Have you ever wanted to improve something about yourself? If the answer to that is no, I question your honesty and think maybe you need to resolve to tell less fibs in the future! The truth is, no matter how happy we are and how great our lives are, there will always be something that we feel we could improve on.
Some of us want a new job that we enjoy getting up in the morning for, some of us want to save money, some of us want to get fit, and all of us want to be happy.
January is for a lot of us, a month for change. A New Year, although just another day, marks the start of new beginnings, new resolutions, and a time for motivation and change where necessary. Of course, for some, these changes will last less than a week; your friend went through a break up, so you had to kiss goodbye to Dry January, hit the vino, sleep through your alarm, be late for work the next day. And after that humdinger, there’s just no point trying to claw it back, just wait until next year to cleanse your body, sleep more and apply yourself at work. After all, it’s only another 12 months.
This is just an extreme. Most of us will at least manage a few weeks of our improved self, but if the results don’t show themselves plainly within these few weeks, we can start to slip back into old habits and give up, due to our lack of self-belief or out of sheer frustration. Our fate is already planned anyway, so what difference does it make if I get 8 hours sleep, drink less and plan my super productive day at work? My boss will still hate me and I’ll be single forever surrounded by ageing cats I can’t afford to feed because that’s what fate has in store for me. Eventually, I’ll die alone and the starving cats can eat me. There’s an achievement.
The truth is, life isn’t always as hard as we make it. As 21st century humans living in a Western world, we challenge ourselves with impossible goals and kick ourselves when we don’t achieve them. We see a friend who’s known what they wanted from life since they were 5 years old, is now a successful lawyer or doctor, and we berate ourselves for our wasted youth and decide to attempt to cram a medicine degree into one year and have their life by 2017. Oh and whilst doing that, we’re also going to look like a Victoria’s Secret model by the time we go on the beach holiday we haven’t booked this summer. And you know that friend with the perfect kids? We’re having the perfect kids by the end of this year. We’re growing them in our super model bodies and we’ll know exactly how to raise them because we’ll have our medicine degrees and doctors know everything! Oh yes, by 2017, true happiness will be here in abundance.
Okay, so of course I’m being ridiculous! But the truth is, we have a habit of setting our sights too high, or our time frame too short. We want it all and we want it all right now. I’m not going to tell you you can’t have it all. You can have whatever you want. But maybe we need to stop expecting it all to happen so quickly and slow down to enjoy the ride a little more. Instead of being frustrated with what you consider to be your imperfect body, try to find enjoyment in the exercises that change it. Instead of wanting to be a millionaire by next December, why not be proud of the fact you cleared your £500 overdraft this month? Stop complaining to your friends that you’ll never have the perfect relationship and get out there finding out what you love. Maybe you’ll meet someone like minded who you may find you want to share it with.
I’m not a life coach, nor am I a therapist and I don’t have any qualifications whatsoever in psychology. But I am a human who has bad days and good days, and in 33 years have just about started to work out what makes me happy and what really doesn’t. I’ve had a moderate amount of pitfalls in my life, and had to face a few horrible situations. I’ve also had to watch other people face worse, and I know some people who’ve had it far better. I’ve had days when I feel like the world is against me and I’ve cried out for help. I’ve also been a rock to others when they need help. I don’t think I’ve been dealt a bad hand in life, I think it’s my job to play it to the best of my ability.
What makes each individual happy is obviously different for all of us, but there are some small steps we can take in order to make us that little bit better, that little bit happier and get us on the right path to finding what makes us the best we can be. These are my personal top ten tips to a New Year, New You (maybe I should have put New Me but it doesn’t sound right). You may agree with some, all or none of these and you can add your own to the list, but these are my small, easily achievable (I think) goals for 2016.
1. Surround Yourself with Positive People
I put this one first because it’s very close to my heart at the moment and something I believe very strongly in. The people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on our lives and can make the difference between happiness, fun and positivity versus worry, sadness and anxiety. To constantly hear negatives either about you or about people or situations around you, will always have a negative effect on your own mental state. Don’t waste precious time on people who want to focus on your flaws. We’ve all got them, and we all make mistakes. Go to those people who laugh them off and love you for your good points. Soon you’ll find you love yourself for your good points and channel those into a more positive future, instead of sitting in limbo dwelling on things you’ve done wrong and worrying about those people who can’t see beyond your flaws. Chances are, once you stop beating yourself up for them, others won’t bother trying either. You know if you’re a good person. People worth being around will see this as well, and celebrate you. Don’t be afraid to cut anyone else out.
