Already Winning

My social media feed is full of ads targeting the New Year’s resolution crowd: Life coaches, super food delivery programs, yoga video packages, keen-science athletic gear, self-help workbooks, special look-younger goop or pills…. I take great delight in clicking, “Hide ad–not relevant to me,” for all of it.

Then I came across this article, courtesy of Susan Cain (the recovering lawyer who wrote Quiet) which describes a means of making yourself more intelligent, healthier, more empathetic, and  less stressed. You’re already doing it, my friends, because you read book-length fiction.  I was appalled to learn that 70 percent of inmates and 85 percent of our juvenile delinquents are functionally illiterate, but that’s a post for a different day.

So I’m patting myself on the back for being a dedicated reader. Then I come across another article, telling me that black tea is packed with polyphenols and flavonoids, which goose our immune systems, and quintuple our production of interferon. Black tea and green tea also boost alpha wave production, which is the calm, “screen saver” brainwave we enjoy upon rising–my best time to write. What’s more, the quercetin in tea helps increase HDL cholesterol, which is a good thing.

So I’m patting myself on the back for being a life-long tea drinker (and sorry, coffee does not confer these same benefits, though it has perks (get it!) of its own). Then I come across this article, which says that 3,000 steps a day, five days a week, will go a long way toward cutting my risk of diabetes. 10,000 steps a day will do much more, but there’s a lot of benefit even from the shorter distance.  I have to be purposely spuddin’ not to hit 3000 steps in a day.

Then I come across this article, which recounts the demonstrable benefits of keeping flowers on hand, whether in the workplace or at home. Flowers make us more compassionate and creative, and less depressed or anxious. (Yeah, somebody did some funded research to prove the obvious.) Guess who loves flowers, and often grabs a bouquet at the grocery store?

Then I come across this article, which backs up the notion that good, dark chocolate (in the 70 percent cocoa range), can improve brain function, vascular health, mood, and a host of other health indicators. We knew that.

Here’s where I’m going with this: In the New Year, I resolve to keep doing the things that work for me and contribute to my health and well being. I’m going to read good books, chomp good chocolate, swill good tea, trundle on the tread desk in moderation, and indulge my love of flowers.

How are you already winning? What ways do you indulge yourself that are actually pretty good for you? To one commenter, I’ll send my last (I think) advanced reader copy ofA Rogue of Her Own (Mar. 6, 2018).

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40 comments on “Already Winning

  1. I have never been one for New Year’s resolutions. I actually already do most of the things you mention above. Love to read, especially when I have a sweet little kitty nuzzled next to me. Drink tea and coffee – at least two cups of each each day. Even with my arthritis, I still manage to put on at least 4000 steps on my pedometer each day. Of course, they are so slow and clumsy that I don’t know how much they count for – but at least I’m still moving. I would love to keep fresh flowers around, but every cat I have ever had thought they were there for them to knock over and drag around the house – so I have pictures of flowers instead. I have also never learned to appreciate dark chocolate. Love the milk chocolate, especially European chocolates. Good thing that I don’t have too many of those.

    One other thing that I do that helps keep me healthy and focused is prayer and meditation. It helps me to maintain a positive attitude.

    • The company of my cats is an endless comfort, and even the dog, a big old, goofy, lab, makes me feel safer. And the benefits of meditation–even ten minutes a day–are so well documented as to need no further elaboration. Good on ya!

    • The Whole 30 diet requires elimination of both sweets (even stevia) and dairy, so I’ve reacquainted myself with un-doctored tea. I’m trying a new one each week–this weeks orange, next week spearmint–and so forth. Sounds like I’m ready for a tea subscription, but I’d never heard of such a thing. Thanks!

  2. I like lots of cuddles with my family – my one year old and my husband make my heart happy (especially right now when I am dozing in a sunspot and they are romping up and down the house together).

  3. I stopped doing New Year’s resolutions years ago. I go thru period “I’m going to eat better and excercise more” phases that last only as long as my husband cooperates with the eating better. Since he cooks as often as I do if not more often, we both have to be on board with eating more veggies and less of the not so healthy stuff. I do read, drink tea – both hot and iced,indulge in chocolate, and drink red wine. Most days I get in at least 4,000 steps – usually more – but I do fall short of those 10,000 steps.

