Meadville Tribune

December 30, 2013

Wishing you a happy new you in the new year

By Nina Bell
Special to The Tribune

— Last year, various bloggers posted lists of some of the strangest New Year’s resolutions that revolved around personal health. While they aren’t the traditional “lose weight” or “eat more fruits and vegetables” types of resolutions, they are truly exceptional goals — all revolving around healthy improvements to your life. Here are six that I encourage you to put on your list for 2014:

Learning how to live in an aging body. As we age, our bodies seems to fail us in areas we never expected. A body at age 80 is far different than the same body at age 60. Likewise, a 40-year-old body is truly not an 18-year-old one. The resolution is “learn about how your body changes as you age and adjust your health requirements as needed.”

Schedule your prostate or breast cancer screening. Both are not very pleasant, yet they can really help improve your chances of early detection and prevention. Most health insurances will fully cover such preventative care, so there is no need to keep putting it off. The resolution: “Call your doctor and schedule your exam.”

Be pesticide-free. Along with the expansion of genetically modified foods and the ever-increasing use of chemicals on our nation’s food supply comes an increase in cancers and other health issues associated with such harmful substances. Resolve to remove or reduce them from your home and your life. The resolution: “Eat more organic foods, wash your fruits and vegetables and take care to eliminate exposure to chemicals.”

Achieve the perfect smile. Dental health has been associated with a variety of other health issues such as blood disorders and heart disease along with various mental health concerns such as depression. You can start this resolution with little effort: Brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss and maintain routine dental appointments. For some, tooth extractions, braces or even dentures may help you with this goal. The resolution: “Improve your smile with good dental hygiene.”

Learn something you never learned as a child. Can you jump rope? How about playing hopscotch? What about riding a bike or swimming? Most of us learned how to do these things as children, yet some never did. Find that one thing that you should have learned when you were young but never did. Put in on your list. Some of these can boost not only your mental health but also your physical health. Resolution: “Learn how to _______ (you fill in the blank).”

Listen to more music. Studies have shown that listening to music — almost anything you like, actually — can help reduce stress. Some say that playing music at work aids in increased productions while others prefer to use music to relax them after a long day. Regardless, music is soothing and is a good resolution to have. Resolution: “Play more music.”

New Year’s resolutions have long been intended to focus on self-improvement. That means that you exit the New Year as a better person than you came into it. It began back in the Babylonian era when the custom of setting such resolutions had moral intentions: Be good to others. Early Christians prepared for the coming year through prayer and self-resolutions all based on the concept to improve the self. Resolutions have come quite a long way since their original intent, and today, they are often superficial and more attention-getting than ever before.

Let’s get back to the New Year’s resolutions as they were meant to be: a positive, moral improvement of yourself and others. So, whatever you do as a resolution, do it for you, do it for your health and well-being. Be a better person next December than you are today!

Nina Bell, Ph.D., MPH, is a public health professor with Ashford University and works in health promotions for the Meadville Family YMCA. She is a co-author of the book “Community and Public Health,” published by Bridgepoint Education Inc. You can email her at nina@w2w4life.com.