Healthy Living: Healthy Resolutions—A New Year, A New You

 

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Go Back to School
A common resolution among adults is to “finish my degree,” but many feel frustrated out of the gate because they mistakenly believe that college is for the young. Not so, says Carol J. Williams, associate dean of the School of Continuing Education at Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic. In fact, “many colleges and universities welcome returning adult students and try to accommodate their busy schedules,” says Williams. She also believes in taking small bites. “Going back to college is a big commitment and can feel overwhelming, so instead of saying, ‘this year I am going to finish my bachelor’s degree,’ it’s better to say, ‘this year I am going to figure out the best program for me and start back to school,” she says. From there, take a series of more simple steps.

If you’re serious:
■     Research programs in your area that are of interest.
■     Make appointments to see what programs offer, how long they take to complete and how much they will cost.
■     Seek out an “adult friendly” program that allows you to earn college credit for work experience. It builds motivation.

Save Money
Financial advisers of every ilk are skilled at sharing insight on how to build wealth, but what if you’re just trying to pay the bills and retire someday? Some of the most practical budget tips we could find came from … Phil McGraw, TV doctor, columnist and purveyor of advice on just about everything. Saving, says McGraw, is really about changing your relationship with money, which can be very hard to do. But chipping away at old habits is really the only way to succeed.

If you’re serious:
■     Live below your means. The numbers may frustrate you, but it’s important to know just how much you’re earning, what you’re paying out that’s necessary, and where you can cut costs.
■     Don’t buy on credit. If you don’t have the cash, do without.
■     Rid yourself of the stigma on embracing a thrifty lifestyle.
■     Become a discount shopper. Seek out sales, use coupons, frequent secondhand stores.
■     Go food shopping with a plan. Keep a running list all week, check the flyers and don’t stray.
■     Practice strategies for cutting down on utility bills. Wear layers so you can keep the heat down, close the vents in (and doors to) rooms you don’t use, install low-flow showerheads, take shorter showers, and use only cold water for laundry.

Get Organized
Matt Baier likes guidelines. The Stamford declutterer extraordinaire and member of the National Association of Professional Organizers believes it isn’t enough to say you want to “get more organized,” and we believe him. His mantra is “limitations breed freedom,” so he recommends you clarify your motive: Is disorganization keeping you from realizing your big-picture goals, is it resulting in late-payment fees and multiple purchases—or are you just sick and tired of it? Next, limit the number of quantifiable goals you set (such as taking 10 minutes to clear off your desk every night) and you’ll see small improvements every day, which in turn will lead to significant changes.

If you’re serious:
■     Make friends with a timer. If you place a limit on the time you spend going through mail, for example, you’re instantly focused because you’re not worried that the task will take all night.
■     Don’t give up. If at first you don’t succeed, modify your goals. If you can’t give your desk 10 minutes and still make your train, then give it five. It’s better than nothing.
■     Give yourself a break. Acquiring new habits takes time, so know upfront that getting organized won’t happen overnight.

Read More
Reading more is not an issue for someone who loves books as much as Dorothy Pawlowski does. But the adult-services librarian at the Ridgefield Library understands how hard it can be to make room in your life for more reading, especially when so many of us are inundated with emails and reports and such at work. Pawloswski is a card-carrying advocate of the book club, which she says can inspire you to not only read more—but to read things you otherwise wouldn’t. “We have five different book groups at the library, as well as resources, all kinds of book lists and recommendations for books, depending on your interests,” she says. Recognizing that it can be especially hard for parents of young children, she recommends setting aside some family time to share books (reading is reading, after all).

If you’re serious:
■     Listen to audio books. People who like to walk or run, as well as commuters who spend too much time in the car, have discovered the joy of listing to stories.
■     Reread something you read “when you were too young.” Even the classics, or titles you once perceived as too complex, may hold new meaning for you now.
■     Don’t feel compelled to finish a book if it’s not speaking to you. Give it a hundred pages, and if nothing resonates, walk away.

Work Less
Who among us wouldn’t like to get our jobs done faster and more efficiently? Perhaps it’s not working less that should be our goal, but rather working smarter. Donald E. Wetmore of The Productivity Institute in Stratford has spent a lot of time pondering time management and has made it his life’s work to “show people how to get more done in less time, with less stress.” Who’s in?  

If you’re serious:
■     Get enough sleep (a full eight hours, if you need it). This may seem counterproductive, but getting an adequate night’s sleep is the first step toward getting any job done.
■     Create systems to handle repetitive tasks. If you send out similar emails day after day, create a template. Use only one calendar. Keep your desk and office clutter-free, with equipment you use regularly within reach.
■     Develop and maintain a network of friends and colleagues who can help you get things done. In turn, help them do the same. 

 

Healthy Living: Healthy Resolutions—A New Year, A New You

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