The new year is just around the corner, full of hope and promise for us baby boomers and older adults! And as you look forward to turning the page, I’d like to remind you to look back first. This year may have been challenging (I know it was for me), but take a few minutes to reflect on all you’ve accomplished. You’ll be surprised, and I’ll bet you’ve done better than you think at first blush.
Now, for 2022. Here are my best recommendations, 22 ways to enjoy a vibrant year:
1) Hug. Embrace somebody every day, as long as it’s safe to do so. Hugging helps reduce stress, relieve fear, show support, and boost heart health. I’m Italian, and not hugging during COVID has been difficult.
2) Volunteer. Whether it’s at an animal shelter, a food pantry, or after-school tutoring, volunteering does wonders for our hearts and our health. Plus, when you help others, it gives you a better perspective to appreciate your own life.
3) Show gratitude. Showing gratefulness can help boost your immune system, increase optimism, support mental health. Plus, I’ve heard it’s impossible to hold the opposing emotions of anger and gratitude at the same time…your choice!
4) Move. And keep going throughout the day. Don’t be a couch potato. Make moving a habit, and not just a 30-minute walk once a day. Research now shows the critical importance of getting up and moving, all day long. If you need a reminder, purchase an activity tracker that can help you remember to walk/bike/jog each hour.
5) Fidget. Embrace your inner child. This type of movement burns calories (yes, it’s a small amount) and helps keep your body healthy throughout the day. So tap your feet, swing your legs, and engage in all sorts of movements that drive others crazy.
6) Eat more plants. A plant-focused diet is good for your body and the planet. Start by substituting one meat-based meal per week with a tofu- or bean-based entree. Flood your body with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes to maximize healthful phytochemicals.
7) Start a new hobby. Baking, gardening, and crafts are enjoying a renaissance with people staying home during the pandemic. Explore new ways to focus and take your mind off your problems.
8) Drink water. While there’s no official recommendation, one often-quoted rule is to take your body weight in pounds, divide it in half, and drink that many ounces of water daily. Dehydration can sneak up on you quickly, and lead to health-threatening complications.
9) Take your meds. I know people who conveniently “forget” to take prescribed medications. Listen folks, they were prescribed for a reason, and if you question that, talk with your healthcare professional.
10) Exercise, anew. Don’t like walking? Try line dancing, hiking, housecleaning (ok, that’s a stretch for enjoyment, but it can count as aerobic activity), bicycling (stationary bikes are great), swimming, or jumping rope. Just move your large muscles and get your heart pumping.
11) Adopt a special needs pet. Disabled dogs and cats are in need of loving parents. My brother and sister-in-law have adopted two such dogs over the past few years, one missing an eye, the other missing a leg. These animals can make excellent pets, and owners create a special bond as they help Fido or Kitty navigate the world.
12) Cook more often. There are lots of benefits to homemade meals: lower cost compared to restaurants, control over ingredients such as fats and salt/sodium, and the joy of creating foods with family.
13) Create memories. If you have grandchildren, you know what I’m talking about here. Take the kiddos out in your backyard to catch lizards, blow bubbles, make heart shapes out of rocks, look at stars. Get out the old sheets and build a fort. The possibilities are limitless.
14) Organize. Take the time to tidy up your desk, your office, your photos to improve your focus and decrease feelings of overwhelm.
15) Journal. Daily journaling can help you track goals and progress, find inspiration, improve communication skills. And I love to read over my journals from the past year to see what I was doing and how I was feeling at different times.
16) Travel. Whether you actually visit a new part of the world, or travel virtually, expand your mind by learning about other cultures and locations. We enjoyed a National Geographic special recently entitled Welcome to Earth that left us awestruck.
17) Monitor screen time. I think we all know where I’m headed here. Our phones, tablets, and computers are our lives. If you’re concerned about the amount of time a loved one is spending online, check the Settings on their device to turn on and monitor Screen Time.
18) Eyes-ercise. If you’re spending a lot of time on those screens, give your eyes a break. Every 20 minutes, look away from your device for 20 seconds, fixing your gaze on objects about 20 feet away. And blink 20 times.
19) Share joy. This life goes by pretty quickly, and you’ll want to cherish every special moment with those you love. So pick up the phone, write a letter, or text, just to say “hi!”
20) Sleep. I am not one to give out great advice here, being a self-proclaimed insomniac for many years, but you can set up your schedule to maximize shut-eye. Keep your bedroom as dark and cool as possible, shut off electronics an hour before bedtime, go to bed and get up about the same time every day.
21) Build strength. As we age, muscle mass and strength go down the tubes. Make a point of doing body-weight exercises (push-ups, pull-ups, dips, yoga) and lifting weights at least twice a week. And don’t forget stretching. With all the sitting we do, muscles get tight and flexibility can decrease without proper movement.
22) Prioritize YOU. We often forget to take time for self-care. But if you don’t do that, who will? And if not now, when? Schedule down time for recharging your own batteries: a soothing bath, relaxing walk in nature, meditation, yoga, reading a great page-turner. Make 2022 your best year ever!
And for more ideas to maximize health in 2022, reach out to me, I’d love to schedule a conversation!