    The other thing that I do for my mental and physical health is cuddle with my dog and cats – lowers blood pressure and stress. I am also lucky enough to be able to interact with dogs and cats at work. Having a cat adoption room a definite upside to my job. We found furever homes for 115 kitties in 2017!! I’m off to spend the day hiking with my hubby while our daughter voluteers as a park guide.

    • I love the new “cat cafes” springing up in many cities. The kitties can shop for a person, the people get the benefit of good feline company. There are times in life when we can’t have a pets, but that doesn’t mean we should be without animal friends.
      And hiking in nature… always a great move.

  4. I am walking at lunch (when it’s not snowing). I realize the benefits after we’ve walked around the ice patches and slush! It’s great to get outside and in the fresh air. I am cold when I get back to my desk but the change of scenery is well worth it!

    Am back to dog class and am (re) learning how to train a very smart corgi puppy. Have viewed some great videos online and dug up a few training books for ideas. Sharing ideas and seeing my friends is all positive.

    Am reading a lot now that the weather is cold. I couldn’t make it to work on Thursday and read a book– it was fun to visit some familar characters and meet some new ones.

    Thinking towards the Spring…flowers, new sneakers and sunny days!

    • Dare we add retail therapy to the list of things we’re already doing right? I believe we do so dare. I’m taking riding lessons again, and to have a student mind at some point every week, when I have to hush up and listen to somebody who knows the whole business better than I ever will… that’s healthy for me.

  5. I quit making resolutions years ago. They actually stressed me out when I wasn’t on track. But I do love and drink black tea. But also I drink 2 cups of coffee when I wake. I read constantly. Love flowers around me so I buy small bouquets when I get the chance. The walking is a problem for me due to my back but I move around as much as possible. I prefer milk chocolate but only eat it when I crave it. 🙂 Have a good day !

    • The interesting thing about the walking study is that the researchers gave people FIVE YEARS to work up to 50,000 steps a week. Makes me wonder if the benefit was entirely from the physical activity, or was there benefit just from spending five years with a constant focus on one aspect of physical health? Did the high-steppers also gradually improve diet? Did they sleep better? Would stretching every day (the most neglected part of adult fitness) have yielded similar results?

      I can’t do 10,000 steps a day for five straight days, week after week. My hips and back won’t tolerate it, so I aim for reasonable measures and reasonable rest.

  6. I write a weekly blog for my professional society (ChoralNet–my column is on Thursdays)and this past Thursday, I shared what I decided to do this year instead of resolutions–the Trying Method. I will TRY and make small, doable changes in my life such as try something new, try to be truthful, try to be genuine and try to say something nice.

    My rationale is…small, subtle changes can have a big impact if they *stick*. Trying a new brand of coffee(I am pretty stuck in my ways for tea not gonna fiddle with what works LOL!)has worked well but the new hairstyle is GONE ’cause I hated it. Filing my music in a new way has helped tremendously already!

    We all try new things but if we consciously try something new or try to be genuine (my profession can be notoriously fake) or say something nice for no other reason other than it’s nice being nice, and we are successful, those small changes help us be better.

    I am working on my attitude, frame of mind and my personhood this year. I complimented a woman (a stranger) in the grocery store this week on her adorable (and WARM looking–it’s darn cold here in Chicago)hat and we had a lovely conversation. She picked it up in Paris this fall and it turns out we have many friends in common. I made a new friend all because I said something nice to someone with no expectation of payback for me!

    I pick up flowers in the grocery store too. Not every week but weeks when I need a pick-me-up. Always helps during those challenging times. My kids got me books and bags of chocolate for Christmas this year–my boys know me and it pleased me to no end.

    Happy New Year, Grace, and many more!

    • The benefits of changing up the routine are well documented. It’s one characteristic of people who consider themselves “lucky.” They don’t always order the same thing, don’t always take the same route home, don’t always sit the same place in church.
      One thing I adore about the indie writing community is that emphasis on the experimental mindset. You try one kind of cover, if it doesn’t work, try something else. You try publishing three books a month apart, if that doesn’t work, then how about the next three spaced three months apart? It’s very much a workshop mentality, with the only failure being that you stop trying. I like that, and it’s so different from the usual mentality: Do what we’ve been doing for decades, because it sometimes seems to work for some authors.

