Each month, Deb Fellows, Editor in Chief of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine, writes a column for the magazine that embodies the Northern Michigan lifestyle. In the January 2016 issue she shares five New Year’s resolutions that align with life in Northern Michigan—including outdoor activities, enriching communities, passionate people and beautiful landscapes.

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions for the obvious reason that I hate to fail. And yet, I clicked on the link “Five New Year’s Eve Resolutions That Will Change Your Life.” What popped up doesn’t just align with great ideas for life, it aligns with all the reasons we love life here.

1. Smile. The gist of this one is that if we, in essence, force our face to smile, the act of that literally tricks the brain into thinking we are happy. That causes chemicals to release and voilà, we are actually happy. Okay, so who doesn’t smile Up North, particularly when we think of summer. We are at the beach, or on the boat, or in a hammock under a beautiful tree watching people we love having fun. Many of us also smile at the idea of flying down a ski hill, or winding on a snowshoe trail through a forested winter wonderland, or skating on a glass-smooth lake under the bluest of skies. But everyone can smile at the sight of huge, graceful snowflakes drifting lazily to earth outside our windows. We can smile contentedly at firelight and the glow that transforms our homes into places so safe and lovely. And sure, we can tense up and hunch into the winter wind, or we can raise our faces and smile at the incredibly invigorating feeling of winter air on our skin. “I believe in this last one but just not feeling it,” you say? The article would say, fake it and happiness will come.

2. Maintain a health and fitness regimen. Northern Michigan was made for this one. Our world abounds with year-round natural ways to stay fit. In this season there is skiing, fat tire biking or skating. But for those who don’t go for those things, there is simply walking. Get an inexpensive pair of crampons to attach to the bottom of your boots, a headlamp if you walk after work, and you can walk to your hearts content without struggling on ice, or the fear that can make you tense and grimace. A 20–30 minute walk a day is said to be a huge health benefit. And take it from me, a person who has walked a dog nearly every day for over 30 years, it changes your perspective on every season, certainly on winter. Walk on a winter day or evening and discover how stunning and powerful the landscape is—and then discover what it means to come back home. I guarantee when you come back round to the welcoming warmth of your home you will smile all on your own.

3. Schedule personal time. And they mean literally schedule time for personal passions, for family and for activities unrelated to work. Again, we are so lucky to live in or visit Northern Michigan, a place that makes it easy and utterly acceptable to carve time to pursue a passion or rediscover family and friends. People come North seeking balance between work and everything else important in life and this region opens its arms to that pursuit. From the arts to volunteering, our small communities offer an incredible array of easy ways to get up and out. This region is such a welcoming environment that you will rediscover and build on a passion and find yourself smiling with others who are doing the same. And family? Friends? One word: Unplug and rediscover. Winter ski outings or snowy walks, card games, cooking together, the list is endless and not important. Unplugging is.

4. Don’t commit to things you can’t do. This has to do with learning to say “no” and not overcommitting. Northern Michigan is sort of about saying “no,” but more about saying “yes” to what’s truly important. Time and balance. Pursuing passions and connecting with people we care about. I think there is true value in intentionally thinking about what you are saying “yes” to.

5. Use your calendar. This means use your calendar as much to schedule time for the things and people you love as you would for everything that has to get done in life and at work. For example, you might look ahead and think it would be great to play a board game with your kids or snowshoe that trail down the road, but when the weekend comes, the laundry or a football game takes precedence. This is about actively scheduling an hour for something or someone you love, and lucky us, we have Northern Michigan as the backdrop.

That’s it. Five resolutions. I’m signing on because not only do these feel doable, they connect to why we choose to be here. As Jeff Smith says, they are about “the life lived here.” I’m smiling just thinking about it.

More Northern Michigan Holidays

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Photo(s) by Wyatt Smith