52 Ways To Get Healthy and Happy
Looking for a New Year’s vow to promote wellness and fulfillment? Here’s a whole card-pack of ’em!
Numerologists tell us the number 52 reflects “introspection and expression of a personal sense of freedom.” It’s also the count of cards in a deck, weeks in a year—and a completely unmanageable number of New Year’s resolutions. So don’t “resolve”—explore! These 52 tips are all aimed at making your life healthier, fuller and more fun. Pick one weekly, or embrace one at random when the mood strikes. Here’s to your “sense of freedom” in 2018!
1. Get In the Swim.
Swimming is great exercise disguised as fun. A University of Texas researcher says it can help lower high blood pressure and reduce arterial stiffness, a heart-disease risk factor. If you need a brush-up, eight-week classes are available for all age groups in the six-lane, 25yard regulation pool that just opened at the Meadowlands YMCA (201.955.5300).
Also available there: Aqua Zumba, a fun new twist on the exercise craze that offers extra benefits. “Adding water resistance makes it easier on the joints,” says wellness director Michelle Moore. Visit meadowlandsymca.org and click on “Browse Programs.”
2. Ditch the Diet Soda.
Will this be the year you bid farewell to your bubbly buddy? Diet sodas have been linked to headache, depression, an increased risk of diabetes and—in one study—a 45 percent higher risk of heart attack or stroke. Some alternatives: flavored sparkling water, green tea or the chicorybased, caffeine-free beverage Teeccino
3. Take a Social-Media Break.
Could you do a week without Instagram or Twitter? Friends won’t forget you—we promise—and giving yourself a break may help restore perspective and a sense of what you really want from these tools.
4. Shop Smart for Running Shoes.
Know your precise shoe brand, style and size? Feel free to buy online and save. But if you’re choosing a new model, says sales associate Conor Krueger of the Ridgewood sporting-goods store JackRabbit, drop in for a professional fit and some expert advice. (He’s biased, of course, but not wrong.)
5. Take a Relaxing Walk in the Woods.
Several Bergen organizations offer guided nature walks, and you don’t have to wait for springtime. One is a Teaneck Creek Conservancy Bergen County Audubon Society walk at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 21. (Visit teaneckcreek.org and click on “Event Information.”)
6. Battle Father Time with Tai Chi.
According to a study published in Cell Transplantation, the ancient Chinese martial art can help replenish stem cells and slow the aging process—plus help with balance, blood pressure and stress reduction. Check around for classes—the Hasbrouck Heights Public Library (bccls.org), for example, offers free monthly tai chi workshops.
7. Get Ahead—in Bed!
Looking to interest your spouse in the bedroom? Wave a juicy copy of the Journal of Management, which in 2017 published a study on the benefits of sex. Apparently it improves “both daily job satisfaction and daily job engagement,” so fluff up those pillows, think of your career and—for heaven’s sake—do your homework.
8. Respect ol’ Sol.
Skin safety is a year-round project, not just a beach-time thing. The American Cancer Society reminds us to protect our skin with sunscreen even when it isn’t hot. “UV ways become more intense in the spring, even before temperatures get warmer,” it warns. And shop before summer for sun-protective clothing that lists a UV Protection Factor.
9. Live Like a Dane.
Hygge (hoo-ga), a honey, cozy philosophy, is one of Denmark’s secrets for topping surveys as the world’s happiest country. (It ain’t the weather.) A hygge-rich life, they say, values possessions less and experiences—such as a quiet candlelight dinner with friends—more. Put a little hygge in your 2018 with Signe Johansen’s book How to Hygge: The Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life.
10. Stop Smoking—for Your Looks’ Sake.
If you’re still a cigarette addict, don’t condemn yourself. Call 1.866.NJSTOPS (1.866.657.8677) promptly for help. Want more motivation? A Danish study reported in November linked smoking (and heavy drinking) with facial marks of aging such as earlobe creases, grayish rings around the corneas and yellow-orange plaques on the eyelids.
11. Make Room for the 'schroom.
Whole Foods and the Specialty Food Association have released a list of hot foods for ’18; they say to get ready for mushroomflavored coffees, teas and smoothies. While you’re at it, savor mushrooms themselves; they’re rich in cancer-fighting antioxidants, liver-boosting selenium and vitamin D.
12. Parlez-vous, Enfants?
Maybe this is the year to make your kids suave future travelers. Their spongelike young minds can be filled with Spanish, French, Italian or Arabic at GAINville Learning in Rutherford (201.507.1800); French or Spanish at the Language Workshop for Children (212.628.2700). And who knows? You might pick up a few new words from the kids—sometimes, you can teach an old dog new tricks.
