Once a week, for a year, resolve to do something to improve your quality of life. Just make a ripple. You’ll reap the benefits. When you take steps to improve your life, you feel more in control of the present and future; that leads to more beneficial decision-making, which makes you feel happier. The result is better health, a more resilient nature and improved ability to cope with difficulties.
Here we suggest two powerful steps to get you started. Then look at the categories of family, love, work, money and health. Peruse and choose, week after week.
1. Embrace change. Bend like a willow or snap like an oak? In the strong winds of life, the resilient person is flexible and embraces change. Jennifer Cohen, author of No Gym Required: How to Unleash Your Inner Rockstar, suggests that whenever you feel stuck, stressed or unproductive, take a break and do a few exercises to clear your mind and reboot the system. Then rock ‘n’ roll again.
2. Cultivate patience. Impatience comes from taking the short view, and it can cause stress, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure and strain on both the heart and relationships. As M. J. Ryan points out in The Power of Patience, becoming more patient can help you become kinder, less angry, more likable and more productive.
By Kalia Doner
“If you feel like you are not making connections with people, the first thing you have to do is learn to love yourself,“ says Michelle DeAngelis, a corporate consultant, coach and author of Get a Life That Doesn’t Suck: 10 Surefire Ways to Live Life and Love the Ride. “The good news is that loving yourself takes the same tools as loving someone else.” DeAngelis suggests these first steps to learning to love:
3. Praise yourself and others. Take time daily to praise what you like about yourself, and make it a point to tell others what you like about them.
4. Learn to apologize. If you are harsh with yourself, apologize to yourself, and vow to do better next time. Critical of someone else? Do the same: Apologize.
5. Forgive and forget. Be compassionate with yourself when you make a mistake. When others goof up, forgive them and speak reassuringly and gently.
Mending a Broken Heart
By Kalia Doner
The blame game is the number one way people add fuel to the emotional fire after a breakup. “When you let go of blame, you let go of anger, and that opens the door to forgiveness. Then you can begin to repair your heart,” says DeAngelis. She also suggests you come up with a mantra such as “My heart is expanding, minute by minute” or “My heart is free and open.” Repeat it to yourself whenever you feel angry, sad or confused.
6. Commit a loving act. Allow your heart to open up. A good way is to volunteer to help at a local school (children are great love-inducers) or nursing home or with any community project you like.
7. Celebrate. Give yourself an “It’s Over” party. For one night, indulge your sadness and laugh with friends.
8. Don’t overemote. Set limits on your self-indulgence. One woman told us: “I only allow myself to get the ‘take-to-my-bed blues’ once a year for any guy. More than that is just self-destructive.”
9. Don’t dance alone. Ask yourself this: If the relationship was not right for your partner, could it really have been right for you? It does take two to tango.
By Kalia Doner
DeAngelis says, “Ask yourself, What are the top three things I can do for my lover that provide comfort? “When things get rocky, people tend to think, how do I get what I need?” she points out. “But to offer up what the other person needs is much more powerful.” To that end:
10. Express love. Tell people you love that you love them. People want to hear the words.
11. Don’t stay mad. Let a conflict go—relationships are often about recognizing that your long-term goal (a long and successful relationship) is more important than having your way today.
12. Be confident. Stick up for yourself—sometimes you have to say, Hey, I’m here. But look and listen. Just try to be wise about when you do it, and don’t hurt your loved one in the process.
Love and respect them, and you’ll be healthier
By Stacey Colino
There’s no question: Strong family relationships can bolster your health, happiness and longevity. Study after study has found that family warmth, support and cohesion are positively related to physical and mental health and resilience in both adults and children.
13. Act like a kid. Really play with your kids (or grandkids). Getting silly and having fun together creates a closer bond between you and your children and helps you feel fully immersed in family life.
14. Share good news. At family dinners, take turns sharing the highlights of your day—something new, good or funny that happened. Research conducted at UCLA suggests that spreading the word when good things happen can be a mood-lifter while enhancing your sense of relationship wellbeing.
15. Grow up. Separate emotionally from your family of origin. Don’t create estrangement, but let your identity be distinct from those of your parents and siblings.
