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Change Your Life

Change Your Life
Photo by Kevin White

HOW TO FEEL BETTER

TODAY: COZY UP WITH AN EXTRA PILLOW
If you wake each morning feeling like you’ve spent the night wrestling rather than resting, consider taking an extra pillow to bed. A cushion placed between the legs can alleviate hip pain for side-sleepers. Or if you snooze on your back, put one beneath your knees to maintain the curve of your lower back. Stomach sleepers should put a pillow beneath their abdomen and pelvis to reduce back strain. It’s true that some sleeping positions can aggravate conditions like sleep apnea, but generally speaking, there’s no right or wrong way for adults to slumber, says Eric Olson, MD, co-director of the Mayo Sleep Disorder Center. “You should do what’s most comfortable,” he advises—with one pillow or six.

THIS WEEK: LOOSEN UP YOUR MIND
You’ll reap emotional and physical benefits by participating in a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Healing. Each eight-week session offers a mix of yoga, tai chi, and meditation, a combination that research has shown to reduce chronic pain and help people relax. “The class shows people how to cope with pain, stress, and illness—all demands of everyday life,” explains instructor Terry Pearson. “It teaches them to take more responsibility for their health and well-being.” For details, visit www.csh.umn.edu or call 612-626-2395.

THIS YEAR: DRINK UP—WISELY
Java addicts have reason to rejoice: that six-cup-a-day habit might actually be good for you. A recently published study suggests that heavy coffee drinkers are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who abstain, according to Mark Pereira, associate professor in epidemiology at the University of Minnesota and lead author of the study. Coffee notwithstanding, however, he counsels moderation. “Reduce your intake of fruit juices and sugar-sweetened beverages in favor of water, reduced-fat milk, diet beverages, and low-calorie tea and coffee,” he says. “Go for drinks that are lower in sugar and calories and higher in nutrients.”
--BY ERIN PETERSON


HOW TO LOOK BETTER

TODAY: STAND TALLER
There you are, hunched over the computer screen, craning your neck, straining muscles in your back. There’s a reason Mom admonished you to sit up straight. Not only does good posture project an image of poise and confidence, but, according to Janice Novak, author of Posture, Get It Straight!, proper alignment is the key to looking younger and thinner (instantly loose an inch or more from the middle!), as well as improving your health and well-being. Novak, a Minneapolis-based nutritionist with a master’s degree in health education, has set thousands, er, straight, through workshops, personal consultations, and appearances on WebMD and even on Oprah. So raise your computer monitor to eye level, ditch the high heels, and unlock your knees—a behavior Novak says contributes to a “pot belly.” For more tips, visit www.improveyourposture.com.

THIS WEEK: DRESS FOR SUCCESS
So you had enough sense to mothball the leg warmers and the shoulder pads, but there are probably a few more fashion skeletons in your closet that need to go. It’s time to start fresh. Whether you require just one special item or a whole new slate of winter wear, personal shoppers at Bloomingdale’s and other department stores are here to help. Consultants at Macy’s personal shopping service in downtown Minneapolis suggest that if there’s an item you always take out of the wardrobe and then put back, get rid of it for good. If you can’t decide what colors and styles work best, Nordstrom has consultants who will come to your house and help. Then schedule an appointment to make the rounds with an expert: once you’ve indicated what you’re looking for and revealed your size and budget, your shopper will pull items ahead of time. Now, all you’ve got to do is vogue. Bloomingdale’s, Mall of America, 952-883-2500; Macy’s, Nicollet Mall, 612-375-2200; Nordstorm, Mall of America, 952-883-2121.

THIS YEAR: WORK OUT SMARTER
Slogging through your workouts without breaking a sweat? Still not seeing muscles pop like Popeye’s? Tailored fitness regimes are the latest trend in toning your bod, to make the most of all the heavy lifting. Most gyms offer personal training services to help define your fitness goals—and guide you toward achieving them. Consider meeting with a few different trainers to find the one you can work with best. Also, if you need a little more moral support, many clubs offer niche classes for brides-to-be (tone those shoulders so they’ll look great in that strapless Vera Wang), new moms (stroller-pushing exercises), and 55-plus (yoga and tai chi). For class options, visit www.ymcatwincities.org or www.lifetimefitness.com.

