Rewarding resolutions: 7 ways to spoil yourself this year

Resolutions don't have to be about sacrifice or self-denial. This coming year, why not focus on doing enjoyable things that are still good for you? Pick one (or all!) of these positive goals.
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Indulge in these feel-good treats

It may seem like all your favorite foods are bad for you, but there are a few goodies you can treat yourself with guilt-free. Good Housekeeping nutrition director Samantha Cassetty recommends these sometimes-maligned foods:

Coffee
More than a decade of research by University of Scranton Chemistry Professor Joe Vinton shows that coffee has several health perks, including providing a hefty dose of antioxidants. If you're trying to cut back on dessert, you can still get a sweet fix. Cassetty suggests instead of going for a pint of ice cream or a few cookies, ending your meal with a dessert-flavored coffee (Dunkin Donuts makes a line).

Nuts
Yes, they’re high in fat and calories, but new evidence shows nuts can actually help people control their weight because they have so much protein. Eat them as a snack or sprinkle them on salads, stir fry, or oatmeal for texture and flavor. Just watch your portion size. “It’s easy to inhale nuts,” warns Cassetty.

Cheese
A recent article in the British Medical Journal suggests that saturated fats from cheese and other daily products might not clog your arteries. Cheese is also a good source of calcium, Vitamin D, and phosphorus. So don't deny yourself some whole-milk cheese from time to time — especially if you're pairing it with a healthy side of fruit.

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Splurge on yourself

Dietitian Martha Henze tells her students it's important to splurge on themselves when trying to reach a fitness or weight-loss goal — just not with high-calorie foods. “I help them think instead about items that will help motivate them or change their outlook, like a good-quality pedometer or a nice set of exercise clothes,” she says.

Other ideas? Get a manicure, treat yourself to a movie, or — if you really want to go all out — get a pair of theater tickets or enjoy a massage. The important thing is to find non-food ways to reward your success, adds Cassetty.

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Take more naps

Thirty percent of Americans don't get the minimum recommendation of seven hours of sleep each night, leaving them crabby, unproductive, and accident-prone. But research shows that taking a short afternoon nap can make up for that sleep deprivation and improve mood, memory, alertness, and performance. The National Sleep Foundation suggests keeping your nap to 20 to 30 minutes, so you're more alert later and, ideally, napping between 1 and 3 p.m. Later naps can affect nighttime sleep patterns.

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Go out more

And plan your outings with this in mind: According to a British study, two-thirds of people believe that young and old people live in separate worlds and that inter-generational relationships are worse today than in the past. Resolve to spend more time with your mother or kids — or even take a friend’s child or a niece or nephew to the zoo. Ask more questions than you answer: You're sure to learn something valuable.

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Buy yourself flowers

According to one study, participants who received a bouquet of flowers from a person conducting a “daily mood survey” felt less depressed and anxious. Another study found that patients with flowers and other in their hospital rooms required less pain medication, had lower blood pressure and pulse rates, and felt less anxious and tired.

“Many people have special memories linked to the sight and scent of particular flowers,” says Sally Augustin, an applied environmental psychologist. “Some scents, like lavender, even help us relax, and the scent of jasmine can improve the quality of sleep.”

Try bringing flowers into your home or office once a week. You can keep costs in check by buying at a local farmer’s market (go in the late morning for prime bargaining), clipping buds from your own garden or investing in a potted flowering plant.

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Have more (good) sex

More sex makes for happier partners (science says so). So focus on building intimacy in your relationship, and increasing both quantity and quality of sex. Here are some tips for getting in the mood and feeling more confident about yourself between the sheets.

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Say 'thanks'

As John Kralik demonstrated in his book A Simple Act of Gratitude: How Learning to Say Thank You Changed My Life, being thankful is a powerful cure for emotional slumps. Those who express gratitude report more happiness, motivation, optimism — even energy. “We live in a society where materialism is rampant," says William F. Doverspike, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Atlanta. "Gratitude is way of countering that by focusing on and valuing what we have.” Start your own daily gratitude journal, or buy some pretty thank you cards and aim to write one a day. You’ll make someone’s day — actually two people, including you.

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