17 things to try in 2017

By Caitlin Kelly

Set at least one face-to-face date with a friend (or colleague) every week

In a world of virtual connection, it’s too easy to spend our life tapping a keyboard and staring into a screen. And we miss out on so much by not sitting face to face with friends and colleagues — their laughter, a hug, a raised eyebrow.

Eat less meat

I’m neither vegan nor vegetarian, but have decided, for health reasons, to try and eat less red meat. Great recipes help, as does finding a good and affordable fishmonger.

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Switch up your cultural consumption

If you’ve never been to the opera or ballet, (or played a video game or read a manga),  or visited a private art gallery or museum, give it a try.

We all fall into ruts, easily forgetting — or, worse, never knowing or caring — how many forms of cultural expression exist in the world.

If all you read is science fiction, pick up a book of real-life science, and vice versa.

Have you ever listened to koto music? Or bhangra? Or reggae? Or soukous? One of my favorite musicians is Mali’s Salif Keita. Another is the British songwriter Richard Thompson.

Watch less television

I turned off the “news” and my stress levels quickly dropped. I read Twitter and two papers a day, but most television news is a shallow, U.S.-centric (where I live) joke. I enjoy movies and a very few shows, but try to limit my television time to maybe six hours a week.

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Read for pure pleasure

I consume vast amounts of media for my work as a journalist, (we get 20 monthly and weekly magazines and newspapers by subscription), often ending up too tired to read for pure enjoyment.

Make a point of finding some terrific new reads and dive in.

 

Schedule a long phone call or Skype visit each month with someone far away you miss

Like me, you’ve probably got friends and family scattered across the world. People I love live as far away from me (in New York) as Kamloops, B.C., D.C., Toronto and London. Emails and social media can’t get to the heart of the matter as deeply as a face to face or intimate conversation.

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Get a handle on your finances: spending, saving, investing

Crucial!

Do you know your APRs? Your FICO score and how to improve it? Are you saving 15 percent of your income every week or month? (If not, how will you ever retire or weather a financial crisis?)

Have you invested your savings? Are you reviewing your portfolio a few times a year to see if things have changed substantially?

Do you read the business press, watching where the economy is headed? If you’ve never read a personal finance book or blog, invest some time this year in really understanding  how to maximize every bit of your hard-earned income and cut expenses.

I wrote five pieces last year for Reuters Money; there are many such sites to help you  better understand personal finance. Here’s a helpful piece from one of my favorite writers on the topic, (meeting her in D.C. last year was a great nerd-thrill!), the Washington Post‘s Michelle Singletary.

Fast one or two days a week

I’ve now been doing this for seven months, two days a week, and plan to do it forever. The hard core consume only 500 calories on “fast” days. I eat 750, and eat normally the other days. (Normally doesn’t include fast food, liquor [except for weekends], junk food like chips and soda.) It’s helped me shed weight and calm digestive issues.

It’s not that difficult after the first few weeks and doing vigorous exercise helps enormously, thanks to endorphins and other chemicals that naturally suppress appetite.

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Rockefeller Center, as seen from Saks Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, NY

Explore a new-to-you neighborhood, town or city nearby

Do you always take the same route to work or school or the gym? We all try to save time by taking well-known short-cuts, but can miss a lot in so doing.

Make time to try a new-to-you neighborhood or place nearby. Travel, adventure and exploration don’t have to require a costly plane or train ticket.

Ditch a long-standing habit — and create a new one

Watching television news had become a nightly habit for me, even as I found much of it shallow and stupid.

My new habit for 2015 was playing golf, even just going to the driving range to work on my skills.

My new habit, for 2016, is fasting twice a week.

Not sure yet what my 2017 new habit will be.

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Write notes on paper

As thank-yous for the dinners and parties you attend. For gifts received. Condolence notes.

Splurge on some quality stationery and a nice pen; keep stamps handy so you’ve no excuse. Getting a hand-written letter through the mail now is such a rarity and a luxury. It leaves an impression.

Decades from now, you’ll savor some of the ones you received — not a pile of pixels or emails.

I recently ordered personalized stationery; here’s one I like, from Paper Source.

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Buy something beautiful for your home

Even on a tight budget, adding beauty to your home brings you every day.

A bunch of $10 tulips. A pretty pair of hand towels. Fresh pillowcases. A colorful cereal bowl or mug.

A platter for parties!

Even a can of paint and a roller can transform a room.

Your home is a refuge and sanctuary from a noisy, crowded, stressful world. Treat it well!

