With the holidays in full swing, many of us are spending more time with friends and family. And as we age and gain more perspective, the time we spend with the people we love seems to become more and more meaningful. So, as we strive to be happier and healthier during our golden years, our New Year’s Resolutions often change to reflect new priorities.
Here are six New Year’s Resolutions that not only make a lot of sense for seniors, but they’re also things you can realistically achieve.
- Start with a happier, more positive attitude. Many people, especially happy people, believe happiness is a choice, and if that’s true, why choose anything else? And with a happier mindset, you’ll be more likely to stick to your resolutions. For example, if you want to lose weight, figure out why that’s important to you. And it shouldn’t be because everybody thinks you should slim down, including your doctor. Maybe you want to have more energy and simply feel more comfortable. Focus on the “why” instead of the “what.”
- Learn to enjoy healthy food. Don’t think of it as depriving yourself of yummy foods you love. Think of it as adding new foods you can now start to enjoy, like your favorite fruits and fresh vegetables. Embrace it as a new experience. Look for foods with deep colors, like dark green, bright yellow, and orange. Spinach, collard greens, carrots, oranges, and cantaloupe are very nutritious. Pull out the blender and make healthy fruit smoothies, like these. And here’s a tip: unlike cooked spinach, raw spinach has very little flavor, so you can add quite a lot without affecting the taste. For meats, choose less fatty kinds like turkey or chicken. And fish is extra healthy, especially Atlantic mackerel, salmon (freshwater coho farmed in the U.S. or wild-caught from Alaska), and sardines (wild-caught in the Pacific).
- Flex those muscles. You don’t have to start living at the gym or bench pressing your weight to get the benefits of exercise. Even small, non-strenuous activity has tremendous health benefits as we age and has been shown to increase longevity. If you have heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, or many other conditions, they will likely get better with moderate physical activity. Walking a short distance every day builds strength in your core muscles and legs, as well as your heart and lungs. Tai chi, water aerobics, and stretching also help you keep your weight down, build muscles and bones, and improve posture and balance, as well as your overall mood. And if you’re over 65, check with your insurance to see if they participate in the SilverSneakers program, which may provide a free membership to a local fitness center.
- Quit smoking. It’s never too late to quit, even if you’ve tried a few times and not been able to stick with it. On average, most people who have successfully quit smoking try four times before they give it up for good. And it is definitely worth the effort! Once you stop smoking, you’ll breathe easier, feel more energetic, and even sleep better, as well as saving a lot of money. Ask your physician for help, and check out the National Cancer Institute’s website for resources. Here are a few additional tips that should help.
- Give your brain regular workouts. Just like any muscle, your brain needs to be exercised and gets stronger the more you use it. There are a lot of ways to exercise your brain, such as reading instead of watching television, doing crossword or sudoku puzzles, and socializing with friends. Some community colleges even offer free classes for adults 65 and older, so check them out and see what’s available.
- Socialize. A study published by Harvard found that people who are socially active in their 50s and 60s have slower rates of memory loss. Human connection is well known to be essential for a healthy, happy life. So, call a friend to set up a movie or dinner, take walks with your friends and neighbors, or volunteer for a cause that’s important to you.
Finally, make the resolution to see your doctor as directed for checkups. That way, your physician can make sure your vision and hearing are okay and look for signs of other conditions, such as breast cancer, colon cancer, osteoporosis, or diabetes. And always review your medications with your doctor to make sure you still need them.