UTM experts share resolutions to make you happier, healthier and smarter in 2018

Woman holds hands in shape of a heart with sunset in the background
Wednesday, January 3, 2018 - 4:05pm
Blake Eligh

With a new year comes a fresh start and a chance to break old habits or try something new. We asked experts at U of T Mississauga for their best resolutions for exercising your mind and your body, making more time for reading and mental health, and connecting with your partner and the kids in your life.

This year, I will read more for fun: Interim Chief Librarian Shelley Hawrychuk, whose own to-read pile is always growing, says that reading for fun can actually make you a better student. “Like physical activity, It’s a great way to destress—it gives us balance and gives the brain a rest,” she says. “Research shows that people who read recreationally do better academically.”

Try this: The Hazel McCallion Academic Learning Centre houses the Novelties Collection on the library’s third floor. The collection features about 1,500 just-for-fun best-sellers and graphic novels, including popular series like the Harry Potter and Narnia novels. “Our biggest users of that collection are UTM students. It is hugely popular, and can be taken out during holiday breaks,” Hawrychuk says, adding that the hold list for popular titles is often shorter than the public library.


This year I will be look after my mental health: Assistant professor of psychology Norman Farb says that mental health is the product of our momentary care for, or suppression of our emotional responses to life's challenges. "Happiness and depression do not happen overnight," Farb says. "It is so easy to distract ourselves from feelings of being overwhelmed or unhappy, or to ignore a yearning for more meaningful experiences. Ironically, ignoring these momentary signals is how we get stuck in negative situations.”

According to Farb, well-being requires paying attention to our state of mind, and having the courage to make changes when the same patterns of feeling overwhelmed or dissatisfied show up. “Trying to change one's life is scary, but I think it is scarier to wake up years later to an unhappy life,” he says. “It starts with taking the time to understand how you are feeling, taking responsibility for those feelings and being curious about where change is possible."

Try this: Farb is the creator of the Wildflowers Mindfulness app, which helps to train users through meditation and mindfulness. UTM’s Health & Counselling Centre leads weekly drop-in meditation sessions and you can sign up to receive their Weekly Mindfulness Reminder by email.


This year I will make time for romance: Associate professor of psychology Emily Impett says that couples who are the happiest are those who make time for romance and do little things to keep the spark alive in their relationship. “The happiest couples are those that plan date nights, engage in novel activities which ward off boredom, express gratitude to their partner, celebrate their partner’s strengths and accomplishments, and are physically affectionate and intimate,” she says. “The happiness and success of relationships is built in the smaller moments that partners share in daily life.”

Try this: Make time to do things together. Take in an exhibit at the Blackwood Gallery, catch Theatre Erindale production, or take a stroll along UTM’s nature trails.  


This year I will find time for play: Psychology professor Tina Malti says that parents and caregivers should make free play time a priority for kids. “Children have lots of opportunities to engage in structured play,” says Malti. “But in early to middle childhood, free play is a very important opportunity for learning. It occurs naturally in our behavior and there’s a reason for it.”

“My wish is that every child has some time for free play with parents, siblings and friends,” says Malti, who notes that Swedish author Astrid Lindgren was inspired by her own free-form childhood experiences to write her beloved Pippi Longstocking series. “I really connect with that idea. Children learn and develop through having that freedom,” Malti says. “A tent in the backyard with friends is a great way to play.”

Try this: Stash the screens and pull out no-tech toys like dolls, blocks and paints. Make a blanket fort, head to the park to climb the monkey bars, or pull out dress-up clothes for an afternoon of make-believe.


This year I will get more exercise: Exercise is a perennial favourite on the resolution list, but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t get to the gym. According to RAWC fitness program assistants Cindy MacDonald and Nikki Robichaud. there are plenty of opportunities to squeeze in physical activity throughout your daily routine. First rule: skip the elevators. “Take the stairs, park farther away from the building, go for a walk to get your coffee, or choose a washroom two floors up and take the stairs to get there,” MacDonald says. “You can also squeeze in extra steps by carrying your groceries into the house one bag at a time. Take three or four trips in and out of the house, up and down your stairs.” For an extra challenge, try holding your bags with straight arms at shoulder height.

“We don’t just exercise to look good or lose weight,” Robichaud says. “Exercise is also an important part of stress management and self-care. “Being active releases endorphins will help you feel better and take your head out of the workspace to think about yourself. If you’re pressed for time, try one of the RAWC 30 minute Xpress classes.”