2. Get Enough Sleep
Like everything else, the amount of sleep you need is dependent on the individual but getting enough of the stuff is vital to both physical and mental wellbeing. We all feel better, more focused and more able to cope with life when we’ve had a good rest and have a clear head. Sleep is vital for learning and memory, which will help us to improve in every area of our lives, especially careers or education. Similarly, if we have more rest, we have more energy, that can then be put to good use getting more exercise, which helps us get in shape, boosts our health and our confidence. Not to mention eliminating those under eye circles. In short, it helps everything. And lack of sleep of course, has the complete opposite effect. Tiredness not only makes us less inclined to be motivated, less focused, less able to retain information or concentrate on tasks at hand. All this leads to a more unhealthy lifestyle, more stress and more of those pesky dark circles. The most positive people I know (referred to in point 1) always seem to be the ones that get their early nights, aren’t afraid to leave a party early in favour of bed, and know how to take a nap. They’re also the most radiant, a shallow but secretly valid point to note!
If you’re anything like me, actually working out how to get enough sleep can be a lot harder than any diet or gym programme. The stresses of 21st century life can make it supremely difficult to switch off at night and the pull of modern technology can often win out over the much more important shut eye. How many of you feel watching TV is as good a way to unwind as going to bed? And how many go to bed with a tablet or smart phone and feel you’re doing the right thing in checking emails and going through work documents last thing before you go to sleep? We all fall into the same traps and they all affect both quantity and quality of our sleep. For more tips on how to sleep better, try this article on Healthy Sleep Tips from the National Sleep Foundation. And remember, it’s all well and good to lie awake worrying about your problems, but those problems will be solved far quicker when you’re best equipped to deal with them. So stop feeling guilty. The world will still be there waiting for you in the morning.
3. Drink Plenty of Water
This is one that every single diet or a health article tells us, but I feel it can’t be reiterated enough. It is possibly the easiest thing to take on board in our daily routines, yet the one a vast majority of us fall down on. Did you know that getting enough water in our bodies improves our mood, our health, our athletic performance, can help us lose weight, get rid of headaches and joint pain, flushes out waste and bacteria, and helps our skin to glow. Now you may disagree, but if I can take even half those points out of something as simple as consuming some more free fluid each day, I’m thinking it’s a positive step that we’d be bonkers to ignore. And if you don’t believe me, you can read a bit more information on how wonderful water is, in this article 10 Life Changing Reasons to Drink More Water.
4. Start Juicing
If you have a busy lifestyle, as so many of us do, it’s not always easy to get enough vitamins and nutrients into your diet. It would be great if we all had time for breakfast in the morning, took a healthy lunch to work that we had prepared the previous night, and came home to a healthy balanced dinner. But it doesn’t always work that way. Eating enough fruit and veg is not only good for your health, and essential for a balanced diet, it will also help you maintain a healthy weight, make you feel more energized, assist your digestive system and help reduce the risk of numerous diseases including heart disease, high blood pressure and some cancers. All of which can only make you feel better. Still not convinced? Check out the Top 10 Reasons to Eat More Fruit and Veg from Fruit and Veggies More Matters.
Drinking juices is probably the quickest and easiest way to get a healthy dose of vitamin rich fruit and veggies into your system. Because this trend has been popular for a while now, there are literally thousands upon thousands of recipes out there, so whatever your taste, you will definitely find a juice to suit you. I tried the Funky Fresh Juice Book by Jason Vale, which has some great recipes that are really easy to make.
And if you think you don’t have time for all that faff preparing and blending up healthy smoothies, think again! Just prep your smoothie mix the night before, or on a weekend, freeze individual portions in freezer bags and blend and go. This not only saves time, but also stops you wasting any ingredients, which ultimately helps the purse strings. And that can only be a win win situation all round.
Your next excuse might be that you can’t afford one of those fancy juicing machines. Well, I’m not buying that one either (remember these tips are supposed to be easy changes to make!). A Breville Blend Active Pro will set you back £34.95, and is perfect for blending on the go. You simply change the blade cap for a bottle cap and take your smoothie to the gym, to work or wherever you want. Designed to fit in standard car cup holders, this is the perfect tool to improve your health and make you feel better without slowing you down or interrupting your busy day.
