If you are one of the many who were all too ready to bid 2012 goodbye, the first few weeks of the new year is the perfect time to reflect and consider what may help you to build a happier and healthier 2013.
Sitting with clients for many hours each day, discussing health, diets, weight loss, mood and wellbeing gives me great insight into what makes some of us happy, fulfilled and satisfied, and others not.
So, as we move into a bright and shiny New Year, here are my best tips on how to make 2013 a happy and healthier one.
1) Be strict with your time
While we all have 24 hours a day, some of us use this time much more constructively than do others. Time is our most precious resource, and yet too often we fritter away time on pointless meetings, unfulfilling social engagements and doing mindless tasks. If you can, set aside at least 30 minutes each day where you can simply be; free from demands, technology and stimulus. More importantly, be strict with your time in general and if the engagement is not important, be brave enough to say no – as your time may be best used elsewhere.
2) Take a break from technology
This may mean switching off your phone after hours, or having a cut off time from the computer. It may mean no television in the bedroom, or it may mean walking to work minus the music. Whatever ‘a break’ means for you, your brain needs a break. It needs a break to think, reflect, ponder and dream. Constant stimulation can distract from important thought processes and disrupt sleep and crucial relaxation time. Even if it is just an hour a day, ‘a technological break’ will benefit both your cognitive functioning and your health.
3) Seek out nature
For those of us who live in busy cities, the rushing, the traffic and the intensity is enough to send anyone crazy – aggression, anger and frustration becoming a ‘normal’ part of the day. One of the most powerful things we can all do to help get some balance within busy lives is to regularly seek out nature. Whether it be a beach walk each morning, a trip to the bush once a month or a regular weekend away, spending time in nature is proven to improve well-being.
4) Prioritise activity
There comes a point where keeping fit and healthy is less about aesthetics and more about being able to do the things we want to do. Incorporating daily exercise or even movement poses only benefits when it comes to health, movement, mood and well-being. The truth is that knowing this is not enough, activity needs to be scheduled or it will never get done. Aim for 30 minutes a day as a rule.
5) Get some sunlight
Low levels of Vitamin D are becoming increasingly common as we spend hours of our day indoors and cover up aggressively when in the sun. The issue is that low Vitamin D can make you feel as if you have been hit by a bus – with low energy, constant fatigue and low mood - knowing this, make a real effort this year to get some sunlight every single day.
6) Drink less alcohol
While there is nothing wrong with a glass or two of wine, drinking more than 1-2 alcoholic drinks, every single day is a bad habit not a positive life addition. Drinking too much, too regular is bad for your health, your weight and ultimately your motivation as time spent in an alcohol haze prevents you from doing the things you know you should be doing. Develop your own alcohol rules, in which you actively control your intake and aim for at least two alcohol free days each week.
7) Eat less sugar
It may surprise you but the truth is that you do not need to aggressively diet to control your weight. All you need to do is develop some strong dietary habits and one of the most powerful habits is to cut back on your sugar intake. Whether it is via added sugar, sweet treats, juices or white bread or processed breakfast cereals, the less sugar and sweet foods you have, the less you will want and that is good for the hormones that regulate your weight, long term.
8) Go for quality time
It may be with your husband, your best friend or your soul mate but spending quality time, at least once each week with someone very important to you is a crucial aspect part of your day to day well-being. We all need someone we can talk to, share our most intimate thoughts with, someone who is ‘on our side’, unconditionally. Once you are lucky enough to have this person, make regular time to spend with them.
9) Avoid shopping centres and school driving zones at all costs
We all know that stress is a natural part of day to day life, but actually putting ourselves in situations in which we are bound to experience much stress from other people’s children, traffic, other people rushing and mass consumerism are best avoided. Shop out of hours, drive the long way around and spend less, trust me, this is the one you will be most grateful for.
10) Look after yourself
So many of spend each day just trying to ‘make it through’ that we forget how important it is to ‘self-care’. In fact, the better we are at ‘self-care’, the better space we are in to be better partners, carers, friends, parents and workers. Schedule time each and every week for your own self-care – a massage, pedicure, trip to the movies, counseling session, trip the gym or a coffee at the local shop – simply time to relax and enjoy. You can find 30 minutes but you need to prioritise it and everyone around you will also benefit.