13. Join a Support Group.
Depressed? Have a a chronic illness? Whatever your health or life situation, there are others who’ve been there and can listen, offer tips and share lighter moments. Find your group via the New Jersey SelfHelp Group Clearinghouse at njgroups.org. (Check your nearest hospital too.)
14. Start Shaking...
Hands, that is. Studies show that that people are twice as likely to remember you if you shake hands with them. And it’s not just men who benefit from a firm handshake: Another study showed that women with a strong grip were viewed as more open—and they even made a more favorable first impression—than those without.
15. Consider Aspirin.
The jury is out on whether taking aspirin can prevent a heart attack, but a University of Southern California study found that if we all took a daily low-dose (81-mg.) aspirin, it would save 900,000 lives in the next two decades, in part because cancer death rates would be cut by 30 percent. (Check with your doctor first; aspirin also raises some bleeding risks.)
16. Can the Cable Guy.
Spend 15 minutes on the horn with your cable company to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment every time you pick up the remote—plus you’re healthier when you’re wealthier, right?
17. Keep Your Brain Young.
Neuroscientists say using your noggin—especially in new pursuits— helps it stay nimble. That’s why the Global Council on Brain Health, in a recent 26-page report, recommends “practicing tai chi, taking photography classes, designing a quilt, investigating your genealogy, juggling, cooking, gardening and learning how to play a musical instrument.” You needn’t excel; just pick one of these and try it!
18. Get Your Protein from Plants.
Gone is the idea that protein has to come from an animal. Pea and hemp proteins are popping up everywhere—in powders for smoothies, nutrition bars, potato chips and more. Farvia Chang, manager of Fair Lawn’s Natural Way Café, recommends a green beverage called the Liver Boost. Composed of wheatgrass juice, celery, kale, green apple and ginger, it’s loaded, he says, “with amino acids that help the body break down its own proteins.”
19. Drink Less (and Sleep Better).
You know if you’re drinking too much—and that if you want to quit, there’s help. Many of us can handle a social drink or two with only pleasant effects, but we shouldn’t tell ourselves tall tales like “liquor helps me sleep.” A UCLA press release quotes clinical professor of psychiatry Karen Miotto, M.D.: “The sedative effects of alcohol can be deceiving because it is associated with decreased quality of sleep and rebound insomnia.”
20. Update Your Phone Numbers.
Your smartphone contacts may be up to speed, but what about all those numbers scribbled on a bunch of random Post-its that are cluttering your desk? Head to your computer and print up a fresh, updated list—you’ll never struggle through a pile of papers trying to find the number you need again.
21. Visit a Senior.
Catch up with an old teacher, check in with a friend’s parent, bring a bowl of soup to a lonely relative who’s getting on in age —or better yet, volunteer at a nursing home. You’ll brighten the day of a senior, make new friends and ensure good karma. After all, an old age is where you too are headed—if you’re lucky.
22. Be a Dental-Care Demon.
Of course you brush, floss and see your dentist regularly; here’s another reason you may wish to be super-zealous about it in ’18: A 10-year study of 122,000 Americans links gum disease with higher rates of esophageal cancer.
23. Keep Your Cell Phone Out of the Bedroom.
But not for the reason you may think: According to the University of Manchester, charging your phone while you’re trying to sleep can actually make you gain weight: Researchers say the light it emits can harm your body’s production of melatonin, which not only regulates sleep but helps the body convert food and drink into energy efficiently.
24. To Quiet Anger, Breathe Deep.
You know it’s gonna happen in ’18, just like every year: People are going to tick you off. But let your anger be something you use rather than letting it use you. “The first thing I tell patients is, ‘Breathe deep, in through the nose and out through the mouth,’” says Hackensack-based psychologist Dalia LIghtman, Psy.D. “It’s amazing how that can help with anger.”
25. Bike with a Buddy.
Two can have more than twice the fun on two-wheelers once the weather turns nice. A great spot for such bicycling-and-bonding is the Saddle River Area Bike Path, which hugs the river along a nearly six-mile route, runs through several towns and passes historic Easton Tower on Route 4 and a waterfall at Dunkerhook Park. Find out more from the county’s Parks Dept., 201.336.7275.
26. Wear Purple.
Want to be “on trend” for ’18? Put on purple! The hue-happy folks at Pantone have chosen it (“ultra violet,” to be precise) as its Color of the Year. A Pantone Color Institute exec wasn’t talking politics when she told The New York Times the pick “takes two shades that are seemingly diametrically opposed—red and blue—and brings them together.”
