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Friday January 21, 2022

Making it in 2022

January 11, 2022

Evidence shows that New Year’s resolutions generally don’t produce the intended results for a majority of people. Studies show that most people give up on their resolutions in a few weeks. There is more pessimistic evidence of some people wavering on their commitment in just days. Common sense tells us the harsher a new year’s resolution, the less chance of it surviving past a few weeks.

Last week, I had a long discussion with a friend, a renowned psychologist, on making sense of New Year’s resolutions. We had an interesting conversation and penned down several thoughts focused on micro-interventions in our life, zeroing in on being more objective in these interventions rather than vague pledges.

We concluded that a little progress every day adds up to big results. In the long run, changes in our habits work for a changed lifestyle. Our assessment led us to identify some small changes which could make a large difference. Going by the basic needs of humans, our thoughts converged around the goals of being mentally smart, physically healthy, more active, calmer in our sleep, more spiritual, and happier.

Good health and happiness are the essence of life – a fact we must remember, and we should devote a few minutes to our body every day. Walk to work, run errands or hit a jogging track. Ensuring a brisk walk raises the heartbeat, making the heart stronger. It is tough to follow a regimented gym routine for many of us. However, for those of us who can muster the strength, research points to the morning as the best time for a ‘sweaty’ workout. It predisposes us to burn fat and helps kick-start our body clock.

The phrase ‘we are what we eat’ is true. However, ‘when’ we eat is equally important. There is an old saying: “breakfast like a king; lunch like a prince; dinner like a pauper”. In today’s modern world, this means either reading on good dietary habits or referring to a nutritionist for advice on the available options.

It is sometimes criminal negligence to forget the importance of adequate daily water intake. Studies show that in the US alone, around 75 percent of adults are dehydrated. Drinking water is almost like a switch for being active and having a healthy body temperature. If there is one new habit we should adopt in 2022, it should be to keep our bodies hydrated.

During my days in Australia, I observed an interesting routine: every evening, the then prime minister of Australia instilled the value of eating five vegetables and three fruit and the benefits of a few kilometres of a daily walk to Australians on prime time television. It was a civic value well taught. A diet containing portions of green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, broccoli, alfalfa and parsley is an essential element of a change in lifestyle.

Changing our lifestyles from sedentary to being active is the most ideal thing we can do to improve the quality of our life. The reason I am convinced that this change matters is the guidance from a cardiologist father who told his patients that “heart disease is largely a disease of a sedentary lifestyle”. To beat a sedentary lifestyle, move every now and then in the room or step outside the office. Walk up the stairs. Yoga and Pilates may sound like new-age nonsense, but muscle relaxation and flexibility mitigate a wide range of physical and mental conditions.

Social media platforms have become the colosseum of the 21st century, and they can be toxic sometimes. It is important to ‘detox’. This can be achieved through family time, TV time or sports time and overnight. Instead, utilise time on making human connections – call those loved ones who live far away. Meaningful relationships have the most effect on improving emotional, mental and physical wellbeing - each day is a good way to strengthen these deep bonds and get a boost of happy hormones.

Write a note of appreciation to friends and acquaintances. Pledge to an act of kindness routinely. Give charity or help at a local centre for the vulnerable. All such actions increase our levels of happiness. Last, laughter is still the best medicine. It may sound too practical, but it is best to set a reminder to have a good laugh with a friend.

My psychologist friend explained something interesting. Deep breathing makes us calm. Relaxation is a skill to be acquired in today’s world full of frenzy. We must find ways that suit us for a deep sleep experience: clear our head before bed by listing things down on a piece of paper; use an aroma that helps soothe the nerves; read a book; or just work out. The key is to do whatever suits us. However, people should make sure that they are able to enjoy deep sleep.

Leadership still provides an overarching framework, which sets the national narrative on civic sense. Running national campaigns is one way of inculcating civic values. In 2005, when I was in Australia, the national Go for 2&5 campaign was launched to provide families with reliable, practical and consumer-friendly information on the importance of healthy eating and physical activity to maintain a healthier lifestyle.

The evaluation report of the campaign showed that it had been successful in generating awareness, among both parents and children – aged between nine and 12. It increased knowledge – particularly in the area of the recommended consumption level of vegetables and proved fruitful in generating a behavioural change on a national level in the long term. These are the real narratives of a healthy generation. For Pakistan, this must be the panacea narrative everyone seems to be scrambling for.

The writer is former adviser, Ministry of Finance. He tweets @KhaqanNajeeb and can be reached at: khaqanhnajeeb@gmail.com

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