On January 1, everyone in the world has something in common: resolutions. It’s that very special day each year where we, as a collective human race, join together to try to remake ourselves, hoping to be better versions in the coming year. Lose weight. Stop smoking. Work out. We’ve tried them all. And, by late March or early April, we’ve long forgotten them, settling back into our usual patterns. Well, this year it’s going to be different and it’s going to stick. Why? Because instead of just making an individual commitment, we can aim to make resolutions that help more than just ourselves. By focusing on a greater goal, we’ll be more likely to stay motivated and committed, with the added benefit of helping others. And this might just make ’09 the year we finally really do stick with it.
Ditch the TV and Promote Literacy
High levels of TV watching have been correlated with an increased risk of being overweight. We could all benefit from turning off the TV for a few hours and expanding our minds through literature. So, in addition to all those works of fiction and recipe books you’ll be pouring over, why not also volunteer to read to children at the library? Or, volunteer your time teaching adults how to read. There are many people who would love to cozy up with a good book, but never learned how to read. Lend your skills and read with a new friend.
Support a Local Farmer, Earn a Balanced Diet
It’s easy to slip back into bad eating habits once the resolutions fade into the past, but by subscribing to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), the good food will literally fall in your lap. You’ll get a basket of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables each week or month for less than the price of a couple meals at McDonalds. Not only will you be ramping up your vitamin and antioxidant intake, you’ll be supporting your local, small farmer and contributing to sustainable agriculture. A win-win!
Start Sweating for the Greater Good
Getting in shape is a great idea, but it is often one of the hardest resolutions to keep. This year, why not prioritize exercise while training for a good cause? Get on your road bike and train for the MS150, which supports research for multiple sclerosis. I have personally done this ride in Washington State and was amazed at the gratitude shown by people suffering from MS and inspired by riding 150 miles over two days for someone who can’t. Another amazing experience is training for a breast cancer walk. You might think, “Walking? Anyone can do that.” But, I dare you to walk eight hours straight for two days. There’s training involved, believe me.
If you’re not interested in raising money, another option is combining exercise with volunteering outdoors. For instance, many regional parks need volunteers to remove invasive species in parks and wild lands. Beach clean-ups are another way to get outside and get moving while contributing to your community. Plus, you usually have to sign up beforehand, so there’s no backing out!
Downsize, Minimize, and Give to Those in Need
It’s a great idea to live your life a little leaner by cleaning out your closets of unworn clothes—whether they’re too big or too small—or cleaning out a basement or storage unit of unused furniture. But don’t go tossing all these things out. Donate them. There’s a Goodwill or Salvation Army in every city. Or, listing them as free on Craigslist is a great idea too. Clearing our lives of clutter is not only cathartic; it makes room for those positive changes—like bikes and hiking shoes.
Quit Smoking to Ease the Burden on Others
Though quitting smoking seems like a solitary challenge with solitary benefits, by recruiting another smoker to quit with you, you can improve another person’s health while also greatly improving yours. The best way to quit is with a plan, like counseling and nicotine replacement (1-800-QUITNOW is a great, free resource). Quitting actually improves the lives of everyone around you by reducing their exposure to secondhand smoke. Quitting also reduces our nation’s health cure burden due to tobacco-related disease. Thanks!
Learn About Healthful Cooking to Help the Hungry
You’re done making pasta and a jar of sauce every night. I don’t blame you. By taking a cooking class that emphasizes healthful cooking, you’ll not only add a whole new repertoire of recipes, you’ll also be inspired to eat well. Whole Foods has a great program (go to their Web site and enter your zip code to find your store’s class schedules) and many natural grocery stores also offer classes. And, if there are any culinary schools in your area, those are great options too, though you might want to skip the pastry class. Then, when you’re the new Top Chef, you can lend your talents to your local food kitchen. Help prepare meals, or even better, use your newfound culinary expertise to create nutritious new dishes and items they can serve.
Find Fulfillment in Life with Like-Minded Friends
Research has shown that the more happy people you know, the more likely you are to be happy yourself. And since happiness and health go hand in hand, why not reach out and make some new friends this year? What better way to do this than by volunteering? Decide what your cause will be (animals, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, women’s reproductive rights, National Park Service, to name a few) and then commit yourself to volunteering once a week. You’ll do something for the greater good, lift your spirits, and hopefully meet people that share your interests.
So, let’s not make it all about you this year, just partially. Whatever your resolution may be, take the extra step and explore who else can benefit from the improvements you are making on yourself. Not only are you more likely to keep the resolution you make for yourself, but you won’t be the only person benefiting from it. You’ll be improving the life of someone else. Happy New Year, new you!