We’re almost a week into the new year and for some the resolutions are holding steady while others have already crashed and burned. Unfortunately, all too often we spend the beginning of a new year berating ourselves and trying to force a level of change in our person that’s simply unfeasible. This year, skip it. Say no to the cycle of ridiculous expectations, impatience for results, crushing defeats and going back to square one. Instead, make actual changes in a slow, steady and manageable way. You are more than your dress size and your income level. Focus on wellbeing and you’ll go a long way. Here are ten ways in which you really can change your life this year.
Save Some Money
Money, or more accurately the lack thereof, is a major cause of stress and strain for so many of us. When you’re struggling to get from one end of the month to the other without blowing the overdraft to smithereens, it’s very hard to get your head above water and see the bigger picture. Even so, putting away even a small amount every week (however difficult it is to start) can make a major difference to your wellbeing. There’s a reason your parents always told you to save for a rainy day. When an unexpected expense crops up, your heart and mind will thank you for having the means to handle it.
Disconnect Once a Week
Really, we should all be banning technology from the bedroom entirely and restricting our use in social situations. Given the addictive behavior a blue screen sparks in us though, this is often easier said than done. Start small, but for the sake of your wellbeing and your connections to actual people you can see, hear and touch – it’s worth it. One evening after work per week will even make a difference. Have a nice meal without the TV on in the background. Turn your email notifications off. Take a bubble bath without your phone sitting in viewing and hearing distance. Maybe even read an actual book! Yes Kindle, you’re off tonight too.
Give Up On Miracle Cures
If that €100 face cream actually got rid of wrinkles, you’d know about it and so would every other man, woman and child on the planet. If that juice cleanse was going to make sure you dropped a stone – we’d all be doing it, no bother. For every facet of change you want to see, “slow and steady wins the race” should be your mantra. You don’t need to live on three pieces of fruit a day – you’ll be miserably cranky, have killer headaches and when the crash comes you’ll binge worse than you ever have before. Whether it’s food, fitness, finance or something else entirely, every journey starts with a single step. Master that, then step up your game.
Book A Trip
We’ve already mentioned the money issue, but you shouldn’t let it stop you from hitting the road every now and again. Keep an eye out for big sales on budget airlines – you and your carry-on could soon be in a foreign country for less than the price of a train ticket from Cork to Dublin. Head away from capital cities and you’ll often find yourself pleasantly surprised by how inexpensive a nice hotel can be. Travel is good for the soul and walking along a beautiful beach or scaling a cliff to breathtaking scenery serves as a great reminder that whatever everyday “crisis” you’re handling this week may not matter tomorrow.
Spring Clean Your Circle
If you have people in your life who always leave you in worse form for seeing them or talking to them, it might be time to say goodbye. If someone you once had a lot of time for has of late changed, that’s a relationship that could well be repaired. It’s worth having a conversation and finding out if they’re going through anything you were unaware of. What we’re talking about, though, is the moaning neighbour who exhausts you simply by “chatting” before you ready the door, the gossipy co-worker without a good word to say about anyone else in the building or the friend-of-a-friend you never really had anything in common with. Gradually disentangle yourself from these relationships and dedicate your additional time to actively seeking out the people you love but don’t see as much as you would like. While you’re at it, clear out the Facebook friends list. You don’t need to see the highlight reel of a person you’ve met once and wouldn’t say hello to on the street.
Listen to Music More Often
Music makes people feel really good. It has been proven to ease perceived pain, speed up recovery, improve motivation and performance, reduce stress and relieve symptoms of depression – and that’s only the start of it. Step away from the screen every now and then and towards the speakers so you’re actively listen instead of staring at a screen again. Don’t be afraid to dance around the house in your underpants either. Unless you have housemates, then maybe restrict the behavior to your room.
Challenge Yourself Physically
There’s a reason we don’t say: “run a marathon” or “climb a mountain” here. What is a challenge for you may be a breeze or a complete nightmare for the next woman. Exercise is hugely important for a balanced lifestyle though, so you should choose a goal that presents an achievable challenge and work towards it. Maybe it’s something as simple as skipping the bus and walking to work twice a week, or maybe you’re ready for a Triathlon. Once the goal is yours alone, you get the same satisfaction when you achieve it.
Do One Good Deed A Day
There is always time to be kind to someone else. This isn’t something you have to shout about or make a grand gesture for, but holding the door open for the woman struggling with the buggy may turn her morning around. Checking in on an elderly relative for an hour at the weekend may ease a loneliness you didn’t know was there. Look up and connect with the people around you and when you spot an opportunity for a kindness, no matter how small, take it.
Declutter Your Living Space
We spend our lives surrounded by stuff. Getting rid of a lot of it at once can be hard to do, but the freedom you feel afterwards is well worth the sharp shock. Take it drawer by drawer and room by room, but go through everything and judge it through the eye of someone who had to pack up and leave tomorrow – how much can you carry and would you really miss it if it wasn’t there? You can use this clear-out time to recover lost treasures too; the pictures you never got around to framing might look really good on that shelf of unread magazines you just cleared off.
If you’re always worrying about what comes next, you don’t spend any time in the now. Take time out every night to think back on your day and single out three good things that happened. If you struggle to get to that place because worries come to you first, keep a pen and paper by your bed and write them down. Then write down what you can do about those worries right then and there. If the answer is nothing, it’s time to close that book and put down that concern until tomorrow. Then it’s back to your happy thoughts and three positive things. These can be as simple as a shared laugh with a friend or the walk with the dog, but try to end your day by being present and grateful.