  7. I am glad that the year is the length it is because I start the new year off with good intentions and good plans.Watch my weight eat plenty of veg and fruit exercise even walk out in cold blustery weather.Soon as the spring arrives I’m out in the garden preparing the soil for the new plants and maintaining the garden through out the summer heat also looking after my two youngest grand children in the school holidays.Up to this point I am busy and keeping quite fit I also manage to squeeze in several small holidays.By the time September comes and the kids are back at school and friends dogs don’t need looking after when they go away for a few days that is when my weight watching goes to pot my regime of good exercise suffers ,from September to early November I go on various holidays around the U.K and enjoy the food and drink to much sometimes.Then it’s December and Christmas no chance of regaining some form of fitness now.So here I am in the new year starting again letting the year stretch out before me and using it to keep me reasonably fit most of the time But we are in the world of living and that can change,the key for me though is not to worry to much keep positive and have direction and faith and continue to read.Happy New Year to you all.

    • Interesting that you’ve picked up on an annual rhythm like that. I haven’t seen the same cycle in myself, but I haven’t looked for it. All know at this point is I get more writing done when the days are shorter, and Maryland summers are hard on me. The heat bothers me, but more than anything, the bugs drive me nuts.

      I’ll have to read through a year of my journals to see if I can spot any sort of rhythm about activities other than writing. Good decisions are based on good information…

  8. I distrust many of the studies touting the health benefits of chocolate, tea, coffee, etc; so many of them are now being unveiled as being industry funded, unfortunately. Because I sure would love to believe in the health benefits of daily dark chocolate and red wine!
    Enjoy the things you love in moderation is my motto. Outdoors,reading, pets, chocolate, wine, friends. These things make me happy.

    • The difficulty I see with most of the chocolate studies is that, yes, VERY dark chocolate has benefits, BUT that very dark chocolate is usually consumed in concert with sugar, which most nutritionists consider little better than rat poison. Same with the wine studies. Yay! Wine is good for you! Chin-Chin! BUT it’s one glass of wine a day, no more.
      The devil’s in the details, and I’m still waiting for the study that debunks the benefits of vegetables. Probably be waiting for a long time.

  9. My resolution this year is to try to get more than 5 or 6 hours of sleep a night to boost my immunity. I work in a pharmacy as a tech so I’m being exposed to lots of germs all the time this time of year so this is especially important for me. And, yes, I take my dark chocolate seriously, too!

    • I wish you much luck with the great sleep quest, because it’s important.
      I recall telling one doc that I did fine on “about six hours” a night, sometimes less. “I’ve never needed much sleep,” says I, though I also never had any energy. EVER.
      She suggested I try something: Get up with the alarm, do the pet drill, then go back to bed and see if I could drift off for another sleep cycle.
      I thought she was silly. How can you go back to sleep when the sun’s up, the day has started, and you’ve already been racketing around downstairs for half an hour?
      I went back to bed, conked out for three hours. Oh.

  10. I am already winning the healthy eating bit, most of what I like happens to be good for me and I dislike the heavy feeling from eating many of the unhealthy comfort foods many can’t quit. So, at this point, I can’t say I’m already winning in any other category, but I will enjoy my beloved veggies. I foresee some big challenges in 2018, challenges that aren’t won- just endured, so thank you for providing a spin on looking at what is already there for a win. Since I eat many times a day, I can now look forward to winning that many times everyday!

  11. I have a cup of coffee almost every morning – when my Dad was alive, we frequently had black tea (he was born in Ireland & that’s what his parents drank). I should drink more tea – I’ll try to make it an afternoon habit – that should take 21 days right? I do like tea with honey & milk. I do love dark chocolate & got some for Christmas. I do need to walk more – but I’ll wait til this arctic cold is over & my sinus infection is cleared up. I do read a lot! Perhaps I will pick up a nice bunch of flowers at the grocery once in a while – that will certainly cheer me up.

    • I know flowers cost money, but I’m hopeless with house plants, so if I want greenery inside, it’s flowers or nothing. I figure I don’t buy streaming services, don’t go out to eat much, don’t spend on clothes if I can help it… A bouquet is cheap therapy, and brightens the place where I spend most of my waking hours. Maybe next week, I’ll give away flowers. I like that idea!

    • Now if only gym-time was like frequent flier miles, and you could bestow your extra on friends and family. Fortunately, I can read while shuffling along at my tread desk. The stuff you do–serious weights and cardio–would leave me in a heap.

  12. I’m a librarian and for several years I’ve been (unofficially) reading about – well, the effects of reading, both fiction and nonfiction and using that info to help purchase books for the system. I’m frankly fascinated by the subject (go figure). One of the things I’m doing is mindfully reading more, because I was turning into the librarian who read about books but the actual books, not so much. I just discovered your books BTW last summer, so I have a lot of books to read (and reorder . . .).

