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6 Fun and Easy-to-Keep New Year’s Resolutions

By Gay Falkowski
Making resolutions for the New Year is as traditional as making a champagne toast at midnight — but usually a lot less fun. Typically, we vow to lose weight, exercise more, quit a bad habit, get organized, etc. If you’ve got MS, certain resolutions can be especially challenging. Motivation can collapse when symptoms flare. So, for the start of 2015, why not include New Year resolutions that are fun and easy to keep as well as good for you?
1) Laugh moreLaughing delivers a powerful punch of physical and psychological benefits. No joke! According to researchers, laughing 100 times a day is equivalent to 10 minutes on a rowing machine or 15 minutes on the stationary bicycle. So watch your favorite funny movies, visit a comedy club, buy a joke book—do whatever tickles your fancy. For something different, try laughter yoga, which combines laughter with yogic breathing exercises. A session begins with simulated laughter, which soon turns into real laughter. Through laughter yoga you don’t need to rely on comedy, jokes, or sense of humor to reap the benefits of laughter. It is based on the theory that our bodies can’t differentiate between real and fake laughter; just performing the physical act of laughing is enough to send our healing hormones into maximum overdrive.
2) Eat more mindfully – For New Year dieters, this strategy might be easier than counting calories. An article from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston explains that when our mind is tuned out during mealtime, the digestive process may be 30 to 40 percent less effective. This can contribute to digestive distress, such as gas, bloating, and bowel irregularities. Also, if the mind is "multitasking" during eating, the brain may not receive critical signals that regulate food intake. If the brain does not receive certain messages that occur during eating, such as sensation of taste and satisfaction, it may fail to register the event as "eating." This scenario can lead to the brain's continuing to send out additional signals of hunger, increasing the risk of overeating. Turn off the television or computer. Eat sitting down. Put the proper portions of food on your plate and try to make the meal last at least 20 minutes. Savor your food.
3) Listen to music more – Some of the most difficult issues to handle for people with MS are emotional ups and downs, including feelings of depression and anxiety. Emotions that arise when listening to music can help individuals cope with past or present feelings and also help conquer fears. If music therapy is done in a group, it can help establish a closer connection with others, especially since music activates areas of the brain that process social signals, language, and emotions. Music therapy is an effective tool for stress management, too. Music can relax the mind and body and can even trigger physical reflexes such as digestion, bladder control, and movement of the limbs. Mood may be enhanced by a particularly calming piece of music, and as a result, some people experience less discomfort or pain. Turn up the tunes and tune out MS!
4) Dance more – As long as the music’s on, add a few dance moves for extra benefit. Dancing improves brain function on a variety of levels, according to an article in Psychology Today. Dancing that requires you to remember dance steps and sequences boosts brainpower by improving memory skills. If you're afraid you have two left feet or are short on time, you can do your own thing just by turning on some music and dancing around the house. Or turn a night on the town into a dance party by finding a hot spot with a good dance band. You also can "sweat to the oldies" or sashay around your living room with dance videos that you can buy or rent from your local library or video store. Chair dancing is just as effective, too!
5) Hug more – When we embrace someone, oxytocin (also known as "the cuddle hormone") is released, making us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The chemical has also been linked to social bonding. Oxytocin is a neuropeptide, which promotes feelings of devotion, trust, and bonding. It lays the biological foundation and structure for connecting to other people. When someone touches you, the sensation on your skin activates pressure receptors called Pacinian corpuscles, which then send signals to the vagus nerve, an area of the brain that is responsible for lowering blood pressure.
6) Go outside more – Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings, recent research has shown. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. Furthermore, time in nature or viewing nature scenes may increase our ability to pay attention. Because humans find nature inherently interesting, we naturally focus on what we are experiencing out in nature. This also provides a respite for our overactive minds, refreshing us for new tasks.