The turn of the calendar from one year to the next invariable leads toward a yearning to live our lives in new and more healthful ways. Losing weight may top the charts as a New Year’s resolution, but if you are looking for a fresh take on the idea, consider the following:
Stress comes with some fairly predictable physiological signs. When your heart starts to pound, your breath becomes shallow, and your mind starts to race, consider an alternate perspective. Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University, suggests seeing this stress response as an opportunity to reach out to others, both for help and to be helpful, and to be thankful for a body that is able to rise to a challenge. It won’t make the stress go away, but it can make the experience more empowering.
Being socially connected is a major predictor of a long and healthy life. Research this year showed that being part of a walking group improved health markers across a variety of measures; more than could be attributed to the walking itself. Oxytocin, called ‘the moral molecule’ increases with walking and can increase empathy and trustworthiness. It seems that we are meant to be in dialogue with others, and that the bonds that are formed when we create community serve us beyond what we might expect.
How you move can help determine how you feel. Researchers found that walking tall and swinging your arms helps you remember positive emotions, while walking slumped over triggers negative memories. Amy Cuddy’s work on how body posture affects hormone levels reveals that we don’t have to rely on our minds to create a confident and positive framework from which to live; we can support an uplifted experience by how we inhabit our human form.
With the chapter of this year ending, we find space to breathe new life into our choices. There is room to explore new possibilities, and whether we buy into the idea of resolutions of not, I’ve always felt there is a collective exhalation at the end of each year, and a pause before the inhale of the new year. It’s in this space that we get to decide how we will move forward.
What will you choose to do in the new year?