Too often, half-hearted New Year's resolutions take the place of substantive, meaningful changes. Personal renewal isn't a quick fix but a long road with many steps. Here are 10 ideas for how to craft a better life in 2008:
Cut the Sugar: Many recovering alcoholics and addicts turn to sweets during recovery. Alcohol converts to glucose when it reaches the bloodstream. Carbs do that, too. The Atkins or South Beach diets might not be the answer, but they raise a lot of good points. The American high-sugar, high-carb diet is a kind of addiction that makes us fat and lethargic. It's not something you can quit, but you can reduce your intake to something that's saner than the corn syrup standard.
Get the Lead Out: Lead is everywhere. Lead dust from failing paint gets into our bodies and lowers intelligence, causes organ failure and wreaks havoc, especially in children. The Center for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov/lead) offers the basics on how to avoid and mitigate lead contamination. They also offer information on contaminated toys, makeup products and even baby cribs. The CDC site provides information on product recalls and an easy, visual guide to spotting contaminated toys and children's products.
Exercise Every Day: You eat every day. You sleep every day. Likewise, your body needs basic movement every day. Never mind that an early morning walk, hike, bicycle ride or swim adds years to your life -- what's more important is that it improves your life right now. Daily exercise keeps you alert and improves your work, recreation time and even your sex life.
De-Consumerize Your Life: There is little that drains our spirits and bank accounts faster than recreational shopping.
Buy what you need and then stop. You'll be richer in pocket and spirit than you can imagine. The Simple Dollar (www.thesimpledollar.com) offers practical, daily advice on how to spend to live rather than the reverse.
Get Your Rest: You probably know that there's a link between heart disease and getting too little sleep. It turns out that getting too much rest is linked to many other health problems. Sleep apnea, insomnia and a variety of other sleep disorders are too often ignored. Just right is the goal, Goldilocks. Learn how from the National Sleep Foundation (www.sleepfoundation.org).
Participate in a Community: Being part of something that's bigger than yourself is key to leading a healthy life. That's why married people live longer and why support groups are groups and not solo journeys. Clubs, self-help organizations and opportunities to get involved with others are found all over Greater Cincinnati. Whether you're a Buddhist who hasn't meditated in group for some time or just a single person looking for companionship, rooting yourself in a community is key to your path and health. Check out CityBeat's volunteer opportunities and groups listings online for ways to get involved with others. And if you're still looking for your other, remember that you don't find hats in a shoe store (well, not good ones).
Shorten the Food Chain: Eating locally is often healthier and better for the environment. Food from the grocery stores comes from all over the world. Food from local farms comes from people you can actually meet. That's a level of trust and accountability you can't get from an industrial farm in another country. Findlay Market (www.findlaymarket.org) in Over-the-Rhine is a great place to start. Grailville's community farm in Loveland (www.grailville.org) offers a way to get personally involved in harvesting your food.
Live Your Dreams: Or at least start listening to them. Lucid dreaming is a process of awakening within your dreams and actively participating in the story that's playing in your head. Philosophically deep but easy-to-understand books like Women Who Run With the Wolves (which isn't just for women) can help you understand your deep, interior life through dream interpretation and Jungian psychology.
Practice What You Preach: Offering others advice is a great way of avoiding our own problems. If you find yourself advising friends on ways they can improve their relationships or health, maybe you should listen to what you're saying. We often seek out people with problems similar to our own and attempt to help them in ways that we ourselves need help.
Retreat: Even taking 10 minutes in the middle of a workday to close your eyes and have quiet time by yourself can be healing. Retreats can and should be longer, too. This can mean time with god as you understand him, her or it or just time to reflect on your life and how you can improve. Daily prayer and meditation are small ways to incorporate retreats into your daily schedule. Check out Retreat Finder (www.retreatfinder.com) for ideas on places you can go to get away from the world for a while.
CONTACT STEPHEN CARTER-NOVOTNI: firstname.lastname@example.org