Thrifty, Healthy Habits for a New Year

Before I start this post I want to say hello. Hello, readers! How are you? It’s only been a couple weeks since I posted an update but it feels like a lifetime. While it’s nice to post the year end Best Of series and get a bit of break, I apparently spent that entire break thinking about things to write about on my blog. I am literally incapable of not thinking about blogging, which is telling considering I already have a few other mental disorders. I can just add this one to the list!

We certainly didn’t have the best Christmas on record, but Isobel had a blast, and in the end, that’s what matters. Half of our family couldn’t make it to our Christmas Day celebration and we ended up with so many left overs we had Christmas dinner again on the 26th with the family that was able to make it. After finishing our second round of dinner Isobel turned to me and said, “I’m ready for presents!” Sorry, kid! We only get to do those once.

You may remember that we don’t do Santa over here. We still have presents for her under the tree Christmas morning, and we still talk about the myth of Santa but we make sure to tell her he is a story, a make believe game that we play. During our Swedish smorgasbord celebration my uncle convinced a neighbor’s kid, home from college, to dress up as Santa and deliver a small chocolate treat to Victoria, Sam, and Isobel. Sam and Victoria loved it, but as soon as Isobel saw Santa she dropped into her bomb-defense position and it was only from the safety of of my arms would she have anything to do with the jolly stranger in the living room. This is totally fine for me because 364 days out of the year we want our children to avoid cozying up to random old men anyway.

We are still in the infancy of the new year and many of us have made resolutions to live happier, healthier lives. I want to share some thrifty tips that will help you save money, increase your happiness, and even make you healthier. In short, this is a nag post. I’m nagging you in the spirit of concern for your well-being, but also for selfish reasons. I’m writing this post because it’s exactly the sort of thing I need to hear, the pick-me-up that’s needed from time to time to help me stay on track.

Practically all of these tips are health-related but they are still firmly and correctly placed under the umbrella of thrifty living, because as a sick person I can confidently state that being ill is expensive. Really, really expensive. First of all, you have to spend your hard-earned cash on going to the doctor. Hopefully they find out what’s wrong with you on the first try at the first place you go, otherwise you’ll be drowning in co-pays going from doctor to doctor to get the correct diagnosis. Secondly, every time you are sick you run the risk of missing work. Before I was diagnosed with Crohn’s (which took me six or seven visits to various doctors before we got that figured out), I only missed two days of work a year. Every year after that I not only blew through my sick time but I always went over by a few days. Thirdly, getting sick usually involves expensive medical tests to confirm your illness and often requires prescriptions to heal. It’s really so much less expensive not to get sick in the first place. And, also, I should mention, being sick is balls.

Many illnesses (such as mine) are unfortunately unavoidable, but there are some very small things we can all do on a regular basis to prevent disease and encourage the best health possible.

1. Floss Daily. What a pain in the ass. I used to hate flossing with a passion usually reserved for my feelings about gum. I abhor flavored dental floss and can barely remember to brush my teeth and remove my bra before bed. I couldn’t be expected to floss, too. WHO DO YOU THINK I AM, DENTAL HYGIENISTS EVERYWHERE? MOTHER THERESA? All of this changed when I had a conversation with my hygienist about periodontal disease.  Evidence exists that links gum and dental health to heart disease and other problems, so taking scrupulous care of your teeth can possibly help prevent very serious health issues. Again, I am not Wonder Woman, and asking me to floss before bed is too much for me to handle. But I can and do floss every morning. I was further encouraged to floss when I discovered that it is very easy to find plain, non-flavored floss when you buy those tooth-picky things. So, floss. Avoid future dentist visits and possibly also not die in the process. QED.

2. Exercise.  Here it comes. I just had to mention exercise didn’t ? What an ass. And indeed, that’s what they’ll be saying about you, if you exercise. I have written about my devotion to the elliptical here, here, and here. I am not in any way an athletic person, nor do I particularly enjoy moving around or breaking a sweat. I spent years going to the gym with Anthony and absolutely despising it. It wasn’t until I discovered the astounding mental health benefits exercise offers that I clung to exercise like it was a life raft in the middle of the sea. In this case the sea was my turbulent mind and exercise helped me return to calmer waters. Exercise is a panacea that’s good for just about everything. As animals, we need exercise, and often we must go out of the way for it. I literally started working out with five minutes a day. Five minutes. I worked my way up from there. Exercise prevents prevents a wide array of disease, both mental and physical. It boosts energy, increases the efficiency of our sleep, and makes us look good in yoga pants.

