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Resolving to be healthier in the New Year

I happen to love the whole idea of New Year’s resolutions.

Despite the total arbitrariness of it, Jan. 1 offers up a psychological fresh start. It’s probably our best annual chance to ditch our old not-really-working-for-me habits for some new I-will-now-take-control-of-my-life-and-finally-get-organized-and-healthy behaviors.

Who cares that few of us ever keep our New Year’s resolutions? Some people do. That’s enough to inspire me to keep trying.

(One admittedly unscientific study by British psychologist Richard Wiseman followed 3,000 people throughout 2007 as they attempted to adhere to a wide range of resolutions, including the three most popular ones: losing weight, exercising more, and quitting smoking.Twelve months later, just 12 percent had achieved their goal.) 

My health-related New Year’s resolution is usually a variation on a single theme: reducing work-related stress.

I’ve been a freelance writer for three decades. And although this job has many, many benefits, it also has many drawbacks — most notably, a continual stream of stress-inducing deadlines. (And for freelancers, not meeting deadlines means not getting paid — an even more stress-inducing outcome.)

So each January, I make plans for the steps I’m going to take to get more control over these deadlines and reduce the stress in my life.

Needless to say, since I make essentially the same resolution each year, my best-laid plans tend to go off track, usually long before our Minnesota snow melts in spring.

Still, this year, I’m sure I’ve got a plan that will work.

What about you? Have you made a health-related New Year’s resolution? If so, feel free to share it with other MinnPost readers in the comments section below.

Talking about your resolution with others is one of the tips for keeping New Year’s pledges offered by the American Psychological Association. It also recommends starting small, changing one behavior at a time, and, of course, keeping your resolution realistic (losing 10 rather than 50 pounds or working out three rather than seven times a week).

By the way, be aware that advertisers also realize that you and millions of others are attempting health-related lifestyle changes in January. Some of these ads, such as those encouraging you to join a gym or a weight-loss program, may be helpful. But others may not be.

For example, a 2000 study found that cigarette companies increase their advertising in popular magazines during January and February, a finding that suggests, according to the study’s authors, that “cigarette marketers may be attempting to preempt quitting by cueing smoking behavior.”

On that rather cynical bit of news, I wish everybody who reads this blog a Happy (and not-too-snowed-in) Christmas (if you celebrate it) and New Year. Second Opinion will return on Jan. 4.

And good luck with those health-related resolutions.

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