    And ditto on the exercise – every bit helps – the chocolate, and the beautiful surroundings. After a few difficult years I am finally cleaning my clutter and redecorating with “forever” furniture and colors and surrounding myself with special things.

    • I was appalled learn that we must now differentiate between “slow reading,” or reading text for its content, and “fast reading,” or reading along to click the embedded links, skim the bullet points, or get to the comments. While turning pages physically with our hands helps us recall what we’ve read, tapping and scrolling a screen have the opposite effect, and make reading a less imaginative and memorable experience.
      Once again, a reason to keep libraries well funded–as if we needed another one of those.

  13. Our adjustable bed has made a pleasant change in my GERD. Trying to figure out how to haul it along on holiday.

    There are early daffodils ready to put out in the basement. Need slightly better weather.

    I tutor and my little girls come back tomorrow!

    I also am allowed to share my every day with my very best friend. We still make each other laugh.

    • I would not have connected an adjustable bed and GERD, but I do know when I get a new mattress (a hundred years ago), my back felt better. We had a few pleasant days, but now we’re heading back into the deep freeze. Still… daffodils are mere weeks away, and that’s encouraging.

  14. Hmm… I keep a two journals at work and at home. I write about what I am feeling and also count my blessings. I have two cats, or they have me. I am blessed with some great girlfriends, I am also taking a class in Russian History this semester.

    • Journaling is such a well documented boost to mental health, and I get a kick out of going back and reading “who I was” fifteen years ago. This has been a great source of self-compassion, especially when I read about the perpetual motion years of being a single working mom.

      Russian history… I’m envious.

  15. With the new year, my boss just approved a shift in my start time from 8:00-4:30 to 8:30-5:00, and oooh what a difference that tiny half-hour has made so far!

    Previously, I was working until 5 or 6 anyway. Needless to say it was only too easy to trudge right past my rowing machine and collapse on the couch to read or “relax”. Mentally, I was constantly grappling with justifying my need to decompress and feeling totally guilty about my inertia. I’m also one of those finicky people who prefers to workout first thing in the morning yet refuses to rise even 20 minutes earlier to accomplish this.

    Now many of the excuses and bad feelings about not doing what I know will make me feel better have been removed from the equation. The shift in my work day has made it so I do not have to wake up any earlier to work in a 20-30 minute bout of physical activity, I’ve actually managed to workout at least 20 minutes every day, and adjusting my schedule so that my later hours are actually “counting” is helping me feel better about my general work-life balance. A win-win-win! And yes, I recognize how very fortunate I am to be able to flex my schedule at all!

    Naturally, reading voraciously continues to be high on my list of things that make me feel good. So while I’ve made modifications to some patterns, others I gladly continue. It’s a pleasant bonus knowing that the past-time I enjoy most in the world has such an array of health benefits!

    • Good for you, and good on your boss. Women work on average 47 minutes a day longer than their male coworkers (in the same positions), and that’s on top of women getting paid less and being passed over promotions. If employers want to reap the benefits of our conscientiousness, loyalty, and tolerance, the least they can do is flex our schedules so we can be healthier and happier (yeah, I have issues around workplace inequality).

  16. What you just wrote is the best advice I’ve heard recently. Thanks. I am going to try to do some of those things too including my coffee. Thanks Grace. I needed that encouragement this morning.

    • I’m very encouraged by my parents’ example. They both lived into their nineties in good health, but were never particularly athletic. They both smoked for 30 years, they loved rich food and booze, and they were dedicated coffee drinkers.
      But they also quit smoking when the surgeon general’s warning came out. They frequently took walks together after dinner. Mom never served dinner without putting a salad on the table.
      When it came to health and wellbeing, they did what they could, and what they enjoyed, in other words. I like that approach!

    • I hope you notice improved mood, better sleep, and all the other blessings that are supposed to come with getting up and moving. Some days I do more than others, and the approach that works best for me is to break it up: Ten minutes here, twenty minutes there, all throughout the day. Happy walking!

  17. I think the villain in The Trouble with Dukee is the perfect antagonist. His lack of morality in having no qualms about ruining Megan was despicable.

  18. My wish has always been to be a better person this year than I was the previous year, to volunteer more, to assist more, to make things easier and better. So far, so good.