greater goal. It’s unrealistic to think that you’re going to give up all forms of sugar or go from couch potato to triathlete overnight. But you can do better than you’re doing now. And that’s the point.

    Here are a few self-care activities that you may want to consider as resolutions this year:

    Meditate – There are as many reasons to meditate as there are meditators. Thankfully there are also many types of meditation: guided, mindfulness, Zen, walking, and mandala coloring/drawing to name a few. Some are more contemplative and quiet while others are more active, and each type brings its own benefits. You don’t have to meditate for hours to gain a benefit, 5 minutes is a great place to start. You don’t even have to meditate every day, you could start with once or twice a week. The important thing is to schedule it at a time when you know you’ll be able to do it. Maybe you have time as you’re going to bed at night (bonus: it’ll help you sleep), when you first get up (bonus: you’ll have more calm focus as you head into the day), or some other time of the day. It doesn’t matter when you do it, as long as you do it.

    Schedule fun time – As the saying goes, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.” (Geaorge Bernard Shaw) This doesn’t have to be an elaborate event, just a stretch of time set aside for you to dance in your living room (or at a club with friends), go canoeing, play a game with family or friends, or do whatever is fun for you. Remember, “All work and no play makes [you] a dull [person].” And probably miserable to boot.

    Schedule alone time – Even extroverts need some alone time, although significantly less than introverts like me. That might take the form of a bath, a solitary walk in nature, or simply some time when everyone (kids as well as the other adults) in your house have play dates of one sort or another… someplace else.

    Stretch more than you do now (especially if you don’t stretch at all now) – It doesn’t take much time and shouldn’t take a lot of effort. Stretching should always be comfortable to avoid triggering protective contractions in the muscle(s) you’re trying to stretch. Start with simply stretching muscles that you use all the time. For instance, if you look down at a phone, tablet, or laptop for long periods of time take a few second break every 5-10 minutes to look up and stretch the muscles at the front of your neck. If you sit a lot, stand and stretch your quads (front of your thigh) on a regular basis. You get the idea.

    Massage – What can I say… this deserves to be at the top spot, but I don’t want you to feel like I’m pressuring you. Deep relaxation, reduced muscle pain, increased range of motion… What more could you want?

    Yoga – Yoga is a great way to improve flexibility, increase strength, and turn off the stress response for a little while. Sign up for a class, take personalized lessons, or buy a DVD that’s made for your experience and ability level and do it at home, whichever works with your schedule and budget. If you don’t currently have a practice, doing yoga just once a week for 20 minutes will be an improvement.

    Make small, healthy changes to your diet – Trying to completely cut an item out of your diet cold turkey can be super stressful and nearly impossible. Instead, you could just reduce the amount of salt, sugar, dairy, meat, MSG, high fructose corn syrup, gluten, or other food/additive in your diet.

    Be more physically active – It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you get moving. It doesn’t even have to fall into the traditional definition of “exercise” but it could if you want. Our bodies are built for movement yet we spend most of our time sitting. So find some way to move: take the stairs, walk a couple blocks or across the parking lot instead of playing parking shark, or you could make multiple trips into the house with your groceries instead of carrying all 14 bags in one trip. See, it’s easy to find ways to be more active.

    Do things that make you happy – This isn’t necessarily the same as having fun, although it could be. For instance, it makes me really happy when I have an hour to sit and read for pleasure (aka something that isn’t work related) but I wouldn’t call it “fun.” A few more examples: taking a bath, cuddling with a pet, enjoying a cup of your favorite tea, watching a sunset (or sunrise).

    Whether you choose to set realistic resolutions or forego them altogether, I hope the New Year brings you much joy and happiness.