EXTRA CREDIT: FACE THOSE WRINKLES
Nose too knobby? Chin too cleft? Why opt for piecemeal plastic surgery, when French surgeons have figured out a way to do face transplants? Of course, it may be a while before you can get a new mug at the Mayo; in the meantime, check out skin-care expert Kathleen Maxwell’s “Non-Surgical Facelift” class at the Learning Annex (www.learningannex.com), where she’ll teach you a series of facial exercises designed to rejuvenate muscle tone and stop those sags and bags.
--RACHEL HUTTON

HOW TO RELATE BETTER

TODAY: READ TO A KID
In 2001, a study funded by the National Institute for Literacy analyzed more than 100,000 reports and found that reading aloud is one of the most important factors in improving a child’s literacy. You can give future generations a leg up: if you don’t have kids of your own (or even if you do) consider volunteering to read at story hour at your local library. Depending on the age of the child, you might choose classic novels or tales written by local writers, such as Newbery Award-–winner Kate DiCamillo or tween mystery author Pete Hautman. The Minnesota Humanities Commission’s Family Literacy Initiatives program offers plenty of tips on how to read to children—check out the advice at www.thinkmhc.org/literacy/literacy.htm. The Minnesota Reading Corps, a program of the Minnesota Literacy Council, matches kids with adult readers and tutors; for details, visit www.themlc.org/readingcorps.html or call 651-645-2277.

THIS WEEK: START A WEB LOG
For the tech-savvy family, a personal Internet page with a Web log, a.k.a. “blog,” can act as a modern-day newsletter, informing Aunt Judy about your ski trip to Welch Village, or keeping Cousin Sue in the loop regarding your family’s schedule. Upload photos and videos and—voilà!—you’ve got an instant family reunion. Musicians first populated MySpace.com, but now the online community has expanded to include old classmates and even politicians’ platforms. Friendster.com offers similar networking abilities, but if you’re looking for more flexibility in formatting, check out www.blogger.com.

THIS YEAR: DEAL A BETTER GAME
Games are a great way to bring people together. But don’t think you need to have a closet full of Hasbro and Milton Bradley to dazzle your friends and family. Even simpler than a board game and more accessible for every generation is a deck of cards (you can even find the four suits at a gas station). The set of 52 has stood the test of time, whether it’s poker or gin rummy or crazy eights. Can’t talk to Pops? Cope with cribbage. Granny plays bridge and suddenly, er, lost a fourth? Learn to trump that hand at the Twin Cities Bridge Center on 60th Street and Nicollet Avenue in south Minneapolis. Call 612-861-4487 to sign up for lessons. Just remember to play fair—they may be poor sports, but they’re still family.

EXTRA CREDIT: FIND YOUR PARENTS A GOOD PLACE TO LIVE
Say no to the nursing home and let your aging ’rents be your roomies. This could be a blessing or a curse, depending on your approach, so make sure to establish boundaries first. A role reversal can be hard for a parent to adjust to, so make sure you have the time, resources, and especially, space in your home (if you can transform the basement or a room over the garage into a mother-in-law apartment, Ma or Pa might still retain a sense of independence).
-- COURTNEY LEWIS

HOW TO WORK BETTER

TODAY: MAP OUT YOUR STRATEGY
Tired of your job? Feeling like you’re on the wrong professional track? Still not sure what you want to be when you grow up? Then set a course for advancement. The University of Minnesota’s College of Continuing Education offers online assessment tools and resources at www.cce.umn.edu/career. These include a survey on lifework satisfaction, additional questions to consider, and suggested books, articles, and websites. And if that doesn’t provide sufficient clarity, you also can sign up for CCE’s career-planning workshop series “Who am I? What’s Next for Me? And How Do I Get There?”

THIS WEEK : REACH OUT TO OTHERS
Sometimes, who you know is almost as important as what you know. Connect with someone who can help open doors—or show
a protégé the ropes: to find or be a mentor, check out Minneapolis-based Menttium (www.menttium.com) or the Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota (www.mentoringworks.org). “Mentoring changes lives,” says Menttium president and CEO Lynn Sontag. “When mentees are given insight from mentors who care about their success, their growth accelerates personally and professionally. Mentors gain insight into the next generation of leaders, while receiving the opportunity to give back and to enhance their leadership skills.

