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Ten Simple Steps to a Better Life

A New Day
Appreciating Art
Bonding with Pets for Health
Can Laughter Help Heal?
Celebrating Friends and Family
Connecting with Nature
Learning to Forgive
Reconnecting with Yourself
Rejuvenate Your Spirits
Hypnosis for Weight Loss?

1.  A New Day
Making simple, conscious decisions about your everyday life can influence your physical and mental well-being. Following through on the right resolutions about your health and lifestyle choices is not difficult, especially if you have a firm idea of areas you want to improve, and understand that small, gradual steps typically have better results than cold-turkey or all-or-nothing approaches. Take some time today to consider areas of your life you would like to improve. You may want to be healthier, more generous, less stressed, or just more optimistic. Once you determine your goals, create a timeline and attach some simple steps. Consider your strengths and how they can help you on your path, as well as your weaknesses and ways you can work around and with them. If, during your progress, you take a step backward, keep looking forward. Most goals are reached with both good and bad days playing a part!

2. Appreciating Art
When was the last time you went to an art gallery, museum, or simply walked down the street and appreciated the public works of art that surround many of us? Viewing art is a wonderful way to raise your spirits. Paintings, sculpture, architecture and other forms of art can please the senses and nourish your nonphysical being. They can also inspire creativity and excitement, and can be savored as a tangible expression of history. Next time you see an interesting building, a challenging sculpture or a provoking painting, take a few minutes to look at it from different angles and enjoy the feelings you get from it.

3. Bonding with Pets for Health
If you're a pet owner, you won't find it surprising that pets can instill a sense of well-being in people. Studies have shown that pet owners, particularly the elderly, have lower blood pressure, are less likely to be depressed and have higher self-esteem than people who don't have pets. Among the more tangible rewards: A 1999 study in New York, Missouri and Texas found that medication costs dropped in nursing homes that allowed pets. In another study, 70 percent of the families surveyed reported an increase in happiness and fun as a result of acquiring a pet. In 2000, the American Heart Association's study of stockbrokers found that those who had the companionship of a dog or cat experienced a calming of the "stress response" that can contribute to high blood pressure. After learning the results of the study, many of the pet-less stockbrokers decided to invest in a pet of their own.

4. Can Laughter Help Heal?
I have long recommended using positive thoughts as a way to lessen or prevent the effects of illness and disease. Pessimism has been linked to a higher risk of dying before age 65, while expressing positive emotions, such as optimism, is associated with lowered production of the stress hormone cortisol, better immune function, and reduced risk of chronic diseases. If you're a pessimist - or know someone who is - try the following:

  • Take care of yourself by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and getting adequate sleep.
  • Express your emotional reactions honestly so you can effectively deal with what's bothering you.
  • Confide in someone - your mate, a good friend or a trusted relative.
  • View the cup as half full instead of half empty.

5. Celebrating Friends and Family
When it comes down to it, friends, family, loved ones and acquaintances who make you feel more alive, happier, and more optimistic are some of the most important treasures in life. All the money and power you can imagine are not likely to be as satisfying as good conversation, trust, dependability and laughter. Today take a moment to think about the special people in your life, and ways you can keep those relationships strong. Make it a priority to spend some time each week with at least one of them - whether by phone, e-mail, in person, or through a letter. Human connectedness is a powerful healer, one we should all share in.

6. Connecting with Nature
Part of optimal health is experiencing the beauty and spirituality of the outdoors. If you think of nature as a hostile force that is separate from yourself, you will go through life unnecessarily afraid and cut off from one of the great sources of spiritual nourishment. Whether you connect with nature on wilderness trips or on lunch breaks in a city park, you should take the opportunity to slow down a bit and observe the infinite variety of her ways. Try to make plans to spend an entire day outdoors this month and see how this experience heightens your awareness of nature and her precious resources.

7. Learning to Forgive
Forgiveness is beneficial not only mentally but physically as well. People who forgive tend to be less angry, depressed, stressed out and anxious, and have lower blood pressure and heart rates than those who hold grudges. If you tend to have a hard time letting go of a grievance, consider that forgiveness does not mean you have to forget an incident, but rather that you can place a limit on how it affects you and your relationship with another, and that you benefit from the process as much as the person you have the grudge with.

8. Reconnecting with Yourself
Multiple commitments and hectic schedules can cause upsets to your daily life. To stay balanced, relaxed and calm, it's necessary every so often to regroup and decompress. Read a book, start an art project, work in the garden or treat yourself to a massage.

If you find that the demands on your time are overwhelming, don't be afraid to politely say "no" when someone asks you to do something. Learn your limits. You can't do it all and you shouldn't feel guilty about it. Be a little selfish once in a while by scheduling "me time" - it will help keep you in touch with yourself in the year ahead.

9. Rejuvenate Your Spirits
Been feeling stressed out after watching or reading the news lately? A "news fast" - avoiding news on the television, newspaper or the Internet for a few days or even a week - may help renew your spirits. It is a good way to gauge how you react to and process news, and how the news affects you.

If it seems outlandish, consider the following:

  • Both local and national network news have increased their emphasis on crime, even as U.S. crime rates continue to decline. This is particularly true of local news.
  • Studies show that violence, death and other negative images can provoke changes in mood and aggravate anxiety, sadness and depression.
  • Feelings of depression and sadness can lead to a negative view of your own life.

Perceiving the world as violent, unsafe and hostile can have negative effects on your body, as well. By taking a news fast, you can develop a more conscious relationship with the media - and promote greater mental calm within yourself. When you spend more time in harmonious mental states, your body will function better, and anxiety and over-stimulation may be minimized. Give it a try!

10. Hypnosis for Weight Loss?
Is hypnosis magic? No, but it certainly can help with weight control. Steven Gurgevich, Ph.D., an experienced hypnotherapist teaches integrative medicine practitioners that mind-body techniques can be very helpful for reinforcing motivation, self-discipline and willpower. They can also help people change their behavior and attitudes about eating, physical activity, shopping for food and restaurant dining. According to Dr. Gurgevich, the suggestions offered to your unconscious mind during a hypnotic trance can remove psychological obstacles to weight loss and strengthen the ego, as well as encourage changes in body image, metabolism and the body's set point (its comfortable weight).

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