5. Spiral Into Control
Following on from point 4, another way of ensuring you have a vitamin rich diet is to start using a Spiralizer to make vegetable spirals in place of pasta and noodles. I posted an article on some of our favourite Spiralizer recipes last week, so I won’t bore you going into detail on what you can make, but rather just say that since discovering the joys of spiralizing, I’ve felt healthier and happier (due to all those lovely vegetables) and also felt more energized, due to eating less refined carbohydrates and less gut-irritating gluten and wheat.
A Spiralizer costs only £19.99 and will totally change the way you eat, without adding any extra hassle (yes, you have to actually twist the arm to spiralize the veg but you have to chop veg anyway so what’s the difference?). But I’m not going to bang on about this point because we have already covered it in last week’s blog, which you can read here (Top 5 Spiralizer Recipes). It’s just great!
6. Exercise Daily
This one is obvious. We all know exercise is beneficial to both mind and body, so I don’t need to go into all the reasons why. The problem most of us face is finding the time and the energy to do it. If you’re following some of our earlier tips, then you might already be on your way to having more energy, but what if you’re struggling for time? The truth is (how I see it) it doesn’t matter if you have 20 minutes or two hours in a day to put aside for exercise, anything you can do is a positive step in your life and is more beneficial than doing nothing.
After a sudden and unexpected family bereavement three years ago, I stopped exercising (and started drinking) altogether. After three years of telling myself I would eventually get back to my hour and a half, intense, five times a week workout, I realised I was lying to myself. Those days were gone and my life had changed dramatically and I had to devise a new plan to work exercise in around my new life. Starting with a really easy goal of 20 minutes a day.
Some of you will be sitting there, chunnering “Well I don’t even have 20 minutes to spare each day!” and you might not be lying but if you want to feel better, a bit of regular exercise is key. And if you don’t like the gym, or find that too time consuming, find out what works for you. Chances are, the more you do it, the more you’ll want to. It works the same as an addiction. The better you feel, the more you want it. Whether it’s a walk, a jog, a sprint, a bike ride, swim or an intense weights routine at the gym, just get on with it. The only hard part is getting started. And there’s no need to beat yourself up about it if you have a tired day and don’t do as much. Just do what you can, and reap the rewards.
7. Prep Your Lunch
Another foodie one here folks, but a worthy one. For us busy bees, lunchtime can be a bit of a nightmare. You’re swamped with work, you want something fast so you nip out and grab the first thing to hand from the closest shop to hand. This comes at a cost, both to your wallet and your waistline! Even food that looks like it might be healthy, if grabbed off a shelf ready to eat, probably isn’t. Even fast food that appears to be “real” food (by that I mean not processed) is more often than no laced with sugars and preservatives, that can make us feel sluggish, unhealthy and cause health problems. And this is before we even look at how much it costs to buy lunch every single day of the working week.
Obviously it’s not that easy to start cooking in the office in the middle of the day, so you need to find a lunch that can be easily prepared beforehand, easily transported to work, that fills you up and is good for you. It’s not as hard as it sounds. Especially since the rise of Kilner jar lunches. Kilner jar salads have been on the rise for over a year now, probably more. Layered salad in an airtight Kilner jar stays fresh and is easy to transport to work. Buying the ingredients in bulk at the start of the week means it will cost less than paying for a pre made salad in a deli, and you can tailor it to your own taste and dietary requirements.
And if you want something more than salad? You could try healthy brown rice layered with chicken and vegetables, or spiralized veggies layered with whatever you want. The possibilities are endless and we can guarantee the extra nutritious food in your diet and more pennies in your wallet will definitely make you feel better in both body and mind.
Click here for some great Kilner Jar salad ideas.
8. Drink More Herbal Tea
If you’re anything like myself and a large proportion of the British public (not to mention other cultures), you’ll love a good brew or ten throughout your working day. There’s nothing better than starting the day with a lovely latte or cappuccino from your nearest coffee shop, and nothing sorts out any problem, big or small, better than a good strong cup of tea.
