Life is sweet at home

Tips for How Seniors Can Achieve Their New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year 2014 to everyone!

What are your New Year’s resolutions? Photo by southingtonsteps.org

What are your New Year’s resolutions? Photo by southingtonsteps.org

Not only does January herald the end of the holidays, it often calls for radical resolution-making.

Although I’m pretty good at coming up with areas of my life in which I could improve, I’m not the best at keeping resolutions. Evidently, I’m not the only one. I’ve heard that nearly 90 percent of resolutions end up in the garbage can – BAM!

In view of that stat, I would like to suggest that we be a little kinder and gentler to ourselves in relation to New Year’s resolutions. Maybe we are asking too much of ourselves when we resolve not to eat any junk food.

Instead, I recommend we make tee-tiny, oh-so-doable resolutions. This way we can aim for progress, not perfection. For example, instead of worrying about making a success out of the resolution “get more sleep” why not aim for a tangible goal such as “go to bed 15-minutes earlier”?

In this blog I’m going to talk about the nature of resolutions, look at tips on how to keep them as well as share a list of easy-to-achieve but important health resolutions we can all resolve to do better.

Resolutions Are Not for Sissies

It seems that the Babylonians made resolutions at the start of every year to return borrowed objects (Sorry it’s taken me so long to return your weed-whacker, Joe.) and to pay their debts. Romans made promises to the god Janus during his namesake month January and the Christian Lent (making a sacrifice) was a form of resolution.

Popular resolutions: eat better, drink less, exercise & volunteer more. Photo by my-calorie-counter.com

Popular resolutions: eat better, drink less, exercise & volunteer more. Photo by my-calorie-counter.com

Before World War II, Americans tended to make resolutions about good works or making improvements in their character. They resolved to be less self-centered and more responsible. In more modern times New Year’s resolutions have evolved or maybe devolved to center around body image, good looks and material objects.

These days popular New Year’s resolutions include: drinking less alcohol, eating healthier, bettering one’s education, recycling, volunteering, becoming better with money, finding a better job or managing stress better.

How Can Seniors Keep Resolutions

Frank Ra, author of the New Year’s resolution book “A Course in Happiness,” says peer support is basic to keeping resolutions, “It’s easier to keep resolutions when you share them and their benefits with someone else.”

If you think about it, that totally makes sense. We have all heard about the amazing successes of all types of support groups. It works to share and be supported by friends or like-minded people. For example, if you want to exercise regularly it always helps to have buddies. So it pays dividends to join a class, club or organize a gaggle of friends for regular activity.

Oh, yes, women tend to have a bit higher resolution success rate than men because of those very reasons. Women gab about their resolutions and gather friends around to encourage them (“How are you doing on that miserable diet, Bev?”).

5 Easy-To-Keep Health Resolutions for Seniors

Leslie Spry, MD, suggests there are five basic health resolutions that he thinks are relatively easy to keep. They are also kidney-friendly.

5 Easy-To-Keep Health Resolutions

1. Avoid unnecessary painkillers. Balance the potential benefits with the risk of dangerous side effects, such as kidney damage, fluid retention, increased blood pressure, and digestive issues.
2. Quit smoking (or never start). In addition to causing lung diseases and cancer, smoking acts as an accelerator for any disease that you may have. Smoking reduces blood flow to the kidneys and can also interfere with medications used to treat high blood pressure, reducing their effectiveness. National Kidney Foundation.
3. Sit less and stand more. Research has linked sitting for eight hours or more a day with developing kidney disease, as well as a host of other chronic conditions. The human body was designed to be upright.
4. Catch more Zzzs. Hit the sack earlier to make sure you’re getting enough sleep each night. Studies suggest that irregular sleep patterns, eating before going to sleep and not getting enough sleep are all linked to obesity, while getting enough sleep is linked with maintaining a healthy weight. Sleep health is 50 percent habit and 50 percent fatigue.)
5. Get organized. Tackle your medical records and lab documents. Clean-out your medicine cabinet. Make a list of all the medications you’re taking, including vitamins, supplements and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. Share it with primary care practitioners and specialists alike.

Seniors Reframe Resolutions for Success

I like how an article in the Huffington Post explains that to actually stick with a resolution we often need to give it some definition. As we discussed earlier, instead of resolving to “cut back on sodium,” for example, we could aim for less than a designated amount of salt.

Other examples of reframing include when you talk about “smaller servings,” decide just how big you mean. Do you mean 4 ounces or about the size of a pack of cards?

Or let’s say your resolution is to “manage stress”. Okay, that’s always a good idea, but how can we narrow that down to a workable goal?

Paul J. Rosch, M.D., F.A.C.P., president of the American Institute of Stress and a clinical professor of medicine and psychiatry at New York Medical College admits there are lots of methods, let’s say yoga or walking; but it’s different for everyone.

“Find something you enjoy doing and that you will adhere to because it’s pleasurable, not something that somebody dictates to you that you have to comply with,” says Dr. Rosch

Embrace Easy-to-Achieve Resolutions

Finally, just as I promised, here are some easy-to achieve goals. Instead of “giving up” something (fast food), try this method of adopting new habits (go to bed earlier).

Here are a few of my favorite easy-to-achieve resolutions:

• Eat chocolate five or more times a week and you may be 57 percent less likely to have coronary heart disease than people who don’t.

• Exercise moderately for 30 to 60 minutes a day and you may have up to an 80 percent reduced risk of developing breast cancer.

• See an eye doctor when you detect vision problems as you age and you could decrease your risk of developing dementia by 64 percent compared with people who don’t get their eyes checked.

• Walk at least six miles a week and you’ll help protect your memory as you get older.

• Lose 7 percent of your body weight if you’re overweight and you can lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 58 percent.

How do you keep your resolutions? We want to hear!