16. Say thank you. Besides telling or showing family members that you love them, try thanking them for all the little things they do to help you every day. “Gratitude has no negative side effects,” says Michael E. McCullough, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Miami. “It feels good to experience it, express it and receive it.”
17. Be in the moment. Make ground rules that establish what’s sacred family time (such as meals and activities with your kids) and when it’s okay to catch up on work, talk on the cell phone, or sit at the TV or computer.
18. Put yourself in others’ shoes. While having a heart-to-heart with your spouse, child, parent or sibling, try to understand where he or she is coming from.
19. Redefine family. Create a family among your friends. The old adage that you can’t choose your family but you can choose your friends still holds true. So surround yourself with supportive, loving people who make you feel good and whom you know you can count on—and consider them part of your chosen family.
20. Deflect stresses. Pinpoint each other’s crisis points. In a couple, if one of you is headed for a difficult deadline or is in a family crisis, the other can pick up the slack at home or come to the emotional rescue, with tender acts and attentive listening, for example. If you are both stressed, enlist the help of family and friends. The goal is to protect your marriage from the effects of stress.
21. Again, don’t hold a grudge! Let go of old resentments. You can discuss past transgressions, if you think doing so will be constructive. Or you can choose a private route to forgiveness: Make a conscious decision to release old hurts and anger. Recognize the other person’s value to you and try to see things from his or her perspective. Holding a grudge doesn’t benefit you or the relationship, McCullough suggests.
22. Respect your differences. Why should you and your parents, siblings or spouse agree on everything? Accept that it’s okay not to see eye-to-eye on some matters and set appropriate boundaries by agreeing to disagree or, if need be, making certain subjects off-limits, Domar suggests.
Health & Beauty
Simple steps can transform how you look and feel
By Beth Howard
Our health is the result of small choices you make a hundred times a day: Do you eat fries or a salad? Do you stay up late and watch that movie or get a good night’s sleep? Do you take the time to stay connected with friends or isolate yourself at work or at home? Here are 10 choices you can make that will improve how you feel and look today and for the rest of your life.
23. Eat breakfast. Many studies show that people who eat breakfast are slimmer than those who skip it. Some 80 percent of people in the National Weight Control Registry—people who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept them off—regularly eat a morning meal.
24. Eat by colors. The hues of fruits and vegetables represent disease-fighting compounds: Lycopene, which may help protect against prostate cancer, gives tomatoes their red color, and carotene, which promotes eye health, makes carrots orange. The more variety of color in the foods you eat, the wider the range of protection you get.
25. Get your vitamin D. Some studies have linked low levels of D to cancer, diabetes, obesity and other health problems. You can get a dose of D from sun exposure—about 10 minutes to arms and legs three times a week, in warm weather—and supplements (600 IU daily is recommended for adults younger than age 70).
26. Breathe deeply. Stressed? Deep breathing may reduce levels of stress hormones in your body. Practice by placing your hand on your abdomen and letting it rise as you inhale, then fall as you exhale.
27. Stand tall. Practicing better posture makes you look taller and slimmer and reduces aches and pains.
28. Go with the grain. Eating at least three servings of whole grains a day (say, oatmeal or whole wheat bread) can help you maintain a healthy weight by making you feel full between meals. Whole grains also help lower cholesterol, reducing the risk of coronary heart disease.
29. Walk it off. Putting one foot in front of the other can put you on the road to better health. Research from the University of Georgia shows that seniors who walked for about 40 minutes a day experienced significant health improvement. Walking has been shown to stave off heart disease and diabetes.
30. Enjoy dark chocolate. Flavanoid-rich dark chocolate can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of diabetes. Research in Japan shows that eating one to two ounces of dark chocolate daily lowers the risk for heart-attacks and chronic chest pain.
31. Protect your skin. The sun’s UV rays can damage your skin and contribute to skin cancer. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.
32. Get sleep. Less than seven hours a night increases the risk of obesity. Less than five? There’s a 39% jump in coronary heart disease.
