You may have made some semblance of a New Year's resolution or you may not have – this is neither here nor there. The point is this: life's not worth living if you don't at least get better (in some fashion) every year. It doesn't mean you have to make more money or have more stuff or go on more dates in 2009 – you can get better in plenty of ways that other people won't be able to quantify.
Join me, won't you?
Live Forever (maybe)
Did you think you would ever get tips on how to outrun the Grim Reaper from somebody not featured in Greek mythology or Star Wars? I didn't, either.
- Fat and deadly. Look, the Body Mass Index calculation is definitely not a flawless system but generally, you will know whether or not it accurately describes you. With that in mind, consider this: a study done by the University of Alabama discovered that maintaining a BMI over 30 can shorten your life by three years.
- Let's get nuts. Researchers at Loma Linda University discovered that those who ate nuts five days a week (about two ounces per day) tended to live an additional three years or so. Who knew peanuts, almonds, pistachios, pecans, hazelnuts, and walnuts (those are the six key varieties) served more of a purpose than occupying the space between the M&Ms and pretzels in the trail mix?
- Keep it friendly. An Australian survey found that 70-somethings with large networks of friends were better equipped to live longer. An average man could add seven extra years to his life due to nothing more than friendship (like you needed another excuse to invite strangers to your tailgate party).
- Eyes on the prize. Some of the uber-geniuses at Yale found that older adults who maintained a positive perspective on the aging process lived more than seven years longer when compared to the people who believed they were inescapably doomed to get frail and ill in their golden years.
- Don't pee in the ocean. Sharks are attracted to bodily fluids so, your life will have a greater shelf life the less you provoke large, incredibly fast, and deadly carnivorous fish. Also: it's just gross (especially if there are people around you).
Consume More, Consumer
While some people absolutely need to go on some form of a diet (see also: removing items from their menu), it's far easier and enjoyable to shake your body and daily routine up by adding certain things to your list of fuels. Allow me to explain.
- Drink more water. I know I'm not breaking any news but here's the best explanation why water is #1: when researchers measured metabolic rates before and after people drank as little as 16 ounces of water, they found a rise in calorie-burning capability. 30 minutes later? Water-drinkers were using a third more calories than those who did not partake in the H2O. (Additionally, if you drink at least 40 ounces of water per day, you are 54% more impervious to deadly heart attacks – do you need any more convincing that water is important?)
- Just don't get it in your eye. Israeli scientists discovered that eating one red grapefruit per day reduces bad cholesterol (LDL) by 20%, even in men who do not respond to statin drugs. I know grapefruit can have a bit of a funky taste but hey, heart attacks won't taste very good, either.
- Put some chocolate on that. The Dutch carried out a study for 15 years and determined that men who downed as little as 4 grams of cocoa a day (the equivalent of one Hershey's Kiss) had half the risk of being killed by heart disease. Additionally, eating a little chocolate can boost verbal and visual memory, impulse control, and reaction time. Interesting idea: maybe toss a few M&Ms in the mixed nuts (mentioned above) to cover both of these bases. A little goes a long way, in terms of milk chocolate. Don't go overboard, though, as men on high-sugar diets typically experience more depression and anxiety.
- Veggie tales. Italian researchers found that eating even just 1 cup of raw vegetables per day (real veggies; like peppers, broccoli, and carrots) can add two years to your life. Two years! Even if you can't stand the taste of certain greens… that's a fair deal, I think – you win the pennant with that trade.
- Take a chance. All 9000 human tastebuds mature just as the rest of your body does, over time. Try eating something(s) that you previously didn't enjoy, it will expand your culinary horizons and – if it is something good for you – improve your diet.
Whether you're consistently pleased with your appearance or are still gunning to get past that 200-pound threshold, everyone has days when they feel like they just don't have it all together in the looks department. Tips like “wear vertical stripes rather than the horizontal ones” are old news – I've got real suggestions for you.
- Cut the crew. While I can't comment on whether or not a crew cut will help your appearance, I can absolutely confirm that there are several ways in which wearing a V-neck shirt proves far more effective than the standard crew shirt, in terms of making you appear more like Brad Pitt in Fight Club (results not typical). V-necks will help your face look less round, make you seem taller/leaner, and will not accentuate any jowls or excess chins you may worry about in front of the mirror for hours.
