Need help choosing a New Year's resolution? The University at Buffalo offers its annual list of 10 suggestions for achieving health, happiness and success in the new year.
Each resolution is based on the work of UB faculty in 2011. Their research and expertise provides some direction on steps to take toward self-improvement and wellbeing in 2012.
Have a happy, healthy and successful new year.
1. Make returning war veterans feel at home. Simple home modifications - like installing exterior lighting or widening doorways - can enhance the comfort and security of returning soldiers, especially if they suffer from vision loss or post-traumatic stress or use a wheelchair, says Danise Levine, director of UB's Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access. Levine helped design two homes for veterans and their families through the Wounded Warrior Home Project.
2. Floss every day to protect against pneumonia and heart disease. Good oral hygiene may help prevent pneumonia and heart disease, according to two UB researchers. A study done by UB professor of medicine, Ali A. El Solh, M.D., indicates that periodontal microbes are a possible reservoir for recurrent lower respiratory tract infections in nursing home residents. And research done by UB Distinguished Professor and Vice Provost Robert J. Genco, D.D.S., shows a strong association between periodontal microbes and non-fatal heart attacks.
3. To lose weight, eat the same foods over and over. Variety may be the spice of life but it's no good for your waistline, according to UB researcher Leonard Epstein, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics and social and preventive medicine. In a study, he found that when women ate as many servings of macaroni and cheese as they wanted every day for five days, they reduced their intake by 30 calories. On the other hand, women who ate macaroni and cheese just once a week for five weeks increased their intake by 100 calories. Epstein said that the first group reduced their intake because of "habituation." In other words, repetition may discourage overeating.
4. Be a humble leader, and be more effective in the workplace. Humble leaders are more effective and better liked in the workplace, according to research by Bradley Owens, Ph.D., assistant professor of organization and human resources in the UB School of Management. "Admitting mistakes, spotlighting follower strengths and modeling teachability are the core of humble leadership. These three behaviors are powerful predictors of the leader's personal growth, as well as the organization's growth," explains Owens, who interviewed leaders at military, manufacturing, health care, financial services, retailing and religious organizations.
5. Talk to your child about bullying. A number of bullying cases made major news last year, followed by many well-meaning calls for new laws and programs. Sometimes the most important thing parents can do is have a conversation with their child about bullying, says researcher Amanda Nickerson, Ph.D., director of UB's Jean M. Alberti Center for the Prevention of Bullying Abuse and School Violence. "Ask explicitly if there is bullying at school, and then listen and empathize when they tell their stories," she says. "Kids are more aware of the peer culture and the culture of the school to know what will make it worse and what will make it better."
6. Read more fantasy to combat loneliness. Reading fantasies like the popular "Twilight" vampire series or the Harry Potter collection of novels helps to satisfy a need for human connection, according to the research of UB associate professor of psychology Shira Gabriel, Ph.D., and graduate student Ariana Young. When we become engrossed in fictional narratives we feel close to others in the comfort of our own space and at our own convenience, their research shows. "In our subjects, this led to a reported increase in life satisfaction and positive mood, which are two primary outcomes of belonging," Gabriel says.
7. For better health, reflect on the things that give your life meaning. Feelings of spirituality or religiosity appear to offer protection against emotional distress and physical ailments, according to the research of Michael J. Poulin, Ph.D., UB assistant professor of psychology. Poulin studied people's response to the traumatic events of 9/11 and found those who had a personal commitment to spiritual or religious beliefs were in better health than those in the study who expressed no religious or spiritual proclivities.
8. Maintain separate email accounts to avoid being scammed. Having separate accounts for work and personal email helps you more easily sort through cluttered inboxes and focus on the details of email. This reduces the likelihood of being deceived by online scammers phishing for personal and financial information, according to the research of Arun Vishwanath, Ph.D., UB associate professor of communication, and H. Raghav Rao, Ph.D., SUNY Distinguished Service Professor in the UB School of Management.
9. Teach math to your toddler for academic success through high school. Very young children have the potential to learn math that is complex and sophisticated, according to the research of UB professors Doug Clements, Ph.D., and Julie Sarama, Ph.D. Preschool children's knowledge of mathematics predicts their later school success into high school. Further, it predicts later reading achievement. Clements' and Sarama's pre-kindergarten Building Blocks program helps children "mathematize" their everyday activities, from building blocks to art and stories to puzzles and games.
10. Be nice to nurses, they may save your life. According to the Institute of Medicine, nurses are the health care professionals most likely to intercept and prevent medical mistakes, says UB assistant professor of nursing Sharon Hewner, Ph.D., RN. Hewner developed a new patient-safety course to teach nursing students how to spot and prevent potential medical errors. She hopes the course will be emulated and rolled out at nursing schools nationwide.