2022 is a new year and a new opportunity to develop healthy habits for not only yourself but also for your family and friends. You don’t need excessive amounts of money to make lifestyle changes. You simply need desire, a plan, and some grit. 

Why should you want to change your well-established habits? What’s wrong with eating out three days a week at a local fast-food restaurant or smoking a pack or two of cigarettes per day? Is regular exercise that big of a deal? Is there benefit in sleeping seven to eight hours per night? Should you receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

I cannot imagine a greater fundamental desire than wanting to live to see the next day, month, or year; better yet, wanting to live to see your grandchildren graduate from college. Our lives are one small part of the ancestral quilt being sewn with each generation. What do you want your pieces to look like and say? How many scrap parts will exist for you? Will your story be short or long? How you live today will determine the components of your future narrative.

As you begin 2022, make a plan, not a resolution. Plan to do better, but be specific.

Start with your pantry. You can’t eat nutritious foods if you do not have them. Exchange processed foods for fresh alternatives. You can find almost any recipe online. Fill your cabinets with staples like brown rice, black beans, and corn tortillas. Onions, peppers, lettuce, broccoli, and chicken breasts are also items that will go a long way when planning your menu. These foods can easily make multiple meals, keeping your taste buds from getting bored. Meal prepping is key. Don’t let your busy schedule dictate how you eat. Plan ahead!

Simply put, if you smoke, STOP! Cigarette smoking is a risk factor for many illnesses, including cancer and cardiovascular disease. Therapy, medications, auricular therapy, and nicotine replacement are available to help you quit smoking. The money you spend on cigarettes per year is enough for a plane ticket to a vacation destination. In addition, the money saved could also be used for a college education for your legacies. 

Getting regular exercise is more than just trying to look cute in your favorite suit or dress. It is about keeping your blood sugar and cholesterol within normal limits. Exercise can also help control your blood pressure and improve depression. Strength training with light weights can improve your posture and your ability to get up and down from a seated position. Joint mobility is also improved with regular movement. 

To add additional benefit to your new year transformation, focus on getting quality sleep. Good sleep improves concentration and produces mental clarity. Commit to turning off electronic devices one hour before bed. Read a book for 30 minutes and then do some relaxation stretches. Many of these bedtime rituals, such as meditation and restoration yoga, can be found online for free.

Finally, get vaccinated if you did not in 2021. COVID-19 has shortened the lives of too many people. Don’t add your name to the list. Get the vaccine so you can prevent unnecessary death. 

The opportunity for change awaits you in 2022. If you stumble along the way, don’t linger in that despair, get up and try again. Don’t miss this chance to be a healthier version of yourself!

Denise Hooks-Anderson, MD, FAAFP is associate professor, Family and Community Medicine and interim assistant dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

Dr. Denise Hooks-Anderson at SLU

Dr. Denise Hooks-Anderson



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