- Flat front or nothing. Pleated pants not only look too fancy for most situations where you only need to go a few degrees past blue jeans but they also often make you look like you're wearing a colonial dress. Excess fabric and wide vertical lines do nothing to help your midsection or legs look slim. Flat front pants will effectively hide that Freshman Fifteen or conversely accentuate the weight you lost for the summer.
- Compare contrasts. Wearing a dark shirt with light pants? You look like Danny Devito. Dark shirt + darker pants = Clint Eastwood (a.k.a., Grade-A badass). A dark belt on light pants is basically a flashing neon sign urging passers by to stare at your waist – don't do it. The less you differentiate between your two hemispheres, the more streamlined you'll appear.
- Untuck and stretch it out. As long as a shirt is flat-bottomed, keeping it untucked can hide a bit of pudge. Further, any sweater or jacket with an elastic bottom is a big mistake – those things will make even Manute Bol look overweight.
- Size matters. Wearing shirts or pants with small and subtle textures or patterns (a Houndstooth V-neck sweater, for example) will draw others' eyes away from the big picture. I've also heard tale of the tiny patterns causing hypnosis so maybe you can get some money out of the deal, too.
Maybe it's just me but there are few things in the world more difficult than making yourself wake up when there's something un-extraordinary awaiting you, that day. As such, I've traveled the globe (online), searching for a medicine man or shaman of some sort to help remedy my situation. My findings are below.
- Light it up. You should either connect some timers to your surge protector so that a few lamps turn on when your alarm goes off or turn those lights on the moment you wake up. Your body is adapted to react to the presence or absence of light and even if you're exhausted, a lot of light will trick your mind into thinking it needs to be awake.
- Stretch out. The Mayo Clinic recommends stretching after waking up, as it will exponentially improve posture and bloodflow while alleviating muscle tension. I specifically recommend doing it after brushing your teeth but before you make your morning toilet visit (trust me, on that one).
- Rock out. An Israeli study says that listening to up-tempo music after waking up (or before a workout) can raise your heart rate and rev you up. Make a good playlist and consult the “Beats Per Minute” count on each track.
- Don't skip breakfast. There are numerous health and fitness benefits to eating within 90 minutes of waking up but the most direct and obvious one is that no food in your system in the morning means your blood-sugar will be low. And low blood-sugar means low energy. No-brainer, folks. Combining tips: eat your red grapefruit for breakfast with some coffee.
- Keep 'em laughing. Watching 15 minutes of something funny can improve bloodflow to your heart by 50% and help get your motor running, according to a study done by the University of Maryland. Instead of Sportscenter (we all know you will watch that online at work, anyway), watch an episode of The Office while you eat your breakfast – you'll forget how loaded the day's agenda is and dually have something worthwhile stuck in your head, all morning.
Become a Super Genius
Some of us are born with it and some of us need a list of suggestions to keep our brain active. There are a few more little sweet tips for keeping that muscle chugging along and improving your mindedness both at work and at home.
- Run it out. A group of British researchers found that a 30-second sprint can burn off negative energy, tension, anger, and confusion for over an hour. When things are piling up, take a break and run around outside like a little kid – you'll open up your mind and maybe laugh at yourself a little bit.
- Solve it with suds. A German study showed that our brains work out problems from the day at night, while we sleep. Thus, if you get a good and full night's sleep, your brain will work longer and maybe you'll stumble upon some codes your mind cracked while showering, the next day. And if your subconscious doesn't have any great revelations… big deal, you just slept eight hours and that's good for you.
- Hit the java. If it's the middle of the day and you can't stop looking at blogs instead of doing what you need to do, a single cup of coffee will help. A study showed that a little bit of java can give you a 45-minute surge of brain power in terms of attention, concentration, and memory.
- Hit the juice. Glucose-rich juices improve mood and mental performance in stressful situations, according to Dutch research. Make sure you pick a good one, though – a lot of juices (and teas) out there do not deliver in the nutritional department the way that they should/they claim.
- Get away. After spending a few minutes on a congested city street, your brain becomes temporarily less capable of holding things in memory and struggles to control itself. I know the stimulus overload can be fun and there are certain instances where it's unavoidable but it would behoove you to make your exposure to that environment as limited as possible… y'know, if you like the idea of your brain functioning to its full capacity.
If you want to keep your year challenging, progressive, and interesting, see how many of the above suggestions you can incorporate into your life. I'm setting my personal over/under at 14.