11 Ways to Transform Yourself in 2011

It's New Year's resolution time ... and while sometimes vague notions like "lose weight" or "get more exercise" are just fine, other times nothing short of transformation is required. If you're looking to be a master of at least one aspect of your life at this time next year, read on for ideas.

1) Take up a sport: Not only will this help with the perennial lose-weight-and-exercise resolution, this might just turn you into the kind of person who thinks of herself as an athlete. And once you find the activity that ignites your passion versus just mindlessly griding it out at the gym, finding time for those workouts is going to be lots easier.

2) Get your finances in order. It's not a fun topic, but with the economy starting to show signs of life, it's even more important to know where your money is going and how to hold on to more of it. It will also lower your stress when you can handle an unexpected expense ... or even take advantage of a great opportunity.


3) Embrace your vices. Perfect people are boring ... and as it turns out, some of the most common, and most enjoyable, vices are actually good for you in moderation. Dark chocolate, a daily adult beverage, and your favorite caffeine buzz all have health benefits.

4) Give yourself the giggles. A good laugh when you are stressed or sad can instantly improve your mood; there's a reason people who see pretty disturbing things on a daily basis, like cops, firefighters, and journalists, tend to have darkly hilarious senses of humor. Some studies have shown actual physical benefits to laughing as well. Will Ferrell, anyone?

5) Find some "you" time with a hobby. With busy family lives, things can feel like an endless grind of "work, commute, soccer practice, dinner, help with homework, bedtime (theirs), TV/cleaning/bedtime (yours) ... lather, rinse, repeat." Carving out an hour here and there for something you enjoy doing (and isn't yet another thing you do for someone else) makes life feel less like a treadmill and more meaningful ... and can even lead to a new life path.

6) Get some rest. Easier said than done, of course. If something is keeping you from getting a good night's sleep ... say, a snoring partner, a too loud sleeping environment, or just plain insomnia, look into fixing the problem. Ask your partner to do a sleep study to discover the cause of the snoring, find ways to deaden the sound in your room such as carpet, fabric over the walls, or insulation, or have a chat with your doctor about your own sleep issues. You'll think more clearly, have more energy, and even look younger.

7) Start working more healthy foods into your diet. Keep little baggies of heart-healthy nuts in your purse and desk to avoid vending machine temptation, or buy, wash, and cut up veggies and fruit on the weekend so they're ready to go when you need them. Some people even have vegetables and a low-fat dip on the table at every meal to make the veggies seem more like a treat and less like a must-do. You'll enjoy better skin, teeth, and hair, a healthier digestive system, and reduce disease-causing inflammation.

8) To that end, start planning your meals. Spending an hour plotting things out once per week can keep more money in your pocket, keep you from wasting food, and save you a ton of time and irritation. Knowing what's for dinner on any given day and having all its components in the house makes a huge difference to your ability to serve up a healthy, tasty family meal every night ... and even enjoy it.

9) Get yourself pampered and prettified with a massage, new haircut, or facial. It's not a health issue, per se, but it can give you a better outlook on life. If funds are tight, look for a school such as a beauty school or massage school. You'll have students working on you, but they are checked by experienced instructors and you'll pay a lot less.

10) Manage your moods. Untreated, depression and bipolar disorder can cause a whole host of health problems, and quite frankly, life is just too short to live miserably. If you need meds, therapy, or a combo of both, get it (many clinics operate on a sliding scale, and if you're near a college or university, they may run a counseling center that is open to the public). You will not believe how much better your life becomes.

11) Learn to think critically. We're all bombarded with information every day, and most of us have a tendency to only believe that which reflects our biases. When you see a news story or a blog post on some new health information, examine it carefully instead of just reacting: Who funded the study? How many people participated? Is the difference between Result A and Result B significant? If the writer cites "expert" sources, what are their connections (i.e., if Dr. Jones is quoted in a story that says eating carrots makes your eyebrows fall off, and a quick Googling shows he's on the board of the Celery Board's Institute for Eyebrow Studies, you may want to think twice about his objectivity).

What's your New Year's Resolution?


Image via gwaar/Flickr

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