Visit your local library

Libraries have changed, becoming more community centers. I love settling into a comfortable chair for a few hours to soak up some new magazines or to pick up a selection of CDs or DVDs to try.

Get to know a child you’re not related to

We don’t have children or grand-children, or nephews or nieces, so we appreciate getting to know the son of our friends across the street, who’s 10, and a lively, funny, talented musician.

People who don’t have children can really enjoy the company of others’ kids, and kids can use a break from their parents and relatives; an outside perspective can be a refreshing change (when it’s someone whose values you share and whose behavior, of course, you trust.)

If you’re ready for the commitment, volunteer to mentor a less-privileged child through a program like Big Brothers or Big Sisters or other local initiatives. Everyone needs an attentive ear and someone fun and cool to hang out with and learn from  — who’s not only one more authority figure.

Write to your elected representative(s) praising them for work you admire — or arguing lucidly for the changes you want them to make, and why

I admire those who choose political office. For every bloviating blowhard, there’s someone who really hopes to make a difference. Let them know you appreciate their hard work — or make sure they hear your concerns.

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Write a letter to the editor

If you ever read the letters page, you’ll find it dominated by male voices. Make time to read deeply enough that you find stories and issues to engage with, about which you have strong and lucid opinions and reactions.

Support the causes you believe in by arguing for them publicly — not just on social media or privately.

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Donegal

Spend at least 30 minutes every day in silence, solitude and/or surrounded by nature

Aaaaaaaaaah. Essential.

If you’re feeling stuck, try mind-mapping.

 

Hoping that each of you has a happy, healthy 2017!

24 thoughts on “17 things to try in 2017

  1. Happy New Year, Caitlin. And I would definitely like to see a ballet, if the local company does something I’m interested in (also wouldn’t mind seeing Hamilton if they come on tour here). And if you want any fiction recommendations, I can probably come up with some good ones (they don’t even have to be mine).

    1. Happy New Year to you…It’s amazing to me we’re still chatting — I “knew you when” you were at OSU. 🙂

      Hoping this is a terrific year for you. I’d love to see Hamilton someday…

      1. So would most people, I imagine.
        And it is pretty cool that we’re still talking, over five years after we first met, I think. My, how time flies.
        You know, for all the craziness that happened in the world in 2016, it’s been a good year for me, and I’m hoping that 2017 will be good for me as well.
        Speaking of which, planning on posting at midnight or a little after a post that goes over all the positives that happened in the past year. Hope it cheers a few people up (fingers crossed).

      2. I love having watched you through university…off to Germany…into the work world…the issues with your parents. You’ve been through a lot. Love the idea of a 2016 positives post.

  2. i love your suggestions, especially the scheduling a face to face with someone each week, it’s so easy to let that slip, and the writing on paper, one of my favorite things, i still love to write handwritten letters and cards, and am fascinated by beautiful paper. happy new year to you and jose )

    1. Happy New Year to you, too!

      I just spent today in NYC with a young friend (met through her blog, of course) and have plans for later this week with friends in our town. Working alone at home, especially, can be very socially isolating.

      Can’t wait to get my new stationery!

  3. Inese Poga Art plus Life

    Great suggestions!
    Well, it’s easy not to eat too much meat, I somewhat feel that getting older requires less of meat. I’m not saving anything since most often earning nothing.
    I really liked the part about home: certainly so.
    Reading is always fantastic.
    I agree about TV, I rarely watch it, as well. Some days not at all.
    I’m rarely on FB and I cannot stand Twitter.
    You must be writing for magazines, therefore, you have to be aware of news.
    I don’t ever eat a lot and I also never fast completely, but a day a week on kefir is good.
    Happy New Year from https://inesepogalifeschool.com/

  4. So many good ideas in this one. I especially love face-to-face bit. I try to do that and the weeks I don’t, I feel it. Also love the reading for pleasure bit! Again, I try–but need to make a priority. And the library–don’t get me started:). I want these lovely places saved!

    1. Thanks! I know you’re busy raising your boys, so you have less free time. I am just so much happier having a friend-date to look forward to, not just endless email and texts and tweets. Reading for pleasure is the only thing to get me to the gym — where I can read while on the elliptical or bike.

      1. I somehow think less free time means it is even more important to try to schedule those peaceful interludes, whether it is friend or a book :-). Glad you are doing so also!

  5. Hi Caitlin, I love all your tips! I’ve had a love affair with good quality notepaper and pens for as long as I can remember and agree there is something special about receiving a letter, no amount of technology enabled communication comes near!

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