Healthy Outlook: Simple changes can have a huge impact on your life

It’s not too late to get a good start in 2018

To borrow an idea from the Bard, what’s in a date? That which we call New Year’s on any other day can be just as beneficial.

Some cultures around the world celebrate the new year later this month; some in March or April; and some even later, such as in June or September. I’m not one to get hung up on dates; however, because we’re here in Lawrence, Kan., USA, it’s often easier for folks to understand when we decide to make big changes at the start of January.

Now that we’re close to a week into 2018, chances are you’re in one of three situations:

1: You made a resolution, but it’s already starting to get tricky and you’re having trouble upholding it.

2: You didn’t make a resolution, but now you’re wondering if maybe you should’ve.

3: You actually made a resolution, you have no qualms about it and it’s all smooth sailing.

If No. 3 describes you, congratulations — you’re doing better than most people. If not, I might have some ideas to help out.

If you’ve made your resolution but the going is getting tough, perhaps you just need to step back and re-evaluate. What was your goal, and how did you phrase it to yourself? Maybe your thought was too broad, therefore making it difficult to accomplish; maybe the goal was too lofty, and you’re already down on yourself for not making progress as quickly as you think you should.

Lawrence Memorial Hospital provided a lot of great advice last month for setting your resolutions in a way that you can keep them — read that online by visiting If you need to tweak something to make it work, don’t beat yourself up. The important part is that you want to make a change in the first place.

If you didn’t make a resolution at all but you’ve realized you might want to: Firstly, it’s not too late; secondly, you’ve come to the right column.

I’ve spent weeks poring over health and fitness articles and advice from all over the place with the goal of curating the best tips to pass along to you. As I am a firm believer in mental health being equally as important as physical health, I’m not differentiating between the two.

Here are the most oft-repeated, highest-priority changes you can make in your life this year. Whether you take all of these tips to heart or you only adopt one — and even if you take a halfhearted approach — it will benefit your overall well-being and happiness.

• Drink more water.

I’ve pitched the importance of hydration before, but it’s definitely the front-runner in easy ways to improve your health. Beyond just helping your physical performance and aiding weight loss, drinking plenty of water helps your brain focus, helps with digestion, boosts energy and can help treat or prevent headaches.

How to do it: If you don’t have one already, buy a refillable water bottle or two; check how many ounces it holds and then figure out how many you need to drink per day. Although the guidelines for how much water to drink are changing, the standard recommendation for years has been 64 ounces, or eight 8-ounce glasses, throughout your day. (Somehow, even though it’s the same amount, it may feel more manageable to drink four 16-ounce bottles.) I view this number as a bare minimum.

• Try something new.

Whether it’s a fitness routine you decide to change up or a hobby you want to try, bringing something new into your life can have major benefits. It doesn’t necessarily even need to be something completely new, per se — maybe you used to paint frequently and you’d like to get back into it, or you enjoy cooking but you’re bored with your go-to meals and you want to experiment with something new.

How to do it: A new type of exercise can help you avoid burnout, and it will help you find better balance — literally and figuratively — as you use different muscle groups and cognitive functions. If you want to shake up your workout routine, a surprising number of gyms and fitness facilities around town offer completely free trials. Pick one that sounds interesting to you, give them a call and see what’s available.

If it’s a new hobby you’re after but you don’t know where to start, think about what you enjoyed doing as a kid. Chances are there’s a good way to create a grown-up version, and it will be something you truly enjoy.

You can also take advantage of what this community has to offer. If you’re looking for a new recipe to try, swing by the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont St. You don’t even really have to visit the library if you’re busy — for cardholders, its eLibrary, available through, is loaded with tons of books on tons of topics, including cooking, that could bring some fresh fun — and food — into your life.

• Follow a one-minute rule.

Your surroundings and environment have a surprising impact on your overall health and wellness, particularly from a mental perspective, and they can do a lot of harm for your stress levels. Following a one-minute rule means if a task will take one minute or less to complete, you don’t put it off; you just do it. If you knock things out before they become a problem, it will help you avoid a buildup of clutter, thus avoiding the piles of stress that it brings.

How to do it: Don’t just leave your plate in the sink; take a few seconds to put it in the dishwasher. Don’t leave your coat over the back of a chair when you get home; hang it up in the closet immediately. Don’t set your junk mail on the kitchen counter; throw it away now. These are just a few examples. Although these tasks seem tiny on their own, they add up very quickly when you find yourself doing them all at once.

• Get more sleep.

Sleep is underrated. It’s such a basic need that we insist kids get plenty of it — they even get naps — yet as adults, we almost treat it as a luxury. We sacrifice it in the name of other tasks, even though we’d perform those other tasks so much better if we weren’t dragging through our days in a constant state of exhaustion.

How to do it: Bedtimes are for grown-ups, too — some smartphones even have built-in “bedtime” settings now, so you can remind yourself when it’s time to drift off. Getting a consistent amount of sleep at regular times every day not only improves your function when you’re awake, but it also means that over time your quality of sleep improves. It doesn’t take long to see the benefits, either.

There are so many small adjustments you can make to your life, and so many huge benefits you can reap from them. The date doesn’t matter — New Year’s is just an excuse to make right the things we know we need to fix. If you want to make a positive change, don’t stop yourself from doing it right now.