Would you like some simple ways to be healthier and happier in 2014? To achieve top performance, you must take good care of your body while also focusing on creating a positive mindset.

Almost everyone makes some sort of New Year’s resolution about being healthier in the new year. It may be going on a diet, vowing to exercise more, or taking more time off. If you want to feel better and have more fun doing it, here are five tips for a healthier 2014.

1. Put a spring in your step
There is a growing body of research showing that the slower you walk or move, the more likely you are to have health problems. Research from Sara Snodgrass of Florida Atlantic University illustrates how your stride can influence how happy you feel.

Specifically, people who take long strides and swing their arms back and forth as they walk are perceived as being happier than shufflers who take small steps and have drooping shoulders. In fact, walking with long strides, swinging your arms, and holding your head up for as little as three minutes can make you feel happy.

2. Grab a “Fitbit”
My husband received a Fitbit for Christmas. His experience using it has moved Fitbit to the top of my personal wish list.

What makes Fitbit attractive is that you can wear the device on your wrist or place it in your pocket. Fitbit tracks how many steps you take daily, the distance you cover, the calories burned, the amount of stairs climbed, and the number of active minutes you have each day. You can also log in your food choices and track your sleep patterns. All these functions synch with an easy-to-use app on your mobile device. Here’s how my husband summed it up:

“I had the notion of exercise wired as having to spend on a treadmill or exercise machine. What I didn’t realize was how much activity I crank each day that I didn’t call exercise. When I looked at my daily tracking on Fitbit, it came as a real surprise to see how much I actually was accomplishing. Better yet, all the guilt about not exercising is gone. Fitbit not only motivates me to get moving, it shows me how I am succeeding.”

To really improve your results on Fitbit, try standing rather than sitting while you work. You will not only take more steps, you should feel more alert as well.

3. Two exercise myths exposed
While we’re on the topic of exercise, here are two myths about exercise that research has debunked.

The first myth has to do with stretching before you work out. While stretching will increase flexibility, the authors of a study reviewing 104 stories on the topic concluded, “The use of SS (static stretching) as the sole activity during warm-up routine(s) should be avoided.”

The second myth comes from actress Jane Fonda: “No pain, no gain.” The research shows that it is the cumulative effect of exercise that results in the greatest health benefit, not whether you experience pain. In fact, pain is a warning signal that you are causing damage to your body.

4. Appreciate the little things
As a Realtor, it’s sometimes tough to maintain a positive attitude. Clients become upset, transactions fall apart, and you regularly encounter negative people and situations.

To cope with the negativity she was seeing in the clients she coaches, Celes Chua issued her readers a 14-Day Gratitude Challenge. In addition to the daily tasks, she asked her 200 participants to identify at least three things for which they are grateful. The result?

“Participants emerged from the challenge more appreciative and positive about life, even though their lives have technically not changed much compared to before the challenge.”

5. Regularly have dinner with loved ones and laugh 100 times a day
The late psychologist Paul Pearsall had done extensive work with people who have severe heart disease as well as those who receive heart transplants. His research has revealed two key factors that can keep you healthy, happy and heart disease-free. The first factor is having dinner with loved ones at least three times per week.

The second factor is laughing a 100 times per day. In fact, Pearsall believes that “it is healthier to sit on the curb and laugh than it is to jog 5 miles per day.”

His reasoning? Laughter releases beta-endorphins that make you feel better and strengthen your immune system. In contrast, running increases cortisol (“stress” hormone) levels. When cortisol is combined with the stresses of today’s hectic lifestyle, it can have detrimental effects: “Chronically elevated cortisol levels have been linked to problems including abdominal fat gain, cognitive decline, and compromised immune function.”

If you want to have a happier and healthier 2014, put a spring in your step, a smile on your face, and be grateful for the great year that begins right now.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of the National Association of Realtors’ No. 1 best-seller, “Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success.” Hear Bernice’s five-minute daily real estate show, just named “new and notable” by iTunes, at www.RealEstateCoachRadio.com.

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