3. Get Enough Sleep. Getting enough sleep will make you a better person. (If you don’t believe me, I offer myself, during the time Isobel was an infant, as proof.) Getting enough sleep not only improves your mood but it improves your memory, your creativity, your attention span and focus. We can maximize these vital traits for free by assessing how much sleep we need personally and turning off the lights, and our phones, at the right time every night so our minds and bodies can recharge.

4. Eat Healthy Food. What we eat has such a huge impact on our health, well-being, and mood. Entire books have been written on the subject (here is my favorite) and I’m not going to try to convince you of something you already know. What I can offer, however, is some advice on meal planning, because if there’s one thing that helps me stay on track when I’m trying to eat healthily is a plan. I need to not have to think about it, because if I feel like I’m unprepared I’ll make very poor choices, nutritionally. Meal planning also helps me avoid waste (what Anthony calls Lucky Broccoli Syndrome – “You always buy it and never eat it. I must assume you get it because you think it’s lucky.”). Planning ahead can also save you a ton money by making most of sales and avoiding eating out. Win-win-win.

5. Take a multivitamin every day. It doesn’t in any way make up for eating healthily or binging on junk, but those trace vitamins and minerals can make all the difference. Extra iron can ward off anemia, more calcium is good for the bones, and a boost of vitamin C can help ward off colds.  In addition to a multivitamin, I have also been taking folic acid since 2008 because it helps prevent neural tube defects in infants. It’s important to take it well in advance of conception, if possible, because it needs time to build up in your system. Anthony takes a glucosamine supplement for his shoulder and he really notices a difference. It’s cheaper than aspirin and healthier to take on a regular basis.

6. Make Routine Doctor Appointments.  It’s the beginning of a new year and now is the perfect time to go down the list and make appointments with your dentist, your eye doctor, your OBGYN, and whatever doctor you need to see for a routine health check up. I’m not suggesting you make all of these appointments at once (though when I was librarian I tried to schedule all my appointments during spring break so I wouldn’t have to take time off work for them). You might not need to see your eye doctor until August, but you can schedule all these appointments for later in the year now so you don’t have to rush to get them in before you miss an insurance deadline. If you take care of this chore once a year you can be sure to take time off work, schedule other events around them, and talk to your doctor about any small problems you have before they become bigger, and more expensive, ones.

7. Take Care of Your Mental Health. I’m an almost evangelical supporter of therapy. I think everyone could benefit from the services of a qualified and caring therapist. For most people, taking care of your mental health probably doesn’t necessitate meds and therapy like mine does, but there are still things you can do to boost your mental health. Namely, train yourself to think positively. Focus on the things that are working and going well and think of ways to improve areas where you struggle. I really think this trait is a learned skill and it’s something I needed to practice to get better at. Thinking positively doesn’t automatically mean shitting rainbows and sunshine out your facehole. It’s about being grateful for what you have and focusing on the things you can do to improve your situation. If nothing else, thinking positively reminds me that the feelings of depression and anxiety will end. Sometimes, that is enough.

8. Have a Plan. I still struggle with this one even though it is so basic it’s ridiculous: 1. have a calendar, and 2. use it. When I was librarian I not only rocked my daily calendar, but I had the whole year planned out. Now that I blog, I’m the same way, and I stay pretty on top of things. When it comes to a personal calendar, I falter. I’ve been getting better at it lately (Anthony and I share a google calendar) there are far too many times wherein I’m taken completely surprised by an event or a family birthday or something that I totally ended up flaking out on. This year I sat down with my calendar, went through month by month and noted birthdays, reoccurring events, and doctor appointments so I know what’s going on and how to prepare for it. The most important step to get this working, however, will be committing to checking my calendar every day as part of my morning routine.

9. Stay Hydrated by Drinking Water. Keeping our bodies supplied with enough fluids is an essential part of good health. It can be extremely difficult to ease off the soda and coffee, but its worth it. Your kidneys will thank you.

10. Listen To Music You Love. Surround yourself with good music in your car, on your head phones, during your workout. Isobel and I listen to music together as a regular part of our day, and it almost always leads to impromptu toddler dance parties, which are one of the best things about being a parent. I listen to old favorites, seek out new music, and try types of music that are out of my comfort zone. Trade music with friends, download individual songs online, or sign up for a free service like Pandora. I posted a great playlist here. Music has the power to heal and uplift and has a profound affect on mood.

These ten tips will take you far in life, my friends. Now go forth and have a happy, and thrifty, new year!

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    • Carrie Anne says

      Thank you so much, Leslie! I’m glad I don’t sound preachy. I hate it when people sound preachy. Happy New Year to your sweet family!

  1. KJ says

    I’d like you to know that I now have your positive thinking statement from #7 in my list of favorite quotes on Facebook. You are awesome!

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