If like me, you think that January wins the award for the most dismal month, it can be a challenge to start the year in the right mindset. It feels like you see as much sunlight as a pit pony, your bank balance has lost a few zeros, walking from A to B is like competing in I’m a Celeb’s Celebrity Cyclone and you don’t need to book a flight to Iceland to experience the Arctic chill. To top it all off, in my case, scoffing a few too many Heroes’ crème egg chocolates and overindulging on the cheese front has prevented me from mounting the scales and enjoying the January sales. But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. A lot of the time we’re feeling blue due our mindsets and the socially constructed notion of the New Year. When you really think about it, January is pretty much December without all the tinsel, and it’s only the ticking of a clock that resets us to the start of a 365 day story. It’s helpful to remember that we’re still moving forward and building on what we’ve already learned and experienced the year before. What we really need is to reset our mindsets, instead of our calendars. Here are a few tips on how to make January a good one.
1. Don’t set yourself unrealistic goals. New Years resolutions are often hard to keep and put undue stress on us during a time when the budget and our trousers are tight. Don’t feel that you have to set goals at this time of year just because Julie at the office has vowed to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and your sister is going gluten free. And if you do, it’s best to keep them small so that you’re more likely to achieve them and experience a positive outcome. Think about drinking more water, upping your exercise regime by 15 minutes, swapping your caramel latte for a skinny one. Cutting things out completely is hard and frankly no fun, and some of us just need our caffeine fix to keep us from embracing our evil twin alter egos.
2. Embrace gratitude. Instead of focusing on the bad or achieving the next big thing, take a moment to appreciate the good already around you. Maybe your gran makes the best cheese on toast, your neighbour always takes in your Amazon deliveries or your bus driver literally goes that extra mile for you. It’s important to revel in small gestures that make us happy because we sure would notice if they were not there. Even appreciating silly things that make you smile like your favourite Bobbi Brown concealer going on sale, getting the last avocado wrap at Pret, singing along to an old school Busted hit or realising that you’re wearing matching underwear all add up. Programing your brain to appreciate the positives is also a fabulous excuse to raid the shelves of Paperchase. But if you don’t want to dip into your savings or fancy giving your glue gun its chance to shine, jazzing up an old mason jar is a great way to get creative and capture all that gratitude.
3. Move a little and see things from a new perspective. I’m by no means a gym bunny. The idea of going to a HIIT class fills me with the same level of enthusiasm as doing the Three Peaks Challenge with a hangover on stilts. But you don’t need to be Gwyneth Paltrow to feel the benefits of getting active. I find lighter, cardio-based exercises like yoga and the cross trainer suit my personality, ability and comfort zone. What also seems to do the trick is a good old-fashioned walk. I always feel more relaxed after a 20 minute stroll, even along the busy, dirty, industrial road into the city centre. Throw in the chance to see some greenery, a whole kennel of dog breeds, some ducks or the ocean, and I’m pretty mellowed out. Walking outdoors forces us to focus on the world around us, leaving less time to listen to our inner critic. The fresh air can also be an inspiration and taking a new route can help keep you on your toes. When I interned in London I took a random turn down an alleyway on a whim and found a much more peaceful and scenic walk to the office than through the onslaught of agitated commuters. Sometimes spending time with the natural world and taking a few left turns is all you need as a mood booster.
4. Escape the real world. Reading a good book or catching up on your favourite TV programme is sometimes the only solution. I’ve always been a bookworm and as an anxious and introverted child, I felt a thrill living vicariously through the adventures of the Glitter Girls or the Famous Five. I was never going to explore a treasure island or stop bad guys in their tracks, but by reading about the quests of Julian, Dick and Anne, George and Timmy the dog I got a taste of the action and adventure just through the power of my imagination. This feeling is still true for me today. Some of my favourite books have really moved me and had a positive impact on my mood. The Secret Life of Bees is a perfect example. When my brain doesn’t quite want to work as hard, Once Upon a Time, Suits or Nashville are my emergency contacts. Between them all there’s magic, humour, romance, sass, drama and country music. What else can a girl ask for? There’s nothing quite like watching a bunch of fictional characters with amnesia fight the god of the underworld to help you get perspective on some of your own struggles.
5. Surround yourself with positive people. Choosing to spend time with the people who make you happy is vital to mental wellbeing. Since I’ve left school, I received the best education when I realised that everyone doesn’t have to like you as long as the people who matter do. I now feel a part of a close group of friends who share my interests and sense of humour. Even if I’ve got to force myself out of my dressing gown to go, meeting up for a cinema date, a meal, cheese and wine evening or a couple of G & Ts at the local pub has a 90% chance of bettering the way I feel. Make sure you’re spending time with people for the right reasons. If you’re holding on to a friendship just because you’ve known each other since you were babies, you’re trying to impress them or because they’re popular, it’s not worth it if they make you feel bad. You don’t need to cut yourself off completely from these people, but redistribute your time to focus more on those who send you random inspirational text messages, who make you belly laugh and believe you’re a superhero when you feel like a couched potato.
6. Make time for your interests. This is a biggie that I’m guilty of neglecting. In recent months I’ve been so busy focusing on internships and finding a journalism job that I’ve forgotten what having a hobby feels like. I used to take guitar lessons. Granted, I was never going to perform with John Mayer, but it was something I used to get a buzz from when I managed to play three chords correctly. The same goes for arts and crafts. I used to spend hours on end making Christmas and birthday cards, designing canvases and sketching dresses long before my obsession with Say Yes to the Dress. Writing stories used to leave me blissfully consumed in a land of make believe. These are things I should really dedicate more time to, because they are parts of my past, my personality and play an important part in helping me be more mindful. Whether you used to be a swimmer, a dancer, a singer or a champion chess player, scheduling in a pastime that ignites your inner magic is vital. Plus, being a secret sword swallower is one hell of a USP.
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