The beginning of a new calendar year and birth year are good times to reassess where we are in our lives. For me, the timing is perfect. A May 31st birthday allows me to take note and make adjustments about 6 months apart every year.
The first step is to get in tune with our health because if we are not physically and emotionally balanced, we are less or totally ineffective. Think body, mind, and spirit, and ask ourselves questions such as the following.
Do we have chronic pain or ailments? We can begin by assessing our diet, exercise, and sleep patterns. If we are doing what we can to maintain good health and still suffering, it may be time to check in with a professional–a physician, chiropractor, or other healthcare provider.
Are we getting enough exercise? We don’t have to go from no exercise to running marathons. Start with gentle stretches, half hour walks, or walking back in forth in the house while swinging our arms.
Diet is critical to overall health. Food is fuel, and its quality is as important as quantity. Serving ourselves on small plates and in small bowls helps to reduce overeating. We also want to avoid processed foods. Processing breaks down the quality and adds high amounts of fat and sodium. Reading product labels on packaging is important in knowing what we are consuming. Best yet, eat whole foods. Think apple rather than an apple muffin and a piece of chicken rather than a breaded and fried chicken finger.
We want to ask ourselves how we are feeling emotionally? How often are we sad, impatient, frustrated, angry, or afraid. Sometimes it’s a matter of perspective. When we recognize our many blessings, we can see others’ needs and how we may assist them rather than wallowing in self-pity. If we feel these emotions regularly, then we might consider speaking with a counselor. We don’t function well when consumed with negative thoughts. And perhaps we should pass on watching the nightly news or watching television programs with violent or disturbing content. Our brain will continue to process those images and thoughts when we sleep. Listening to relaxing music or reading a fun book at bedtime is a better alternative.
Monitoring our financial health is also vital to mental health. Those impulse buys add up and can cause anxiety later when they need to be paid off. Taking a moment to ask ourselves if the item is something we need or will really use before purchasing can eliminate mounting debt and the stress of payments beyond our capabilities later.
Are we social? Connecting with other people is a basic human need and a key to longevity. Avoiding caustic relationships is just as important. Surrounding ourselves with healthy, and supportive friends promotes those same characteristics in ourselves.
Is our faith being fed? Trusting in a higher power alleviates us from believing we are in control of everything and therefore, responsible for all that goes wrong in the world. It also encourages us to understand how we are all connected and treat one another with love and respect no matter our station in life.
And perhaps the most important factor in well-being is recognizing our purpose. What’s our reason for getting up in the morning? Do we have meaningful people to care for and activities to occupy our time? Knowing our passions, such as gardening, playing a musical instrument, volunteering at a community center, food bank, or senior center; or drawing feeds our spirit with compassion, creativity, peace, and beauty.
Our list of needed self-improvements may be long, but we can’t change everything all at once. On the other hand, if we do nothing, nothing changes. Making one small change until it becomes a habit, and then moving on to another, moves us closer to a better, happier us one step at a time.
***If making prayer a part of your daily life is one of those steps you want to make this new year, I have a few books that may be of help. Check out The Rosary Prayer by Prayer, Grieving with Mary, Fatima at 100. Fatima Today, and Saint Theodora and Her Promise to God.