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New Year’s resolutions: Some thoughts for 2013

January 5, 2013
By C. Paul Martin, M.D. , Marshall Independent

Undoubtedly, the "mantra" for the American public in 2013 is "hope:" hope for governmental and financial stability, hope for improved employment, peace and safety, and hope for a better environment for us, especially our children. As we begin the year, we have a new calendar, perhaps some new clothes or holiday gifts, and soon we shall have new governmental leaders. Sadly, we as a country also have had recent negative changes in employment, housing, income, savings and retirement accounts, and, for some, worsening health and living conditions.

Even more concerning has been the significant loss of trust in some of our financial institutions, government, religious institutions, and the political leadership scene in general. In addition, the whole picture of changes in health care logistics looms on the horizon.

However, just as our cultural heritage guides us seasonally in this holiday time of peace, reflection, and deeper thoughts, or at least attempts to do so, we are then faced just a week later with our societal recommendations for attempts to form positive personal changes at the turn of the calendar in the form of New Year's resolutions! Usually we feel we are too busy to give proper thought and action to personal changes, but perhaps it would be an especially good endeavor this year, especially as the media presently surrounds us with a negative cast to life's events!

Many of our lives are filled with thoughts of tedium and boredom, and we find change is difficult and uncomfortable. Yet who doesn't find a change of routine, trying a new recipe, (usually for desserts), or meeting someone new to be beneficial? We all feel a sense of accomplishment when we do something positive such as visiting or helping a friend or completing a difficult task. We all have occasions in our lives that could benefit by positive and directed change - but how do we do it - and should we try? New social, avocational and religious interactions may be worth a try.

Experience is a valuable asset and a great teacher, but, as such, experience can cause us to have increased anxiety and discomfort. In a specific set of circumstances, we know what to expect and what can happen, and often we fear and anticipate the worst instead of the remembering the "odds," and that "common things and happenings are common" and usually occur in similar ways.

A psychologist friend once taught me a valuable tenet when he reminded me not to ascribe negative thoughts to common situations, e.g. "A phone call from my son's teacher may reflect her concern and praise, not her criticism" We all need to think and act in a POSITIVE way! A resolution to learn to EXPECT positive results, even in difficult situations, is indicated for many of us.

Take and a of accomplishment in the good things that have happened in your life. Unfortunately, our lives are often like the nightly news: it seems only the negative aspects of the day's events are discussed and emphasized. Everyone can point to benefits resulting from his or her efforts - parents, children, workplace, church, and social groups. Take time to pat yourself on the back and congratulate others frequently! Think positively!

Developing a stronger image will cause us to be happier and perhaps better people. Habits play a major role in our image, both inwardly and outwardly, so modification of our habits (resolutions) is another positive force to happiness. However, we need to have reasonable goals so we have a good chance for success. If only we could accomplish what we want to do easily! We all can benefit from a discussion of our realistic goals with our family and friends! Take the opportunity to accomplish one goal at a time.

I remember with keen interest the wisdom of Independent news editor Per Peterson in his column some years ago. His resolutions to "smile more," "help around the house," and "slow down to enjoy the little things more" (the thoughts of daughter Olivia, no doubt) are good thoughts and better actions.

However, I felt his admonition to "listen more" was an excellent ideaand to listen better, reduce the noise in your life, e.g., the radio, television, videos, games, the computer, the phones, and "chit-chat," (for those of you who remember such a term). Remember how enjoyable reading for pleasure and knowledge can be.

Another excellent resolution for 2013 was voiced by USA Weekend medical reporter Dr. Tedd Mitchell in a column a few years ago. He tells all of us to find (and use) a primary care physician or clinic to facilitate our health care - the "Medical Home" you have heard debated, seen discussed in this column, and now being encouraged by the government as part of the Affordable Care Act. However, this resolution can present a challenge, one we shall be the subject of much discussion in the next few years.

Best wishes for a happy and joyful New Year of cautious optimism in 2013!



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