Thursday, January 19, 2012

You, The Writer: A (non-sugary, decaf) toast to a year of health!

Doing something else: Visiting the (free) National Zoo

I’ve declared, after a gigantic farewell dinner of sorts that involved Popeye’s fried chicken and buttery biscuits, 2012 is the year of health. THE YEAR OF HEALTH. (Yes, it deserves all caps. I'm pretty riled up about this.)

I know, we all love the fresh start and the new year is always a solid excuse. Or a solid cliché since we commonly make promises in January and forget them.

Regardless of past history of swearing, really swearing to go to the gym, I’m now committed. For real. (Or at least I hope so. If I publish the announcement here, it has to be true, right? Right?)

2011 was a tough year for me and many others. It is possible that 2012 will bring upset, too. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do what we can to stay healthy – mentally, physically and creatively. All the better to live longer, face adversity better and be in a good place to write.

Writers spend a lot of time indoors and alone (which may or may not contribute to our creativity and productivity). Yes, we work, but we also worry, sulk, stare at Facebook, munch on food that we shouldn’t, and sit still indoors when we should move outside.

So, here’s my list of simple goals for my health. I’ll check back in next December to see how it went. As for writing goals, that’s a longer list of current projects, new projects, writing, revision and editing.

We know that we’re supposed to get 30 minutes or more of exercise of a day. During a busy week, I might get off my office chair and into the gym twice a week or so. Not ideal.

We’ve all heard the reasons why we should make time to exercise (for a reminder, read these seven reasons from the Mayo Clinic) and we know we feel better when we actually get into the habit of doing it. This year I promise to try to go to the gym more regularly. Every day might be a stretch, but I’ll aim for going to the gym (or walk or hike) at least four days a week. 

Get out of the house for fresh air and sunshine:
Primarily teaching online, there are days that I have no reason to leave the house. Does that sound healthy? My computer may be next to a window and I may enjoy noticing the sunshine and shadows, but I’m indoors at a window. Not outdoors.

This year, I must get outside – during daylight hours – and experience the world every single day. I simply feel better after my eyes adjust to a non-computer-screen-world and take a deep breath. I must spend some time in the sunlight everyday. Yesterday I sat outside and read for half an hour in the natural light. Sure, I had a heavy coat and gloves on since it’s so cold, but afterwards I felt rejuvenated in a way that coffee couldn’t accomplish. (For more official reasons to leave your house, see this Livestrong article.)

Fresh food:
I love to eat. And cook and write about it. And then eat the leftovers.

This year, I hope to continue to introduce more fresh vegetables, fruit, lean meat and high fiber grains into my diet. Maybe with more exercise and fresh air, I will be able to kick this coffee, high-sugar or hig-salt-snacking-while-I-grade diet for good. (Harvard School of Public Health offers clear guidelines.)

Do something else:
We spent three weeks in China over the winter holidays. It was mesmerizing. I’m still trying to digest it all.

It was also an incredibly fertile writing period for me. It took about a week, but after that, I was regularly taking notes in a notebook I carried around with me. I now have about ten fairly solid drafts of poems that I will continue to work on.

Of course, we can’t afford to travel internationally every time I need inspiration, but we can try to do something new every week or so. My husband and I might try new museum exhibits, shows, a new restaurant, walk on a new path in a National Park or even just play a different board game. The key is to break up the monotony in some way. It doesn’t need to cost anything.

What will you do to keep yourself on track in this new year? 

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