27. Browse Books.
Amazon knows your tastes pretty well by now, but remember the fun of falling in love with a book you’ve just happened upon? “Libraries are to some extent shooting themselves in the foot these days, almost discouraging browsers with all our targeted displays,” confesses Teaneck Public Library Director Mike McCue. “But we have to show off what we have, because we don’t have the foot traffic we did 10 years ago.” The shelves are still there, though, and so (we hope) is your neighborhood bookstore. Every so often, give yourself a half hour of pure indulgence. Browse!
28. Take a Class.
Maybe you don’t need a degree or profession, but that needn’t mean school days are over. Taking a course in an area that interests you can help broaden your world view and enrich your social network—and it can be a blast. Bergen Community College (bergen.edu) offers classes in interior design, culinary arts, foreign languages, animal care, event planning and much more.
29. Get a Dog.
Harry Truman’s advice to those seeking a friend in Washington still applies today to folks in Bergen— particularly single folks. In a study of 3.4 million Swedes, those who lived alone were one-third more apt to survive if they had a canine companion.
30. Use your Pharmacist.
Is it all mouse clicks these days? Not quite. A human ready to listen is as near as the corner drugstore. “Pharmacists have special training to help you manage and improve your health, including working with your healthcare team,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds us. In fact, an article in the International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy suggests that “narrative pharmacy”—telling your story to the druggist—can improve “the quality and safety of pharmaceutical health care.”
31. Fight Inflammation as You Eat.
Inflammation-fighting food ingredients such as turmeric are trending on Pinterest. Reportedly, many healthy and trendy foods—from the zoodle (zucchini noodle) and cauliflower rice to nut milks and vegan cheese—are substitutes for potentially inflammatory ingredients such as gluten, grains and dairy.
32. Put “Leisure Wear” to Work.
From new lifestyle brands like Aday, Betabrand and Kit and Ace to activewear stalwarts like Lululemon and Under Armour, the companies that dress you for the gym in “athleisurewear” now want to suit you up for the office in “workleisurewear” so you’re always ready for what the workday holds. Says Katie Warner Johnson, co-founder of the brand Carbon38: “Women who hop on planes like they’re taxis and race between meetings need workwear with activewear DNA.” Now you can look office-appropriate and be comfortable.
33. Test Your Smoke Detector.
You wouldn’t dream of leaving oily rags lying around or sleeping with a space heater on. But how recently have you tested your smoke alarm? Says Kevin Sheehan, director of fire prevention for Paramus: “Three of every five fire deaths occur in homes without a working smoke detector.”
34. Do the Laundry.
Folding clothes has yet to become an Olympic event, but it may help you live longer, says a University at Buffalo study. Looking at 6,000 older women, researchers found that those who did 30 minutes of even such light household activities as folding clothes or washing windows had a 12 percent lower risk of dying than their idle counterparts.
35. Use Safe Drinking Glasses.
Some color-decorated glassware may be best for “display only.” A British study found that many tumblers and glasses contained
troublesome levels of lead or cadmium on the outside or around the rim. And last year, McDonald’s recalled 12 million Shrek-themed glasses that contained cadmium, which can be dangerous if it flakes off.
36. Choose the Right Doctor.
Survey data show that shared decision-making between patients and doctors—as opposed to patients just following orders—rose 14 percent from 2002 to 2014. So if you’re choosing a new physician in 2018, keep the trend going by picking a doc with whom you have an open rapport—better communication will lead to better health.
37. Nuts to You!
If you’re nuts about nuts, you’ll probably go on munching them in ’18 whatever the experts say. But isn’t it nice that a 32-year study of 210,000 U.S. adults links nut consumption to a reduced heartdisease rate? You go, experts! Way to crunch the numbers.
38. Get Real about Exercise.
“People tend to think in extremes,” says Juan Pla, personal training supervisor at Montvale’s The Gym. “That’s why so many New Year’s resolutions fail by February 1.” So if you’re vowing to recommit, start small, says Pla. The treadmill is a great “welcome back” device because it’s simple but with a lot of variety. Pick settings you can maintain for 30 minutes, he suggests—maybe three miles an hour with a 2.0 incline— and make it a thrice-weekly habit. You may create momentum you’ll build on.
39. Steer Clear of the Food Court.
Watching your weight? Just passing near those burgers and fries and sniffing their aroma may seem harmless, but there lies danger. In a University of Michigan study, “food cues” such as mouthwatering smells and eye-catching menus stimulated the brain, leading participants to consume an average of 220 calories more than a control group when it was time to chow down. (Dieters may wish to use technology to “skip food advertisements in TV shows,” says Michelle Joyner, the psychology grad student who led the study.)