THIS YEAR: BECOME A LEADER
Those who aspire to have a greater impact on their company and community can benefit from leadership development programs. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Minnesota educates several dozen high-potential participants each year on the economic, demographic, and public policies issues facing our state (www.mnchamber.com). “The upper-level managers and business owners in our program are really exposed to what makes Minnesota tick—what drives our economy and how public policy affects that,” says Jenny Munyer, director of Leadership Minnesota. “And of course, a side benefit is that they get to know business and political leaders and each other.” Other chamber programs include Leadership Saint Paul, Leadership Duluth, and Leadership Twin Cities. For women only, the College of St. Catherine offers an eight-part course titled Leaders of the New Millennium (www.stkate.edu).

EXTRA CREDIT: START A BUSINESS
Don’t like what you do or where you do it? Be your own boss. Classes and consultations through the John M. Morrison Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of St. Thomas (www.stthomas.edu), SCORE (www.scoremn.org), and WomenVenture (www.womenventure.org) can help you determine and develop the viability of your dreams. The latter even offers start-up loans to qualified candidates.

-- CAROL RATELLE LEACH

HOW TO PLAY BETTER

TODAY: PARK IT
Minneapolis boasts more parkland per capita than any major city in America—a 6,400-acre system, to be exact, designed so that every home in the city would be within six blocks of green space. Many suburbs have enormous parks of their own, of course, such as the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington, just one mile from the Mall of America, and Carver Park Reserve in Chanhassen, known for its successful reintroduction of the trumpeter swan, the largest native waterfowl in the United States. So tonight after work, park it nearby: take a hike, throw the old pigskin with the kids, read a book, or just sit on a bench and remember why it’s good—and green—to be a Twin Citian.

THIS WEEK: GET ART SMART
You heard it from your mother and your ex-wife and now you’re hearing it from us: Why don’t you get more culture in your life? Starting now, Thursday is your art night. Art museums traditionally stay open late on Thursdays—generally with free admission. The Walker Art Center is free and open on Thursdays until 9 p.m. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Weisman Art Museum, the Minnesota Center for Photography, the Museum of Russian Art, and the Minnesota Museum of American Art, in St. Paul, are all open until 8 p.m. with free admission for most exhibits. If you leave work in the Twin Cities at a decent hour, you can even spend your Thursday night at the Rochester Art Center, which is free and open until 9 p.m. See you there.

THIS YEAR: PRETEND YOU’RE A KID AGAIN
“You’re never too old to have a happy childhood,” wrote author Tom Robbins. So, how might you recapture your youth? Haven’t picked up a paintbrush since your stick-figure heyday? The Bloomington Art Center and Minnetonka Center for the Arts have some of the area’s most comprehensive class schedules, offering instruction in painting, ceramics, photography, glasswork, fiber arts, and sculpture (stone, clay, and bronze). Haven’t sung since West Side Story in high school? The MacPhail Center for Music, which broke ground this fall for a new building on the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis, has offered voice and instrument lessons to kids and adults since 1907. Were your most glorious sports moments related to a red rubber ball? Check out www.musakickball.com for Twin Cities kickball and dodge-ball leagues. And if you just want to throw jacks and play marbles, well, you’re on your own.

EXTRA CREDIT: RETIRE EARLY
Ah, retirement—all play and no work. Minneapolis-based Ameriprise Financial, with more than 10,000 financial advisors across thea woman in front of an easel country—or any number of wealth-management firms—can help get you out of your office and onto a beach in Naples (Florida or Italy, your choice). Of course, you’ll need to provide the initial investment.

-- TIM GIHRING

HOW TO LOVE BETTER

TODAY : LISTEN UP
Remember when she told you she loves lilies? No? That’s probably because you weren’t listening. And you wonder why you’re in the doghouse for bringing her carnations? “Women and men listen differently,” says Nanette Johnson-Curiskis, PhD, a communications professor at Minnesota State University–Mankato, who received the 2005 Outstanding Listening Educator of the Year award from the International Listening Association. “Women offer vocal and nonverbal cues to acknowledge they’re listening, like nodding or saying ‘uh-huh.’ Men don’t do that.” She suggests getting rid of distractions first: turn off the TV, cell phone, and BlackBerry. Then get on the same level, whether that means taking a seat or standing closer. As you listen, repeat what you just heard so it sinks in. “Above all, shut up,” says Johnson-Curiskis. We hear you.

