Which means if you started the year with a resolution, you've already abandoned it.
According to a 2019 survey from Strava – a social networking platform for athletes – January 17th is the day when most folks in the U.S. abandon their New Year's fitness resolutions.
Lucky for you, you're not "most folks." And if you're a longtime reader of mine, you know that the best way to make a new habit stick is to start small and slowly build from there.
So today, I'm sharing three of my top 12 tips for long-lasting life improvement and success in 2023. I know you're not looking to give up on yourself. That's why my team and I are here to help...
Tip No. 1: Activate Your Social Side
A 2021 survey from insurance giant Cigna shows that more than half of adults in the U.S. report feeling lonely. What's more, researchers have linked loneliness to dementia and premature death.
So this year, satisfy your need to socially connect with others.
Here are a few ideas to get you thinking about how you'd like to enjoy more social time:
- Get outside with some friends and go for a walk.
- Start writing letters to friends or family members and ask for letters in return.
- Meet new people in a virtual (or in-person) fitness, cooking, or art class.
- Explore meetup.com to find and join a group of new people in your area with similar interests.
If you're older, you might have different socialization priorities.
Researchers from Duke University found that there's an important piece missing in the current efforts to combat loneliness in seniors – two age-specific needs that have been overlooked:
- Older adults want to feel respected, listened to, and like they're able to pass along the wisdom gained from their life experiences.
- Older adults want to give back and make meaningful contributions to their communities.
And some social activities are perfectly suited for these senior-specific needs...
- Call someone you know who's not able to get out of the house and have a conversation with them.
- Sign up to hold sick babies at the hospital or read to children at a local school.
- Find career mentorship opportunities or volunteer for any professional organization that you belong to.
You don't have to do this whole list to start seeing benefits in your life. Even one new social activity could be enough to reverse your feelings of loneliness.
Also, you don't even have to go anywhere for the benefits of socialization. According to a 2021 study from Fordham University, even online interactions help. Researchers concluded that activities like attending a party or taking a fitness class over a Zoom video call made people less lonely, depressed, and suicidal.
I regularly use WhatsApp, FaceTime, and Zoom for video calls. I also travel to visit with friends and family who are open to company.
Tip No. 2: Crank Some Tunes
Music offers balance to our lives by calming us down, amping us up, and supporting our immune systems...
When sound waves travel through the ears, they eventually reach the cochlear nerve that attaches to the inner ear. The cochlear nerve then sends information to the brain's cerebral cortex, where we process conscious thoughts, emotions, reasoning, language, and memory.
Research shows that listening to music you find relaxing calms your nervous system by acting through your hormones. It reduces your production of the stress hormone cortisol, the "fight or flight" stimulator adrenaline, and the heart-rate-increaser norepinephrine.
Listening to music that you find energizing further increases your production of cortisol, adrenaline, norepinephrine, endorphins (a natural pain reliever), and somatotropin (the human growth hormone that stimulates cell reproduction and regeneration).
So do what I do and listen to different types of music to help achieve a desired state of mind. For example... right now, I love writing to jazz great Red Garland's piano-bass-drum trio. But if I want to run or bike vigorously, I'll put on hip-hop (Drake, Snoop Dogg) or fast-paced rock (Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin) to keep me motivated and moving.
Tip No. 3: Practice Gratitude
For the past 20 years or so, I've spent one day each month doing one thing – expressing gratitude.
I start the day thanking people and things. (Yes, things. For example, "thank you for being such a beautiful towel" or "thank you for being such beautiful raspberries.") Usually later, I sit down and write a note to people I'm thankful for. I started doing this because I once heard that the best way to make your world better is to thank it.
When we think about what we appreciate, the parasympathetic nervous system triggers a calming and protective effect over the body. Positive feelings like gratitude strengthen your immune system, make your cardiovascular system less reactive to stress, improve your mood, and make you more optimistic, resilient, and resourceful.
Research suggests that gratitude interventions help with chronic pain by engaging in self-compassion. A group of scientists at Duke University designed an eight-week program in which participants with lower-back pain repeated the following phrases while in a 90-minute meditative state:
May I be free from suffering. May I find my joy. May I be filled with love. May I be at peace.
Participants first directed the phrases at themselves and then moved on to other people like a good friend, an enemy, and finally the whole world. At the end of the process, they reported significantly less psychological distress and physical pain.
So do what I do and schedule a monthly day of gratitude. You'll not only reap the mental and physical health benefits yourself, but you might just spread a little joy to the folks around you, too.
There you have it, folks... Surround yourself with your favorite people, enjoy some music, and express thanks for the wonderful things all around you – easy, and yet very impactful.
If you'd like to check out the rest of our top 12 tips for 2023, Retirement Millionaire subscribers can find them in the most recent issue of our newsletter. If you're not already a Retirement Millionaire subscriber, and you think you'd like to start the year off on a new page, click here to find out more.
What We're Reading...
- Something different: Could getting rid of old cells help people live disease-free for longer?
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
January 17, 2023