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by Yaneer Bar-Yam
Step VIII: Promote "First Day" Celebrations

The fundamental purpose of these celebrations, resonating with “today is the first day of the rest of your life,” is to celebrate healthy lifestyles for the new year. This will promote and reinforce our existing societal traditions and our recognition of the natural yearly cycle as one of renewal and improvement.

Health is serious business, but people should take care of their health in a positive way, mindful of new opportunities rather than focusing only on dangerous risks.

“First Day” also builds on “First Night,” the popular citywide New Year’s Eve festival full of arts, family activities and cultural entertainment. Started in 1976, First Night built upon people’s natural tendency to celebrate the new year, and channeled that impulse toward constructive cultural activities and fun.

First Day should not be driven solely by individuals—companies, communities, towns, cities, and states can all play a role. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) articulates a vision of health as pervading all aspects of life. We can leverage personal and community participation to improve public health.

Perhaps surprisingly, Walmart has led the way. In 2007, Walmart launched a program in which employees design and carry out “personal sustainability projects” including anything from recycling at home to quitting smoking to getting more exercise. Originally focused on the environment, participants naturally included personal health projects. Indeed, health for oneself, one’s family, community, country and world are all linked—both in effect and in desire and commitment for a better life.

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