3 FUN Recovery-Friendly Habits to Start the New Year
“All the things I really like to do are either immoral, illegal or fattening,” the 20th century American critic and writer for The New Yorker, Alexander Woollcott, once joked.
He has a point. It can be hard to imagine how just about any new healthy habit can be “fun.” Take, for example, Americans’ #1 New Year’s resolution: weight loss. That usually involves the better but not always necessarily fun habits of more physical exercise and healthier eating. The end goal of a healthier, trimmer you without those love handles may be great motivation — but the process of getting there isn’t ordinarily what many of us envision as “fun.”
But do all new habits have to be sheer drudgery in order to further your recovery? Here I suggest there are at least three fun ways to step up your recovery in 2017 that have proven beneficial either to my own clients or in scientific studies (and you may have others to share):
1. Try active meditation
Despite its growing popularity, meditation on its own can still sound just a bit more enjoyable than a trip to the dentist. But, for a fun spin try active meditation. Active meditation is just what it sounds like, as physically embodied meditation that pairs an action with mindfulness. I find the exercise works well for people who want to engage in meditation but have trouble sitting still (which itself may not be very fun). One simple but fun example of active meditation is doodling in an adult coloring book or coloring or drawing a mandala for some therapeutic relaxation. Another example is a walking meditation — you might even walk a labyrinth.
2. Take up a musical instrument
A growing body of research has concluded that musical training is good for the brain, regardless of how old you are. For example, new research at Harvard has found that children and adults who take music lessons show improvements in cognitive and executive brain functioning, related to things like memory, creativity, setting goals, and making decisions. Still other findings have confirmed that music lessons increase connections between key regions of the brain and in turn improve mental agility, planning and decision making skills. The takeaway? Maybe it’s time to dust off that piano or sign up for guitar lessons. Not so sure about the fun part? The same study found that playing a musical instrument lit up the brain’s pleasure and reward circuits.
The latest research has shown that running promises similar benefits to your brain and mental health. Like learning a musical instrument, running improves planning and decision making skills. And if you doubt how running could be fun, these “7 Ways to Make Running More Fun” from fitness experts really may convince you. One fun, creative example? Throwing a Frisbee, then trying to run as fast as you can to catch it before it hits the ground.
Got a fun healthy habit to share with the rest of us? Send it along!