As you make your resolutions for the New Year, keep in mind optimists, on average, live longer than pessimists, according to a study published recently by the Mayo Clinic.

The Mayo research suggests optimism can lead to success at work, school, sports, health and longevity. Researchers determined that, like high cholesterol or obesity, pessimism is a risk factor for early death, even after other risk factors such as age and gender are factored out.

“What is happening in the mind is strongly influencing the body, or the final outcome of the body, which is death,” said Toshihiko Maruta, a Mayo psychiatrist.

In these stressful times, it is important to have good, positive expectations for the future.

“It’s a well-known fact that happy people don’t get sick as often and when they do get sick or injured, they recover more quickly,” David Lykken, a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota, said.

“Grouches and grumblers didn’t do as well when they got sick or were searching for a mate. Nobody wants to be around them.” The bottom line is: Be happy and resolve to have a great 2020.

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Do you believe there are angels among us? If you do, what do angels look like? A local church newsletter gave these tips on identifying angels.

* Like the little old lady who returned your wallet yesterday and refused to accept a reward.

* Like the delivery driver who told you that your eyes light up the world when you smile.

* Like the small child who showed you the wonder in simple things…maybe the miracle of Christmas?

* Like the poor man who offered to share his lunch with you.

* Like the rich man who showed you that it really is all possible, if only you believe in something and are willing to work hard for it.

* Like the stranger who just happened to come along when you lost your way.

* Like the friend who touched your heart when you didn’t think you had one to touch.

Angels come in all sizes and shapes, all ages and skin types. Some have freckles, some have dimples, some have wrinkles.

They come disguised as friends, teachers, students, lovers and fools. They don’t take life too seriously. They travel light.

They leave no forwarding address; they ask nothing in return. They wear sneakers with gossamer wings. They get a deal on dry cleaning.

They might be hard to find when your eyes are closed, but they are everywhere you look, when you choose to see!

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Life can be difficult, frenzied, unfair and exhausting. And that’s on the good days.

It’s easy to fall into a rote existence where routines are embraced in the name of expediency, where life becomes a daily variation on a single, soul-starving theme. What to do?

At the risk of sounding like a second-rate self-help column, here are a few suggestions:

* Challenge yourself, break a habit, shake up your daily schedule. There are all kinds of quick, easily attainable and readily affordable little strategies for taking a few minutes off from everyday mundanity.

* Find a spot in your backyard, at a park or anywhere outside and simply stand there for five minutes observing nature. We live in the North Woods! You may be missing this blessing.

* Strike up a conversation with a stranger. You may find a new friend who will reward your life.

* If you drink every day, skip a day. If you hardly ever drink, sip a glass of wine. Buy one of those expensive coffees for a change.

* Find 15 minutes to listen to music—-not as background while you’re doing something else, but with your full attention. Any style of music will do.

* Call a friend or relative you haven’t spoken with in several months. You might find that they need your advice or it might be just the thing to make their day.

* Read a columnist whose politics you disagree with or listen for a few minutes to a talk show host whose views you find repulsive. Try to understand their perspective.

* Are you in a rut? Tomorrow, find a different route home from work. Stop at a local retail business that you’ve never visited before. You might be pleasantly surprised.

* Select and read a new book, or any work, at random from your local library. By the way, we have beautiful new libraries in our communities. Try a food you hated as a child, just to see if your taste has changed.

* Write a letter. Turn the TV off for a whole day. Change your radio station. Try a new restaurant. Try a new flavor of ice cream.

* Find a reason to compliment someone you don’t normally get along with. Do something nice for someone and never tell them.

* Pass along your own favorite stress-reducing advice to someone who looks like they need it. Most everyone is carrying a heavy burden.