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Have a happy, healthy new year

By Dr. Suezette Olaker
Special to the Michigan Citizen

Your quality of life is what you make it. You get to decide what’s important for you. Many people set goals in very specific areas, such as losing weight, watching less television, exercising more, learning something new, dropping bad habits, etc.

For one person, maintaining a community garden may be a general goal. For another, it may be increasing income. Spending more quality time with loved ones or carving out free time for self- improvement are other areas in which people want to make general changes.

Whatever the change you want to make, why not shift your thinking to improve the quality of your life?

“Happy New Year!” Oftentimes the phrase rolls off the tongue with no real thought. But what would it really mean to have a happy new day, a happy new month and, yes, a happy new year?

Concepts like happiness, flourishing, wellness are common in positive psychology. What is positive psychology? It is a science that recognizes the mind-body connection and the power of the trained mind to create positive outcomes.

It is rooted in the realization that your internal thoughts determine how you see the world, and has an impact on your health. While there is a genetic component to many traits (including pessimism and optimism), other components are learned.

When a person learns meditation, for example, he or she may initially find that all sorts of mind chatter is present, but with practice the mind quiets and that person becomes more relaxed and able to address life’s challenges more creatively or successfully.

During meditation, the body’s physiology has changed so that it reacts differently to stimuli.

A person who meditates is more in control of his or her thoughts and feeling. Their body and mind are more in sync and they’re able to cope with stress better.

Physiological functions change to become more supportive of a healthy body and mind.

The counter-position is that one cannot thrive when basic needs are not met — when poverty is rampant, when inequity prevails. Conditions associated with poverty are associated with increased rates of illness and premature death.

So, at the end of the day, who flourishes and why? The person who thinks more positively and is more in control of their thoughts does have a resiliency that allows them to keep going despite life’s setbacks. They also remain engaged in areas of life important to them, maintain relationships with others, note accomplishments (wherever they may be) and seek meaning in life itself.

Regardless of how the previous year went, people want something better in the new year. The beginning of the year is always a good time to reflect on what you would repeat, or change, how you are growing and who you are becoming.

Consider how last year’s mistakes or perceived failures might be viewed as opportunities for learning new approaches to problems. Use last year’s successes to boost your confidence and motivate you to continue. Make resolutions if you like and write them down. Be clear about what they are and how you will accomplish them. Treat them as plans, not additions to your wish list.

Be thoughtful, be proactive and commit to a better life.


H appiness — Keep it in mind and smile. Body language speaks volumes and changes how you feel.

A ppreciation — Know and appreciate what you have, who you are, and what you can do.

P lan — If you want to succeed at anything, create a clear plan, refer to it often and revise as necessary.

P lay — Do you remember how?

You have strengths — See them and use them.


N ever give up — Find ways to keep motivated and keep going.

E xpand your thinking — And be open to new ideas.

W hen you find yourself — You’ll find your power.


Y earn for something more for the future — Plant seeds of all types for a sustainable future.

E ngagement — Be fully alive. Live in the present.

A wareness — Remember to be.

R elationships — Maintain healthy relationships. They are important for life and health.


Dr. Suezette Olaker is a Detroit-based physician who serves as vice chairman of the Detroit Food Policy Council. She can be contacted at


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