I understand why people embrace New Year’s resolutions: it’s a chance to wipe the slate clean and set annual goals with new focus and enthusiasm. But are they focusing on the right areas of their lives? Instead of setting resolutions, a better approach may be to conduct a health self-assessment. It’s a way to take an in-depth look at where you are now, so you can identify the parts of your life that need the most attention. “A self-assessment gathers the vital information you need to begin thinking more about your life and how you want to live,” says Susan Flashner-Fineman, Vitalize 360 Coach at Harvard-affiliated Hebrew SeniorLife, a comprehensive wellness program that promotes healthy aging.
According to Flashner-Fineman, a complete analysis of your well-being should encompass five areas: physical, intellectual, social, financial, and spiritual. For each category, explore what you are you doing well and where you can improve. “This way, it’s not all about focusing on your shortcomings, but rather highlighting your strengths and building on them,” says Flashner-Fineman. Here is a look at the five categories for your health self-assessment.
1. Physical. Instead of focusing on simply staying healthy, tailor your fitness to meet specific goals, says Flashner-Fineman. “Ask yourself, what level of activity do you want and what do you need to maintain it?” For instance, do you want to continue gardening, or have greater endurance to interact with grandchildren, or just improve your functional fitness so you can do daily chores and activities with less pain and risk of injury? “Connecting it with something you want to accomplish also can help you stay motivated and focused on your health going forward,” says Flashner-Fineman.
2. Intellectual. Are you doing enough for your brain? It’s so easy to get trapped in the lull of repetitive activities that don’t work your memory and problem-solving skills. Learning something new is a great way to challenge your brain. For example, learn to play bridge, paint, or play a musical instrument. Interested in a particular subject? Take a class at your local college (many offer free tuition for older adults). You can also raise the bar on an existing skill. Love to cook? Try French cooking. Practice your public speaking at a Toastmasters club, or join a chess or book club.
3. Social. How well do you currently connect with others like family, friends, and neighbors? And how often do you interact with them on a regular basis? “Think about how you can improve your existing relationships as well as make new connections,” says Flashner-Fineman. For example, make a point to call, write, or go out to lunch with a close friend once a week, or consider joining a club of some kind that has regular meetings and social events.
4. Financial. Do you stress about money issues? A professional financial planner can help evaluate your current financial situation and devise a plan to prepare for the future. Lifestyle changes can ease financial strain and even make your life a bit easier. For instance, you could move into a smaller place that requires less maintenance and upkeep, buy everyday items more cheaply in bulk, or cut your cable and use the Internet for watching shows. “You don’t want to make changes that affect quality of life, but often we are afraid to make positive changes because we are used to a certain way of living,” says Flashner-Fineman. “But if you understand why the change is good — like freeing up more money to travel, for example — then it’s easier to do.”
5. Spiritual. Studies have found that some level of spirituality and gratitude is associated with greater wellness. Some people do this through religion or a faith-based community, but others choose activities like meditation and interactions with nature.
Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV
Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ Matthew 22:37 NIV
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 NIV
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22 NIV
My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. Proverbs 3:1-2 NIV
The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin. Proverbs 10:8 NIV
I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. Psalm 119:10 NIV
Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. Psalm 31:24 NIV
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12 NIV
I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws. Psalm 119:7 NIV
Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. Psalm 119:2 NIV
Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Mark 11:23 NIV
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14 NIV | speaking prayer
But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul. Joshua 22:5 NIV
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