What is it about the turn of a calendar that makes us want to be better people? Maybe this year we have the Mayans to thank. If the year 2013 dawns and we’re still here, we might as well make the best of it.
Here, based on decades of research at Washington University in St. Louis, are 13 notable, no-holds-barred, what-are-you-waiting-for tips to make 2013 your best year yet.
1. Learn something new
6. Step away from your desk
Physical activity improves health, lowers stress and increases productivity.
7. Pay down your credit card debt
The presents have been opened. The tree has been put away. Now come the bills. What is the best way to tackle holiday debt?
A few strategies to manage debt more effectively:
- Consolidate several small debts into a few larger ones to eliminate the temptation of closing small accounts.
- Pay attention to the actual dollars you are spending on interest.
- Always put your money toward the debt with the higher interest rate.
Paying down your debt more quickly is a positive step toward a happier, more prosperous new year.
8. Use your smart phone to quit smoking
Smoking is both a physical addiction to nicotine and a learned psychological behavior, so the best way to quit is to attack it from both sides, says Sarah Shelton, manager of research and evaluation at the Brown School’s Center for Public Health Systems Science.
If you use nicotine replacement therapy and take advantage of some form of counseling to help, you are more likely to be successful in quitting, Shelton says.
That counseling may be right at your fingertips — stop smoking by using your smart phone to get text messages of support, tweets and access websites that give step-by-step encouragement, Shelton suggests.
9. Mind your health
10. Kick the car habit
Leave your sedan, SUV or minivan in the garage and try alternative means of transportation, such as public transit, bicycling, walking or park-and-ride commuting.
“Each gallon of gas we burn releases approximately 20 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere,” says Phil Valko, director of sustainability at WUSTL. “With rising gas prices, rising sea levels and increasing traffic congestion, going car-free is a challenge that more and more individuals are interested in taking on.”
Shifting your commuting habits can have a measurable impact on the environment and on your health.
11. Parents: Make every day count
In order to be happy, well-adjusted children that grow into happy, well-adjusted adults, kids need happy, well-adjusted parents,” says Kelly L. Ross, MD. Ross is an assistant professor in the Department of Newborn Medicine at the Washington University School of Medicine and a pediatric hospitalist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
Her posts on the ChildrensMD (Mom Docs) blog offer a two-part strategy for helping parents achieve their goal of being happier, and thus creating more well-adjusted, happy children, including advice on why it’s important to make every day count and a parents’ checklist for planning a happy new year. And, if exercise is one of your resolutions, Ross also explains why making time to exercise is a good mom behavior.
12. Get more sleep
As it turns out, telling someone to “sleep on it” is sound advice. Medical literature strongly supports a connection between sleep and learning, and for decades studies have confirmed the positive effects of overnight sleep on our ability to retain information and to perform tasks.
WUSTL scientists are learning more about the relationship between sleep and memory. In fact, recent research suggests that sleep may help clear the brain for new learning.
Washington University Sleep Center, one of the largest multi-disciplinary sleep centers in the nation, offers a wealth of online resources for helping patients determine if they have a sleep disorder and expert advice on achieving a restful night’s sleep.
13. Consume more culture
The arts have been a defining feature of every great culture throughout history. Be a part of that! Make it a point to visit your local museums, galleries, theaters, dance companies and music venues. Better yet, sign up for an annual membership or subscription. You’ll typically receive discounts. More importantly, you’ll help support an institution that you, and your community, find of value.
subscribing to a series, you’re telling the organization, ‘I believe in
what you do. Culture matters to me. I’m one of your people,’” says
Charlie Robin, executive director of Edison, the university’s
professional performing arts showcase. “It identifies you as someone who
is game for art, for entertainment and for edification. Don’t let
weather, whining or whimsy counter your commitment to culture!”
And many community cultural institutions offer special opportunities to learn, to participate and to make the world a better place. The arts not only educate and entertain, but they help us to better understand ourselves and others.