At the same time, we’re sliding into our third year of battling a novel coronavirus that continues to keep the world in pandemic mode.
In other words, resolutions that will pandemic-proof us as much as possible.
With that in mind, I have put together a short list of simple and universal resolutions to consider including among yours. I know I’ll be following the list.
Resolution short list
Pandemic-proof your body
Besides the vaccine, there are other important ways to pandemic-proof your body. We often are motivated to stay healthy through fear of future disease: Eat right to stave off cancer or dementia in old age, exercise to avoid cardiovascular disease later on. The pandemic has taught us that being healthy could be very protective against serious disease right now, not only in the decades to come. Getting yourself in the best shape possible, within what is reasonable, prepares you to better fight off the virus should you get infected.
Not surprisingly, losing weight is a popular New Year’s resolution. I won’t lie, it’s a very challenging goal that many people struggle with, and it isn’t often accomplished quickly.
So, this coming year, perhaps a different mindset will help. Instead of dieting to lose weight, resolve to eat right to boost your immune system. What does that mean? Scientists have learned that about 80% of your immunity lies with your gut microbiome — the trillions of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other organisms that reside inside your intestines and play a key role in digestion, nutrition and immunity (among other vital activities.) Food is one of the clearest and quickest messages you send your body on a daily basis, a signal to those trillions of micro-organisms that stand at the ready.
To put it simply, what you eat for breakfast can affect your immunity by dinnertime. And, the healthiest microbiomes are the most diverse. That means you should be eating a wide variety of foods as well; the colors of the rainbow (like fruits, vegetables and fermented foods) should fill your plate. Focusing on a single superfood misses the point. The wider the variety of healthy food, the better because that will diversify your microbiome, which in turn will improve your immune system.
And let’s face it: making healthy food choices every day is more realistic than shedding 10 or 100 pounds overnight.
You might also notice other health benefits, too, like I did. A scientist friend I speak with regularly recommended I keep a detailed food journal along with a few items that I wanted to measure, like mood, creativity, willingness to work and exercise. It became really clear to me that when I would eat pickles, my metrics would always be high: I could sit down and write a paper, I could go for a run, I felt great, my mood was elevated and I had high energy.
Pickles and other fermented foods, it turns out, are a great food to feed your microbiota. Now, pickles may not work in the same way for you as they do for me, but you can experiment the same way I did to find out what gives you an edge.
Pandemic-proof your home
Pandemic-proof your mind
One important way to do that is by maintaining our bonds to one another. We humans are social by nature and we thrive when we are connected. Ironically, it took the pandemic to remind us it’s not just a luxury to be social, it’s a necessity — even as it stole from us the very contact we need to flourish. So take time to reach out to family, friends and colleagues to cultivate and nurture relationships. Even a brief but positive exchange with a random stranger, like a smile on the street, can have lasting effects and ripple outward.
It’s also important to get outside our own silos to connect with and understand those who think differently — be it our neighbor, a teacher, our sister-in-law or our very own parents. We evolved to cooperate with one another, otherwise we couldn’t possibly survive as a species; caring for one another is encoded in our DNA.
Happy New Year to you and your loved ones.
CNN Health’s Andrea Kane contributed to this report.