Health resolutions for New Year: 9 ways to find wellbeing
You’ve got to be careful with New Year’s resolutions. If you think too big, they can be a surefire path to feeling lousy as, one after the other, they fall by the wayside.
But I do love that sense of change, optimism and clean slate at the start of January. To me, it makes sense to use this time of year to tweak your lifestyle for the better.
But it’s important to make targeted and accessible changes (I’d rather not call them ‘resolutions’). For example, rather than making *waves arm * blanket-style pledges – like that you’re going to get really fit and lose half a stone – try saying that you will go to the gym/ run/ swim/ power-walk twice a week for 20 minutes for three weeks.
Seems a bit more accessible, doesn’t it? If you can achieve that, then after the three weeks is up, you can try setting a new exercise goal.
It’s all about setting ‘SMART’ targets, according to experts. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-phased, and this idea was first bandied about in 1981 to help managers set business goals. But exercise and nutrition researchers have found that setting SMART targets is an effective way to change health habits too, according to a study published in the Journal of Health Education Teaching Techniques.
Focus on wellbeing
I treated myself a massage recently after a few frantic months, and as I luxuriated afterwards in that lovely, hazy, relaxed post-treatment feeling – and felt the corresponding sense of calm, control and happiness – I realised that those moments are few and far between nowadays.
Yet an enhanced sense of wellbeing is so important for overall health. After all, in that post-massage relaxed state, the chances of you reaching for the biscuit tin are very slight, according to motivational coach Sandra Stocks. And if you feel calm and positive, you’re more likely to feel quietly confident – and this impacts on how you deal with kids’ tantrums, your partner’s niggles and work or financial issues.
Here are some useful ‘weekly wellness’ tweaks (and all for far less money than a weekly massage):
1. Spend a minute writing an achievement list each Friday
The human brain tends to focus only on the things we haven’t done or didn’t do well, so I’ve been busily beating myself up for forgetting a school water bottle, not blogging often enough or failing to complete my to-do list.
But last month, I started writing a list of things I had achieved that week, whether it was arriving on time to all three kids’ plays, completing an interesting work project with panache or learning something new. Writing and reading the list filled me with a warm glow and transformed my whole view of the week. And that positive feeling spilled over into the next day too.
2. Go for a run at least once a week
Not only do I feel calm and happy after a run, but if I run with friends, I’ve also caught up with their news and had a chuckle. Going alone gives me the chance to listen to music. It might mean getting up at the crack of dawn to run, but it’s worth it.
3. Start attending a yoga class
I was once a fan of yoga but after moving to a new area five years ago, I couldn’t find a class and lapsed. I’ve missed that feeling of flexibility and post-class wellbeing, so am excited that a new class has started which fits into my schedule. Yoga, I’m coming back.
4. Introduce a Sunday night bath habit
As well as being a great way to relax, a wallow in a warm bath is a brilliant multitasker – you can deep-condition your hair, hydrate in a face mask and read a few pages of a book at the same time. (I love to find an activity that ticks off several boxes on my to-do list.)
5. Find a new craft project
Last month, I rediscovered knitting after five years, and it’s been a treat as it a) uses my brain, b) is satisfying and yet c) gives me an excuse to sit down with the kids after a long day while they watch TV. More, please.
6. Only consume food and drink that nourishes me, gives me energy and makes me feel good afterwards
(So kids’ treat tin, begone.) Bring on the soups, porridges, salads, nuts, stews, fruit and vegetables. Lentils, blueberries and kale, I love you. And I’m going to invest in top quality tea bags for my first cup of the day – the most important one I reckon – so that I can savour the moment.
7. Take a minute once a day to focus on my breathing
Preferably while the kids aren’t in the same room.
8. Climb into bed 30 minutes earlier
And then make sure I turn off the light on time. This is instead of reading till I look at the clock, gasping at how it’s way past my bedtime, and then tossing and turning with worry about my shortened night.
9. Stop and look at the scenery
It’s easy to forget this one – especially if you live in a city, like me. But I know you can find beauty anywhere, for example in the shape of a tree, a sunrise, the angles of a building or emergence of spring buds. It’s just about taking the time to look for it.
Happy New Year, everyone. Here’s to all of us finding more #weeklywellness in 2015.
I’m Carole Beck, a self-employed writer and editor – specialising in health, food and parenting – and mum of three small children (aged eight, six and three). I have long tried to live a healthy lifestyle, but I’m not always successful. This blog follows my trials and tribulations as I try to boost mine and my family’s fitness, sharing some of the bumps and cracks that I’ve walked into along the way.