40. Visit a Museum.
How can you burnish your knowledge—or your kids’—of history, science and more? Check with your local library for museum passes or vouchers that may save you money at the Newark Museum, Liberty Science Center, New York’s Intrepid Air and Space Museum or other museums. (Check out teaneck.org, englewoodlibrary. org or your own town library’s website.)
41. Get that Flu Shot.
In 2016–17, the Chicago Tribune reports, only 47 percent of Americans got poked. Let’s do better! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says “herd immunity”—when a preponderance of a community’s members get vaccinated—helps us all, even when shots aren’t 100 percent effective. (And this year they aren’t.) And no, January isn’t too late.
42. Take Fewer—and Better—Snaps.
Today we photo-document our lives for Facebook and Instagram, but at what cost to our serenity? Photography was once a meditative art, says Bob Gramegna, vice president of Bergen County Camera in Westwood, so try to not frantically shoot every moment of your life. There’s a bonus, says Gramegna: “If you take time and slow down, you’ll get a better picture.”
43. Start Loving Peanut Butter Again.
A childhood favorite has emerged from the doghouse—turns out, most of the fat in peanut butter is the heart-healthy unsaturated kind, and good ’ol PB is rich in potassium, magnesium and the antioxidant vitamin E. Try the trendy puffed peanut butter-flavored snack Bamba, made in Israeli and available at Trader Joe’s in Paramus (201.265.9624).
44. Join a Bowling League.
It’s a great way to combine moderate, metabolism-boosting exercise with social interaction—“some competitive, some just relaxing and having fun,” says Nicholas at Hackensack’s Bowler City, 201.343.3545, which offers leagues for kids through seniors.
45. Visualize your Intentions.
On the website of the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, Mass., nutritionist Annie B. Kay says intentions—“I want to have a healthier relationship with my weight,” for instance—are easier to follow than resolutions.
46. Fix that Sleep Problem!
Attention, snorers and the sleepy. Sleep apnea may be the culprit, and it can be treated. Your doctor can tell you if you should spend a night in a comfy, hotel-like sleep lab at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck (201.833.7260), Valley Hospital in Ridgewood (201.251.3487), Englewood Hospital in Englewood (201.894.3154) or Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack (201.996.0232) to find out.
47. Be a Better Bagger.
We know you have a cloth bag to bring to the grocery store instead of using the market’s plastic bags, but we also know you keep forgetting it at home. The solution: A hook next to the front door is the perfect place to keep your bag—and remind you to take it with you. Not only will you help the environment, but you’ll have less clutter (and garbage) in your kitchen without all those plastic bags accumulating. Just remember to wash or replace your reusable bag from time to time, as studies show bacteria can accumulate in it.
48. Try the Train.
If security checks and TSA officials are stressing you at airports, consider a travel alternative: The transcontinental trains of Amtrak (1.800.872.7245) are super-luxe, with lounge cars plus dining cars with white tablecloths and waiters. And out the window, you’ll blissfully watch a beautiful country go by. If security checks and TSA officials are stressing you at airports, consider a travel alternative: The transcontinental trains of Amtrak (1.800.872.7245) are super-luxe, with lounge cars plus dining cars with white tablecloths and waiters. And out the window, you’ll blissfully watch a beautiful country go by.
49. De-stress with Art.
Is the “adult coloring” craze for you? A Mayo Clinic psychologist has called it “almost like a volume knob to turn down the sympathetic nervous system, the stress response.” You can join a group at the Glen Rock Public Library, 201.670.3970. (If making your own art is more your style, check out Ridgewood’s Master Art Studio, 201.887.2187.)
50. Consider a Low-FODMAP Diet.
FODMAP stands for (sorry you asked?) fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols—sugars troublesome for folks with irritable bowel syndrome. A low-FODMAP diet omits apples, cabbage, dairy products and other foods until they’re re-introduced. Ask your doctor about it.
51. Get your Hearing Checked.
Looking at 36 studies, researchers at Trinity College, Dublin, found a link between hearing loss and dementia. Experts aren’t sure of the connection—and if losing your hearing indeed increases your chance of dementia—but it sure won’t hurt to have the doc check your ears.
52. Refresh Yourself!
Banish those winter blahs with a treatment at one of the county’s spas. “You may come in just looking to be pampered,” says owner Valerie Groom of Ridgewood European Day Spa (201.447.1600). “But don’t be surprised if you leave with better circulation, lowered blood pressure, relieved aches and pains, an improved ability to sleep—and lifted spirits.”