Smart decisions about spending and saving
By Catherine Fredman
When Einstein was asked to name the strongest force in the universe, he supposedly replied, “Compound interest!” Despite its ups and downs, and downs again, the U.S. stock market has averaged about 10 percent annual growth over the last 75 years. What does that mean in real life? If you save $15 a week by making your lunch, in 20 years (at just a 7 percent return) your lunch money will be worth about $34,000. Sock away another $750 a year, and in 20 years you’ll have about $67,000. Start the savings habit when you’re 25, and at 65 you’ll have nearly $327,000. Now that’s really something to look forward to!
33. Discharge the charge cards. The average American household with at least one credit card carries nearly $9,700 in credit card debt. With interest rates running in the mid-to-high teens, that family spends, on average, at least $1,700 a year in interest and fees. Take control of your debt by limiting yourself to no more than two charge cards, advises Matt McRee, a senior financial advisor with Ameriprise Financial in Blythewood, SC. Look for low long-term rates rather than rates that balloon if you carry a balance. Even better, choose cards that you have to pay off in full every month, so you can’t dive into debt.
34. Buy carefully. Retailers have a saying: “Today’s peacock is tomorrow’s feather duster.” Avoid buyer’s remorse by taking a moment to ask yourself, Do I need this? Will I use this?
35. Hire a financial planner. Seeking professional help could be the smartest money move you ever make. An Ameriprise Financial survey found that people who work with a financial advisor report that they saved nearly twice as much as their unadvised counterparts. They are more than twice as likely to save regularly for the future, adds a Merrill Lynch survey. And, both surveys concur, they feel more confident, less anxious and–more importantly–have more realistic financial goals. Advisors aren’t just for the affluent, says Candace Bahr, an investment advisor in Carlsbad, California. “Their real value is not only creating a financial plan but helping people stick to it.”
36. Avoid money fights. Talk money with your honey. How to avoid the financial stresses that can rupture a relationship? Make a regular date to talk with your partner about money, says Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, co-author of It Pays To Talk: How to Have the Essential Conversations with Your Family About Money and Investing (Crown Business, 2002). “Financial conversations take lots and lots of practice,” says Schwab-Pomerantz, who honed the habit with her husband on Sunday morning strolls through the park. “You may have to agree to disagree at first, but at least you’ve initiated the discussion. And in the end, the talking will pay off.”
37. Save energy and money. With energy prices soaring, the thermostat is your friend. Turning the heat down 10 degrees at night can slice up to 20 percent off your heating bill. Even a one-degree drop over an eight-hour period reduces your fuel costs. No need to go cold turkey; start by cooling down one degree a week. Ask your utility company for more suggestions. And while you’re asking, don’t forget to call your telephone service provider for advice on cutting costs. Combining cable, phone and Internet service, for example, can knock $50 off a monthly bill.
38. Balance the books. Spend less than you earn. Getting rid of debt routinely makes the nation’s top three New Year’s resolutions. Nearly 40 percent of people who have problems with debt report symptoms of severe depression, according to a survey by Myvesta, a nonprofit financial crisis center. Do the math: Subtracting debt from your life is the fastest way to financial happiness.
39. Invest your savings. You don’t need to be Warren Buffett. As little as $1,000 will open an account at a mutual fund company like Vanguard, Charles Schwab, T. Rowe Price or Fidelity. Low-cost, targeted maturity funds offer a broadly diversified mixture of stocks and bonds that are tailored to your individual risk profile and automatically adjust every year to a more conservative balance. “It’s a sound investment method for anyone who just doesn’t know what to do,” says Ellen Rinaldi, a principal at the Vanguard Group.
40. De-bloat. Your budget, that is. Sharpen your pencil to slice your spending, says Bonnie Hughes, a certified financial planner in Miami. Write down everything you spend over the course of a month–not just the mortgage payment, phone bill and groceries, but the lattes and movie tickets. Are you paying for a magazine you don’t read? A gym membership you don’t use? Get rid of them and watch your bloated budget slim down. “The easiest way to get money back is to pay attention to what goes out,” says Hughes.
