County column: New year offers new opportunities for health

The arrival of the new year is a time of change and resolutions for many of us, but where to start?

I spoke to some of our county’s health, nutrition and family wellness specialists to get their advice on their careers.

Here’s what they had to share:

Melody Bays, Director General, Wel

“Last year when WELL opened it taught me a lot about health. I think the biggest priority I’m going to take with me into the new year is focusing on mental health. Mental health has such an impact on physical health and if you don’t take care of it or you’re on autopilot, you’re not living your healthiest life. I promise. This time of year is fun, but it can be stressful.

“My advice to everyone is to not neglect your mental health. Prioritize stress reduction and relaxation techniques, get out in nature to lower cortisol levels, and do things that make your mind and spirit happy. The mind and body are connected, so take care of both.”

To follow Bay’s advice, see Movement and Consciousness, Free at Thewell,

Kate Cooper, Director of Community Engagement, The Well:

“As the year ends, I like to take a moment to reflect on the positives and negatives so I can move forward with gratitude and a plan. Focusing on wellness in our community is something very close to my heart, and the new year is a great time to start on your wellness journey.

We’re adding many new features to The Well to make wellness accessible, regardless of fitness or income level.

“Meditation, disability-friendly dance and boot-camp-style fitness will join our physical wellness classes in January, as well as healthy cooking and nutrition classes.”

Follow Cooper’s advice and join Bootcamp at Ron or other free workouts at The Well,

Courtney DeKalb-Myers, Interim County Extension Director, Horticulture/4-H Educator:

“Gardening, whether for food or beauty, has many mental health benefits, including reduced stress and increased self-esteem. Taking care of indoor plants during the cold short days can be useful. Consider starting cold season vegetable transplants early in the new year. Broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts can be started indoors in late January and early February.

“Physical health can also benefit from gardening. Getting outside on those rare warm Oklahoma days can be a way to get your body moving and absorb some vitamin D. Taking care of plants is a great way to take care of yourself.

Learn firsthand from DeKalb-Myers in her gardening series at The Well,

Christy Evans, Instructor of Family and Consumer Sciences, Cleveland County OSU Extension:

“My advice is to prioritize home-cooked family meals. When families prepare food and eat together, it has a positive effect on health and happiness. When we eat at home and eat out, we tend to make healthier food choices and eat fewer calories, and because food at home costs less than eating out, this also has a positive impact on family finances.

“Eating together is a great opportunity for family members to bond as they each discuss the day and for parents to model healthy eating habits for their children.

“For picky eaters, letting kids help prepare meals increases their chances of trying new foods. To keep kids involved, parents can assign age-appropriate activities, such as letting younger children wash the product and allowing older children to add ingredients. By helping their parents, children eventually learn to cook for themselves, which is an important life skill.

Check out the upcoming Evans Low Cost Class at the county extension office at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds,

• From all of us to you:

We hope these tips inspire and motivate you to live your best life ever in 2023.

OSU County Extension agents teach several free or low-cost classes at The Well and Cleveland County Fairgrounds. To learn more about Cleveland County Extension Office services, visit

In addition to county extension agents, several community partners teach a variety of health-related classes at Cleveland County’s Wellness Square (The Well). Classes range from financial literacy to fitness classes, tai chi, meditation, cooking and more.

To learn more about The Well or to sign up for free or low-cost classes, visit

Happy New Year from all of us who work to make Cleveland County a healthier and happier place!

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