THIS WEEK: DATE CREATIVELY
Like a well-built automobile and anything else capable of taking you the distance, a romantic relationship requires maintenance. Sometimes a routine checkup isn’t enough (read: dinner and a movie). Instead, plan a date that offers adventure and discovery, at a venue where you can laugh at others (the Acme Comedy Club in the Warehouse District, or ComedySportz interactive theater in Uptown) or yourself (when’s the last time you went bowling? Try the lanes at Elsie’s Restaurant, Bar & Bowling Center in northeast Minneapolis). And for gosh sakes, get out and open the passenger door.

THIS YEAR: REVIEW YOUR RELATIONSHIP
Personal and career goals are important. But let’s talk about your love life: honestly, where’s that going? Are you growing closer together or growing tired? Do you share your dreams and work in tandem to make them come true? You should. Establishing goals for relationships is vital for a couple’s advancement and growth, experts say. Many local community centers offer relationship-betterment classes at reasonable prices; some places of worship offer them for free. Newly engaged and long-married couples can get away for the weekend to bond through Twin Cities Marriage Encounter (www.marriages.org), which has been hosting weekend retreats since 1972.

EXTRA CREDIT: ADD SOME SPICE TO SEX
Get in touch with yourself…and, for that matter, your partner, through tantric mindfulness—a tradition from India that involves visualization, deep breathing, energy, and touch. In the West, that has translated to sexual techniques, but much of tantra can be tied to yoga and massage. Larry Melamerson offers Kundalini Bodywork sessions in Minneapolis so you can grasp the Eastern philosophy (larrymelamerson.byregion.net). But the TantraNova Institute in Chicago (www.tantranova.com) offers other services, including seminars tailored for improving intimacy.

-- COURTNEY LEWIS

HOW TO LIVE BETTER

TODAY: BRING BAKED GOODS TO WORK
If you wanna bring home the bacon, think about baking bread—and bringing it to the office. Your lemon bars, brownies, or sugar-dusted ginger cake with lemon-infused custard sauce won’t just impress the boss and make the worker bees buzz. Whipping up something from scratch is guaranteed to get your creative juices going, too—think of pounding pumpernickel into loaves as a sort of Mixmaster spin for the neurons. For Minnesotan-friendly recipes, try The Great Scandinavian Baking Book, deemed the “Bible of Nordic Baking” by one Amazon.com reviewer. There are also options aplenty at www.landolakes.com and www.bettycrocker.com.

THIS WEEK: GET INVOLVED
Minnesota has 2.4 million adult volunteers and ranks third among the 50 states for the percentage of the population that volunteers. Maybe that’s because it’s so easy to get involved, especially in the metro area. Several sites (www.volunteermatch.org and www.handsontwincities.org, for example) allow aspiring do-gooders to plug in information such as city/Zip Code, organization type, and length of commitment to find compatible activities, ranging from planting flowers to providing a foster home for greyhounds. If you’re over 55, the Minnesota Senior Corps (www.mnseniorcorps.org) can help you become a retired or senior volunteer, foster grandparent, or senior companion. Single Volunteers (www.svtconline.org) allows the unattached to mix charity and pleasure, adding to that warm glow that doing good imparts—and the volunteer sign-up system assures an even mix of men and women.

THIS YEAR: EAT LOCALLY GROWN FOOD
No space in your yard to raise cattle? Deadly in the garden? You can still eat well, and with a clear conscience. If you’d like more fresh produce but can’t stand the cost or constant trips to the grocery store, join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm for weekly seasonal deliveries of veggies, herbs, and flowers. Find local CSAs by searching the Land Stewardship Project (www.landstewardshipproject.org/csa.html). A broader selection of organic food at farms, markets, and restaurants near your Zip Code can be found at Local Harvest, www.localharvest.org, while the Sustainable Table’s East Well Guide, www.eatwellguide.org, highlights local sustainably raised meat and dairy products. Meet your meat, and eat it, too.

EXTRA CREDIT: PLAN YOUR DEPARTURE
Have you got an exit strategy? A “living will”—or an advance directive, as it’s known in Minnesota legal parlance—allows you to designate your spouse, a child, or another individual as your proxy medical decision-maker to indicate your wishes for end-of-life options, and your preference for burial or cremation. To learn more, go to www.mnaging.org. MM

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