Welcome to a New Year and a New You! Improve Yourself This 2016! Make a Fresh Start This January! Top 10 Secrets to Achieving Your New Year’s Resolutions! Make Your Resolutions Your Reality!
While it is exciting to start a new year, it is also exhausting to hear the endless ways you can improve yourself, “achieve the impossible”, and lose those last ten pounds. Some of us set resolutions, some of us re-visit resolutions from years past, and other make the anti-resolution, claiming they can make resolutions at any time, and that finishing a revolution around the sun does not make one any more likely to change their lives.
So whether you are a resolution setter, a resolution re-visiter, or a resolution naysayer, we propose to make a universal resolution we can all keep and will help to further all those goals you made, or promised to make, or said you will make at some other arbitrary point this year.
What are we adding to the mass of articles about resolution making, keeping, and completing? Our proposal is to learn. Learn as much as you can in 2016. Learn a little something about everything, or learn everything about something.
What did we learn in 2015? Here are a couple of things we found noteworthy and will be keeping in mind for 2016:
- Your body and immune system are linked together through a complex form of communication.
For a very long time, it was thought that the brain existed almost completely outside of the reach of the immune system. The grand blood-brain barrier kept out almost everything unwanted, leading the medical community to conclude that the brain was separate, not containing immune cell laden lymph, and was even thought to contain a separate set of immune fighting mechanisms. It came as a surprise in 2015 when scientists discovered previously unknown lymphatic vessels in the meninges, therefore linking it to the peripheral immune system and the rest of the body. This opened up the possibility for linking brain diseases, like Alzheimer’s disease, and mental illnesses, like schizophrenia, to immune system issues and vice versa.
Key learning point: What happens in the body doesn’t necessarily stay in the body, and what happens in the brain, doesn’t necessarily impact just the brain. Additionally, we do not know everything there is to know about the body and the brain – we are still explorers of our own bodily systems.
- Smartphones make us not so smart.
Having a world of information at our fingertips is awesome, in the truest sense of the word. Unfortunately, it is not awesome for our working memory, on which it has a negative impact as we are less likely to figuratively flex our brains to remember a fact than we are to Google it. Instant information gratification has a price, and the cost is not forming long term memories. This may be because we are too distracted by other smartphone stimuli so we are not actively thinking about it and forming a memory to connect other items to it later. Or it may be due to the fact that we know we have access to the information at any time, so our lazy brains are not taking the effort to commit it to memory.
Regardless of the cause, the root of the issue is our casual multi-tasking with a variety of electronic media. We still have the capacity to remember, we just need to remember to remember. While you may not need to commit to memory the lightsaber color that each Jedi Knight used, you should probably commit to memory that important conversation about end-of-life planning you had with your mother last week.
Key learning point: put down the phone if you are doing other tasks, such as having a conversation, driving, making important life decisions, etc. And if you want to remember something, mull it over and analyze it for easy brain access at a later time.
- Mental health is impacted positively by spending time in nature and some psychedelics and certain bacteria and getting good sleep and…
Pretty much the list is endless. Mental health is a spectrum, just like the health of the body. Like we discussed above, mental health and physical health go hand in hand. And just like physical health, no one is perfect, so we all deal with different mental health issues daily in a variety of efficient and inefficient manners. A large amount of research in 2015 demonstrated a number of ways to improve our mental health through the manipulation of internal and external factors. Many studies focused on the positive impact of nature on mental health, from everything from depression to obsessive thinking to treatment of addiction. As a society who has moved ever more indoors, it is important to note that something as short as a 50 minute walk a couple of times a week *outside* can help improve affect, feelings of self control, and memory (just stay off your phone while you are on your walk).
Other noteworthy research (from multiple studies) demonstrated that sleep deprivation results in increased cortisol levels, which raises stress and can compound issues such as depression and anxiety. Lack of sleep makes you grumpy, which not only results in inappropriate emotional responses to the world around you, but these negative responses also decrease your overall emotional intelligence.
Key learning point: Quality sleep means less stress and an improved ability to learn.
The one caveat to learning is that, in fact, you must actually read whatever it is that you are learning about. As we learned from the Great Bacon Scare of 2015, massive amounts of people posted an article on social networking sites, but few actually read beyond the headline, and still fewer read and processed the information beyond Bacon Is Bad. Don’t be a headline hoarder – read the articles and analyze the information. Does this make sense to me? How can I apply this to my life?
Key learning point: first step – read, second step – learn.
In closing, learn what makes you make and keep your resolutions. Learn what breaks your resolutions. Or just keep your resolutions out of it and simply learn. Make 2016 the start of your lifelong education in, well, life. Your 2017 New Year’s resolution will thank you for it.