How to be a healthier, fitter, better you in 2019 with these 19 tips

January 2, 2019

With 2019 upon us, it’s time for our annual list of ways to be healthier – mentally, physically, emotionally – in the coming year.

Be forewarned: We’re not going to tell you what you might expect. You know you should stop smoking (or at least cut back). That you should eat less fast food (or at least not daily). That you should walk more (and more).

We’ll just count on you to do those things, while we add 19 more.

First, a caveat: Some tips on our list may, on the surface, not strike you as life-altering. But trust us. Everything helps; everything counts. Taking care of yourself in seemingly simple ways has that snowball effect, that pebble-in-the-pond ripple effect. You’ll start feeling better, which will lead to taking more healthy steps to feel even better.

Because, after all, there’s more to healthy resolutions than losing weight. And more to living than worrying about every morsel you chew ... or exercise class you eschew.

What to take

1. A hike. Being outdoors is so very good for you. We could cite studies to that effect, but what you really need to do is your own research. How? Step outside. And if you need somewhere to go, check out this story with all sorts of great spots to visit.

2. A CPR class. Check out the American Red Cross (redcross.org) or the American Heart Association (heart.org).

3. Stop the Bleed class. The folks at Parkland Memorial Hospital, who deal with plenty of medical emergencies, tell us that a person can bleed to death from life-threatening injuries in three minutes. Paramedics responding to a 911 call, however, take an average of five to eight minutes to reach the victim. But if you’re there and know how to stop the bleeding, you can save a life.

4. Workout stuff – a jump rope, resistance bands – when you go out of town.

What to give

5. Your blood. Hey, you have about 10 pints of the red stuff; you can spare just one. Plus, the process doesn’t hurt, and that one pint can save three lives. Go to carterbloodcare.org to schedule or to find out more. Go with a friend, then out to eat a healthy, iron-packed meal together afterward.

6. Your time. Do you like animals? Do you like being with kids? With plants? Solitary office work? Then volunteer. Doing so has an abundance of health benefits; among them, reduced stress and lowered risk of depression, both of which can help your heart be healthier. Find a good match for you at Volunteer Now; the website is volnow.org.

7. Forgiveness. Holding a grudge, being angry more often than not, dealing with bitter feelings can up your blood pressure and heart rate. But research shows that forgiving those who wrong you – the person who cuts you off in traffic, a chronically late spouse, someone who has hurt you deeply – and even yourself can lead to better sleep, a healthier heart and a stronger immune system.

What to eat

8. More colorful foods. Blues, greens, oranges, a whole palette of colors and flavors will liven up your meals and give more life to you.

9. Less from the box. Check ingredient labels: the fewer, the better. And if you can actually pronounce most of them, so much the better.

10. What you want but in moderation. Here’s one of those annoying but important facts: Restaurant meals tend to be two to three times the size of a regular serving. Plus, an embarrassingly whopping 92 percent of restaurant meals have “too many calories,” according to a 2016 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

What to (mostly) ignore

11. The scale. Others may disagree on this one, but my thought is to pay more attention to how you feel and how your clothes fit. If you want to focus on a number, choose your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers.

12. Negative thoughts, especially about yourself. Really, when is the last time a negative thought about yourself made you feel really good? We’re guessing n-e-v-e-r.

What to pay attention to

13. Your body. If you feel like going that extra mile or extra 10 minutes in a workout, go for it. Even if you don’t think you can, your body could very well surprise you, and when’s the last time you kicked yourself for giving yourself a little push? (Another never, we’re guessing).

On the other hand, if you’ve been wearing yourself out, rest might be just what your body needs.

14. Your shut-eye. Sleep is way too underrated. Why oh why do people tend to think that the fewer hours they get, the more admirable they are? Corby Davidson of The Ticket radio (1310 AM and 96.7 FM) won my heart when I heard him tell listeners (and his minimal-sleep broadcast cronies) that he does all he can to get eight hours a night.

Sleep helps with memory, with healing, with creativity, with all-out functioning.

15. Your loved ones. Not to be morbid, but life can change in the blink of an eye. Do those you care about know the hows and whys of your devotion? Set aside 10 minutes a week (or month) to hand-write a note to someone who matters. That person can be the obvious – a child, a spouse, a sibling. Or it could be others – a teacher, a store clerk, the mail delivery person – who have no clue how they touch your life.

Hey, if George H.W. Bush made time to write letters, surely you can, too. Just think what a kick it would be if you received such a note, especially a totally unexpected one.

What to get

16. A dog. Only, of course, if you’ve thought this decision through, have patience, space and love to spare. If you have, and you deem your lifestyle ready for such an addition to the family, cardiologist Anand Rohatgi with Parkland Health and Hospital System gives dogs a healthy thumbs-up.

“Studies show improved heart health in those who own pets, specifically dogs,” says Rohatgi, an associate professor of cardiology at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

One reason, other than the snuggle factor, is that dogs encourage owners to walk more. They also help stave off depression and add purpose to life.

17. A grip. We all have crummy days. We lash out; we sulk; we say things we know we’ll regret. This year, let’s do all we can to limit the snark. How? By asking yourself three questions, which I’m borrowing from either Mr. Rogers or William James here – I’ve heard them attributed to each:

Is it kind?

Is it kind?

Is it kind?

If it’s not or you’re not sure, then don’t say it. Inhale, exhale and move on. Or formulate more positive words to come out of your mouth – words you won’t kick yourself for uttering.

What to record

18. Your workouts. Sure, it’s great to have your steps and all that good stuff on your smartphone or Fitbit. But it’s also fun to see them written out – on real paper or in a computer file. I’ve worn a Garmin Forerunner for years, and am pretty diligent about keeping a log of my workouts on connect.garmin.com.

19. The good stuff. Every day has its challenges, but every day also has its blessings. They can be fleeting – a sunrise, a sunset, that first sip of coffee – but they’re worth writing down. Most days, I pull out my journal to record five such things; more often than not, that number turns out to be several more.

Look for the moments; they’re all around us. Wishing you more than your notebook can hold, and a very happy and healthy 2019.

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