Now I am not about to tell you to give up this wonderful brew drinking habit, because that would make me a massive hypocrite and this article is, after all, meant to be about easy steps to improvement, not going cold turkey on your caffeine addiction first thing on a Monday morning. You’ve got enough on your plate without doing something that silly. I am merely suggesting introducing another type of hot drink into your daily hot-drink-drinking-habit.
Caffeine, although great for giving us a quick boost in the morning, in large quantities can actually have the reverse effect. Too much caffeine can affect the nervous system and cause us to have the jitters, and trying to keep stimulated with caffeine all day can result in slumps that leave you feeling more tired than when you started.
The recommended maximum caffeine intake for one day is no more than 400 milligrams, around four average cups of coffee. If you think you’re drinking a higher quantity of caffeine, through coffee and tea intake or through other caffeinated drinks, why not try substituting some of your daily drinks with herbal teas?
The selection of herbal teas available is endless, so whatever your tastes, there’s bound to be one out there that tickles your fancy. Even replacing every other caffeinated brew with a herbal tea will benefit your health, both in cutting down your caffeine intake and increasing your intake of antioxidant-rich herbal teas.
Something to note, it’s better to go for the labels that mention real herbs and avoid artificial flavourings. The best quality herbal teas tend to be organic.
A variety of herbal teas will be available in your local supermarket, but if you want to have a browse online, The London Tea Company have a fantastic selection.
9. Get Outdoorsy
There is no question that spending some leisure time outdoors makes you feel better. Fresh air, vitamin D, exercise and a chance to spend some time away from the technology that so controls our daily lives, all contribute to making us feel better in both our minds and body.
Whether you like a good walk, a bike ride, a jog, maybe something more extreme like climbing or horse riding, or even gardening or sitting quietly in a park, it’s essential to get some outdoors time every day. Like my point about daily exercise, this is a case of just doing what you can. So if you only have 20 minutes, that’s enough. Just do it.
Being outside focuses your mind and helps to clear your head, away from the demands of computers, smart phones and the fast paced life that we have begun to accept as the norm. A simple walk in a natural setting helps us to get our thoughts in order and better equips us to deal with the stresses of every day modern living.
The health benefits of vitamin D are constantly being discovered, and we keep finding out more reasons we should be getting out there and soaking up the sunlight. Known to help prevent cancer, hormonal problems, obesity, inflammation and to build a strong immune system, it only seems logical that we would benefit from getting outside more and enjoying nature.
Getting in touch with nature can also help you sleep better because the natural sunlight can help set your internal body clock, and as mentioned in point 2, it is hugely important to get enough quality sleep.
If you’re still not convinced and want to read more about the benefits of spending more time outdoors, and ways which you can get into being outdoorsy, this article Why Getting Outside Is So Good For You at sparkpeople.com
10. Get Organised
I’ve put this point last, because it’s probably the one I find the hardest. I’m not a naturally organised person, so the thought of “getting organised” fills me with dread and it’s easy to constantly put off tidying, planning my diary, and getting into a routine. Even the word routine gives me the jitters, but the truth is, if you’ve got a lot on in your life, you’ll need to be organised to get through it all efficiently.
Obviously some people are naturally more organised than others (infuriating, I know) but there are some tips and tricks we can use to give us that little bit of extra structure and efficiency to our day.
First of all, the above steps will help us become more focused anyway, which will impact our natural organisation anyway, but in addition to this, things such as having a diary and using it, making to do lists, and completing one job before moving onto the next, are all good starting points. Keeping on top of mundane jobs around the home can also stop these becoming daunting, mammoth tasks that we do not want to face. A few minutes a day sorting recycling, putting clothes away and making beds could save you hours of housework in the future.
Having a tidy home or office will keep your mind focused and relieve anxiety that can build up when we are surrounded by mess. And when we are focused, we are more productive and when we are more productive, we feel better about ourselves and we get more done, leaving us more time to do the things we enjoy, like getting outdoors and spending time with friends and family.
There are plenty of tips and tricks out there on the internet, such as this article from Zen Habits, 27 Great Tips to Keep Your Life Organised, or you may already have your own methods. Whatever works for you, get yourself in control and I’m sure you’ll see the benefits straight away.
I’m sure you could add to my personal top ten tips to a better you, but my point really is about making small adjustments to your lifestyle, that can then make a big difference to your life. Making any changes can seem daunting at times, but once that initial step is taken, and the benefits become apparent, we start to wonder why we haven’t been doing it like this all along.