Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Year! A Year's Worth of Good Behaviors.

It's so hard to believe that it's almost 2011 already.  It seems the older you get, the faster time goes by.  So, we sit and make some New Year's resolutions that often involve exercise or eating right or enjoying life more.  And, how long do we stick with them...probably till about mid-February if we're lucky.  So, how does one start healthy habits and KEEP them? General consensus says that if you can do one thing at a time and do it for a month, then the habit is more likely to stick.  So, here is a whole year's worth of monthly healthy habits you can do for yourself, your students, your family, and the outdoors:

January--Plan a Garden!
Growing your own veggies is fun and healthy.  This can be done in your own backyard or on your school grounds as part of your life science curriculum, art curriculum and family and consumer science courses.  Pouring through all the seed catalogs that come out this month is a great way to budget and plan what you'll grow the rest of the year.  And it's a great way to spend a quiet hour at home on the couch!

February--Swap For a Healthy Snack!
Small steps are the key for eating healthy.  There is a lot of discussion over which is better, local or organic, when it comes to produce.  But, either is good if you're making the choice to eat a fruit or veggie everyday instead of something from the vending machine or convenience store.  This small step could save you several hundred calories everyday, which can add up to losing a pound or two a week.  Try a cup of blueberries instead of a handful of chips, or an apple instead of a candy bar.  Your waistline will thank you at the end of the month.

March--Start the Seeds!
If you're planning a garden and want to start your plants from seed, this is the month to do it in Ohio.  Most plants take about 6 weeks to get to a height that's appropriate to transplant.  This is also a fun activity to do with your children or students.  They get a lot of satisfaction out of seeing the first little leaves poke out of the soil, and even more when they get to transplant them in May or June.

April--Get Outside for 15 Minutes Everyday!
Again, starting small will make the difference in your success.  If you're someone who doesn't like to exercise, walking in nature is the easiest and cheapest type of exercise you can do.  And, there are plenty of free parks and nature trails in Ohio to access.  Take a pair of binoculars or a camera with you, it will seem less like work and you'll get to see some birds or take some photos of some of Ohio's beautiful spring wildflowers while you're there.  And you'll be amazed what it can do for your frazzled state of mind!

May--Plant That Garden!
One of the best forms of exercise and relaxation is gardening.  It can be a peaceful yet challenging way to spend a few hours outdoors.  And, with how many forms of exercise do you actually get to eat your efforts?  And again, this is an excellent way to spend time with your children or students.  Kids love to get dirty and what better, safer place to do that than in the garden.

June--Get Outside for 45 Minutes Everyday!
With the warm weather and the kids out of school, now is when you can really take the time to get outdoors.  Take the dog, take the kids, take the Frisbee, fishing rods, bikes or GPS and Get Outdoors!!

July--Swap For a Healthy Drink!
With the hot weather, keeping an eye on what you're drinking everyday can really make a difference if you're trying to lose a few pounds.  Sodas, juices, flavored water and sports drinks are loaded with sugar and calories.  Swapping out a glass of water for even one or two bottles of these high calorie drinks can lead to shedding a couple of pounds a month.  If you just can't take water, try adding some lemon to it.  Drinking diet versions of sodas and sports drinks is better than full sugar versions, but water is the best source of hydration on a hot summer day.

August--Swap for a Healthy Meal!
It's state and county fair time and there are a lot of delicious but VERY unhealthy foods to indulge in at these events.  So, one thing to do this month is to swap out a high calorie meal for one that's more healthy.  And, with the produce in your new garden coming on right now, this will make it even easier to try new recipes that are loaded with veggies and herbs.  You can even go meatless for one day a week! And, with all the good produce available at the farmer's markets this time of year, you should have plenty of tasty alternatives to try.  Experiment with new veggies and fruits in your kitchen.  There are a lot of great resources online for trying new cooking ideas.

September--Feed the Birds!
This time of year is perfect for starting a bird feeding station in your yard or schoolyard.  No matter where you live, you'll attract some birds with even the simplest feeding station.  All it takes is one feeder that's located near a window and some cover for the birds, such as a bush or tree, and you'll enjoy the beginning of a regular cast of visitors for the coming winter months.

October--Start a New Hobby!
The days are getting shorter, the kids have settled back into their school routines and, if you're like me, this is the time of year when you're looking for something to do.  So, find a new hobby, preferably one that gets you outdoors.  Whether it's hunting, fishing, hiking, geocaching, cross country skiing, canoeing or any other activity, this is a good time to get the ball rolling on any new hobby.  Having a hobby that you enjoy is proven to reduce stress and anxiety.  So, ease your mind by getting outside with a new hobby!

November--Eat at Home at Least Twice a Week!
Eating a home cooked meal is not only satisfying, but it's typically healthier than any take-out, fast food, or restaurant meal you can buy.  You can control the portion size, the amount of salt and fat, and you get to spend some time with your family knowing you're giving them a good meal.

December--Find an Environmental or Conservation Group to Join and/or Support!
One of the best indications of a person's support of the environment is their willingness to put up or shut up, so to speak.  If a person is willing to spend their time and money on a cause, that is a true mark of support.  So, if you're willing to give of your time, energy, expertise and funds, December is an excellent time to join any organization.  Many groups are looking for support this time of year to raise awareness of social and environmental issues.  And, an end of the year donation to a charitable or non-profit organization can be a tax benefit in the following year.  So check out the websites of your favorite organizations and see how you can help their cause, and make it your cause too!

I hope this list gives you lots of ideas and challenges you to make some healthy and positive changes in your life.  I know I'll be doing a few of these myself.  I hope you all have a safe and Happy New Year!