41. Protect your savings. What if you were found at fault in a major traffic accident? What if a tree on your property crashes through your neighbor’s roof and she sues? Ordinary auto and homeowner’s insurance policies rarely guarantee full protection from the potential liability you may incur from others’ injuries or legal actions. The solution? An umbrella liability policy. Umbrella liability insurance only comes into play when your home and auto coverage is exhausted. But you get a lot of protection for surprisingly few pennies: A $1 million personal umbrella liability policy tends to range from $150 to $300 a year, and there’s usually a substantial discount on premiums if you buy your umbrella liability, homeowners’ and automobile insurance from the same company.
42. Start a $1 bill savings plan. Here’s a grown-up version of stashing spare pennies. When you leave the house in the morning, don’t carry anything smaller than a $5 bill. When you get change, don’t spend the singles–except for leaving a tip. At the end of the day, slip any leftover dollar bills into a shoebox. You’ll be surprised at how soon they add up.
by Beth Howard
On average, a working person spends about 1,900 hours a year on the job—eight times as many hours as he or she spends caring for others or doing household chores, and four times as many hours as is spent on leisure activities or sports, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And those are the facts for people who work a little more than eight hours a workday. A lot of you out there are putting in 10 hours—and on some days even more.
So if you hate your job, are feeling swamped or disorganized or are upset about a lack of advancement, you may find that tips 43 to 52 can help you cope with your work-related problems.
43. Shake it up! Job satisfaction goes both ways. Before you throw in the towel with your current employer, take charge of your situation. You can’t expect your manager to be a mind reader or to be responsible for your contentment. Do what you can to fix what’s wrong or figure out what’s lacking.
44. Find your bliss. More than 8.4 million Americans ages 44 to 70 have started so-called “encore careers”—second careers prompted in part by a need to find greater meaning in work, says Marc Freedman, author of Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life. These second acts often involve a dream or calling, but it’s important to plan well. Take an honest inventory of your skills and finances before taking the plunge.
45. Drop unnecessary activities. According to Laura Berman Fortgang, author of NOW WHAT? 90 Days to a New Life Direction, we all cling to many “have-tos” and “gottas.” Do you really need to keep that weekly lunch date with your old college roommate? Or volunteer two nights a week for the local Y when one night a week will let you do what you enjoy without overwhelming you?
46. Tolerate a little clutter. Put down that Swiffer! A messier household isn’t just easier to maintain than a super tidy one, but studies suggest that moderately disorganized people are actually more efficient and creative than obsessively neat ones, says David H. Freedman, author of A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder. In fact a recent survey links messy desks to higher salaries.
47. Make a smooth transition. How do you switch gears between work and home? If you work outside the home, make the most of your return commute. Put some soothing music on your iPod or car radio or relish the silence. Then take 20 minutes to sit and relax when you first come inside, inside of jumping straight into household chores.
Advancement and Respect
48. Get a mentor. No mere professional contact, a mentor is in the position you’d like to be in and has the clout and connections to guide you to a similar job. See if your current employer has a mentoring program or ask the professional organizations and university alumni groups you belong to. Choose someone you respect and admire, whether inside or outside your own place of employment.
49. Brush it off! Having a sense of humor can lower the levels of destructive stress hormones, such as cortisol, in your blood. Those hormones can make you vulnerable to illness and may even sabotage your performance. When you laugh, your pulse and blood pressure rise, sending oxygen to your tissues, like a workout does. Just smiling boosts your mood—whether the smile is real or fake—so grin (and bear it).
50. Delegate and share credit. You will get more credit for your efforts, and be recognized for what you do (which can lead to advancement), if you are generous and share the limelight with fellow workers. Delegating well not only makes your job easier, but it develops trust with underlings and prepares your successors—so that you can move on to greater glory!
51. Increase skills. Ask your boss which skills will be especially valuable in the next few years. Even better, ask if your company has a tuition reimbursement plan that will pay for training or academic courses. Try out a new field by volunteering for a non-profit organization that works in that area. This is a great way to get experience that might not be available at your day job.
52. Make the most of business communications. Messages at work are always significant, according to Eric Maisel, Ph.D., author of 20 Communication Tips at Work: A Quick and Easy Guide to Successful Business Relationships. They reveal who you are, and they educate you about your fellow workers.
From our sister publication, REMEDY (Winter 2008)