Another year has come and gone, and now we stand at the opening of another circuit around the big bright ball of light in the middle of our solar system.
Many cultures celebrate the start of the new year in different ways, but a common theme in most of them is that it is a time of rebirth, second chances, and new beginnings.
Sure, it’s technically just another ordinary day out of the year, and there is no intrinsic reason to make great changes now rather than yesterday, but for some psychological reason most people like to introduce improvements in their life with a fresh start.
Of course we always hear about how there is such a high failure rate for New Years resolutions, and some of us may even get a chuckle when we see dozens of new faces at the gym come January, but that doesn’t mean that you will fail, or that you won’t reach your goals for this year.
The best way to succeed is to set goals that are obtainable, and that you actually want to achieve. Signing on to completing a marathon in 2012 when you haven’t even run a 5k before is a pretty steep challenge, but it’s a ludicrous idea if you don’t even like to run. So, think about things like you would like do be able to do and set your sights on making it a reality in 2012.
For those of the paleo-persuasion, it shouldn’t be too hard to come up with some healthy projects to work at this year. I’ve put together a short list of things which I think are a good start. I see it as more of a kind of bucket list, but not intended as an agenda to complete because you know you’re dying. Still, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to really live as if tomorrow might be your last day on Earth. We have a brand new year work with, and there is no reason to let it go to waste!
1. Remove one type of junk from your diet, for the whole year. About ten years ago, I made the decision to never eat a hot dog again. The choice was grounded in the realization that most hot dogs are typically made from low quality meat, but was also based on the somewhat higher correlation between colorectal cancer and processed meats.  To this day, I haven’t had a hot dog since.
Sure, it’s kind of a radical behavior, and having a hot dog now and then won’t kill you, but I found that it was liberating to just swear off that type of food for the rest of my life. Maybe you can try just a year? Pick a food, and give it a shot. I think it’s a lot easier to give up one type of junk food for a year, rather than all junk food for just a month. And maybe after a few months you might not even want it anymore.
2. Climb or hike up a mountain. For those who live within a short trip of some mountains, don’t waste an opportunity to tackle one of nature’s most interesting and breathtaking challenges. There are few experiences more exhilarating than sitting at the top of a tall piece of earth and looking out on the world below. I’ll never forget the sense of peace I felt after hiking up Springer Mountain and sitting in solitude as the sun set across the valley below me.
If you can’t get to some mountains, then go for a nice long trek through the woods or the wild places near where you live. It’s good for the body and the soul.
3. Do some errands using human power. With the convenience that cars and power tools provide, sometimes we forget that many of the things that we do on a daily basis can be accomplished using our own two legs or hands. In terms of getting a gallon of milk from the grocery store or mailing a package at the post office, riding a bicycle can be much more energy efficient. And why not carry the laundry or garbage down rather than trucking it over on top of your car. Make your chores into a fun workout and save yourself some time, by combining a trip to the gym and the laundromat into one activity.
4. Replace a type of processed food with a whole food alternative. We’ve all got some sort of staple food in our diet which we like to eat on a regular basis. Whether it’s french fries, or spaghetti, it’s usually a sort of caloric filler that helps us meet our daily energy needs. Why not try to switch out some of those foods with a less processed variety every now and then? Instead of eating french fries or potato chips, consider opting for a whole cooked sweet potato with butter and cinnamon. I’m positive it will be just as satisfying.
5. Try fasting for an entire day. There is so much talk about food and eating in our society that it is practically an obsession. Heck, I mentioned food twice already in this short list of resolutions! Because of this, it can be hard sometimes to imagine a lifestyle where you aren’t always eating. Intermittent fasting, especially for an entire day every now and then, can be a restorative and liberating activity.
Food is necessary for survival, but that doesn’t mean it should dominate our lives and leave us constantly preoccupied with eating. Trying working your way up from skipping a meal once a day, to going an entire 24 hour period without eating. You might be surprised how easily you can handle it.
These are just a few ideas to try out, but the most important resolution you can make this year is to be firmly committed to improving or maintaining your health. We only get one body in this life, and the better you take care of it the more joy and adventure you can get out of the years which you’re given.
Happy New Year to you, and may your 2012 be full of good health and happiness!