Around this time of year, you get hit over the head with the usual New Year’s resolutions: lose weight, exercise more, and so on. Those are healthy, admirable goals, but below are a few fun alternative resolutions you might not expect.
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1. Eat more chocolate
Research touts the health benefits of chocolate, including everything from increasing the blood flow in your brain to decreasing the impact of heart disease. In some cases, chocolate even has an antidepressant effect. Eat in moderation, though, to avoid extra calories. One study found benefits from 6.7 grams of chocolate per day, or roughly a small square of chocolate two or three times a week.
2. Dance, dance, dance
You can do this exercise anywhere: in a ballroom, in a class or in the comfort of your own home. Dancing burns calories, reduces stress, improves strength and flexibility, and can improve relationships. So whether you’re grabbing a partner or dancing with yourself, shake a leg — along with the rest of your body.
3. Do something uncomfortable
Stimulate your brain by moving out of your comfort zone and trying something new. Learn phrases in a foreign language, attempt a challenging puzzle, take a new route for your daily commute or take a class in something new that interests you. Your brain needs exercise, too.
4. Take a mental break
We all take sick days when physical illness strikes, but unchecked stress and depression also can have negative effects on your health, including heart disease and anxiety. Use a vacation or personal day when you really need it and do something you find relaxing. Even if you can’t take a full day off, a five-minute break for focused breathing or yoga can work wonders and keep you focused.
5. Drink coffee
Research has shown that about three cups of coffee each day may reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Caffeine appears to have a beneficial effect on neurotransmitters. As with chocolate, though, keep your intake moderate. Coffee is a stimulant, so too much coffee late in the day might disrupt your sleep, in addition to triggering acid reflux in some people.
6. Go shoe shopping
Feet take a beating, particularly in women’s shoes designed for fashion rather than comfort. Replace those high heels with shoes in which your feet can feel happy. Choose shoes that fit your feet, rather than forcing your feet to fit the shoes. Look for a heel no higher than 2 1/4 inches, and choose square-toed shoes over pointy-toed shoes. To be sure of a good fit, try shoes on at the end of the day, when your feet are at their largest.
7. Have a laugh
Research is not definitive on whether laughter is the best medicine, but studies have shown laughter’s positive effects on blood flow and sleep, among other things. Whether these health results come from a more positive outlook in general or from the act of laughing itself is debatable, but a little more humor in your life can’t hurt.