I’ve never been particularly vocal about success or one to enjoy self-promotion, and inherently I have tended to downplay my achievements at risk of being perceived as self-important. I was taught to be humble and… More
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The words below were written on the back of a sugar packet in a cafe I found in Spain last Summer.
el tiempo no se detiene mi espero por nadie, asi que no detengas tu vida por pequences, sigue adelante porque en este momento eres lo mas viejo que puedesser y lo mas joven que nunca volveras a ser jamas
It essentially means that time stops for nobody so you shouldn’t let the little things bother you. Enjoy life because at this moment you are both the oldest you can be and the youngest you’ll ever be. I found it when I was going through a tough time and it really stood out to me. It also reminds me simple things I love about life: good coffee, sunshine and embracing culture, and of course being surrounded by people I love.
So it’s going to be my motto for 2018.
As 2017 comes to a close it’s natural to reflect and begin planning the year ahead. Personally I’m not really into making solid new years resolutions but I do like to take stock on things going well and reflect on areas that I want to improve. I definitely don’t wait until January 1st to make changes though – reflection is something that should be incorporated into your life continuously. Read about my 2017 reflections here.
A majority of New Year’s resolutions are made post-Christmas binge and spending extravagance, so it’s natural that a majority of these reflect a feeling of wanting to save money, be healthier or lose weight. Easy to do when you feel like you’ve overindulged, but once the initial Christmas week bloat has subsided those good intentions go straight out of the window.
With that in mind I wanted to share three simple tips on how to have a great year. No resolutions, no restrictions, just some easy to implement self-development approaches that can help you to make small but longstanding changes.
What went well this year?
Reflecting on both the good and bad can help you consolidate your self-worth, steer bad habits and build on good behaviours
This can usually be broken down into a few areas such as work, personal life, social life, relationships, etc, depending on where your priorities lie. Did you achieve something that you didn’t think was possible a year ago?
Reflecting on your year may seem a daunting task but all it really requires is taking time out. You don’t need to be a top analyst to stop, clear your thoughts and think about things in a reflective and reflexive manner. However you choose to reflect try to do it when you have some real peace and quiet in order to really listen to your inner voice. Trust that. If you feel that you find it easier to dwell on negative things and less inclined to praise the positive, then this reflects a state of mind that is automatically attuned to focus and on the bad. It’s a bad habit and I bet you’ll also find it easier to remember negative events, situations where people have wronged you or hold on to grudges. If this resonates with you then I would perhaps consider focusing on changing this bad habit. It serves no good purpose.
Over the period of a year there should be one or two (if not more) highlights, but if they don’t jump out make sure you reflect even when you do not feel there is anything to particularly stand out. What are the positives of your year? What moments were you truly happy? How did you feel in those moments? If all else fails, ask yourself What are you grateful for?
Next, think about the behaviours which underpinned these positives. These are the behaviours, habits and activities that you want to build on and keep incorporating in the new year. As for the lowlights, or the things that didn’t go to plan, how could the situations be improved going forward? Those behaviours are things you want to inject in your life more.
Where do you see yourself in a years time?
Write yourself a list, letter or goal of something you wish to have achieved by December 31st 2018.
This is your north star and will essentially guide you in your behaviours for the new year. If it is a specific goal then break it down to it’s constituent parts and plan to incorporate small changes or steps that amount to the larger goal. Remember to set goals that are SMART (Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic and Timely) as these are the most achievable. For example, if losing weight is your goal then set a SMART goal and break it down into a number of steps or smaller goals. i.e. drinking 2 litres of water a day, or taking the stairs instead of the lift. Start small to build the foundations and consolidate with congruent behaviours. Don’t overwhelm yourself with unattainable goals as they’re likely to have a rebound effect.
If you write about something less concrete such as ‘being healthier or happier’ then again break this down into actions and/or behaviours that you can incorporate which will subsequently amount to the overall aim. E.g. smiling at people, letting go of the need to be right or reducing toxic people from your life. Read my post about that here.
What activities do you already undertake and what behaviours/habits do you have nailed down? List as many as possible – for example, going to the gym twice a week, having a weekly catch up with your friend, or a 10 minute meditation session every morning. List these in order of priority so that when you feel overwhelmed, too busy or stuck in a rut, look at your list of actions or behaviours that are the most important to you. Continue with the most important and prioritized activities at times when you are overwhelmed and cut the rest.
If you would like me to write more in detail about goal setting and behaviour change let me know. 🙂
Do you make resolutions?
Thanks for reading 🙂
Even though I regularly incorporate a good amount of reflection in my life, December seems a natural point to take stock on perhaps a much greater scale.
2017 has been pretty pants on a personal level. I’ve been dealing with a high amount of stress coupled with an abundance of personal issues. Without dwelling on the dark times too much I would rather look at what I’ve learned going into the new year.
If I had one big take away, it would be to let things go. This year has been a personal learning curve and with an exertion of time and effort, I’ve combatted stress and eliminated the waste from my life. I’ve tackled issues head first that I’d perhaps repressed over the years and have truly learned to stop dwelling on bygones. I can honestly say that I’ve left the past where it belongs.
2017 might have been a bummer and whilst I certainly wouldn’t wish the dark times again I wouldn’t change the past or live with regret. Having an abundance of time to work on myself was exactly what I needed. I believe that I’ve come out the other side feeling incredible and stronger than ever. It’s taken me a long time to get to a point where I can truly hand on heart feel incredible again.
It’s incredible to think about my mindset change over the year. I for one am beyond excited to head into 2018 with a determination on my face, plans up my sleeve and ambition by my side.
What have I learned?
Letting go. First and foremost, I’ve learned to stop dwelling on the negative. Holding onto negative energy has repercussions far beyond the obvious annoyances. It seeps into general life and snowballs into having greater effects on the mind and body, such as tension headaches, grudges, pent-up stress, to name a few. It’s not just the extensive issues either – it’s those little everyday niggles that in hindsight should not matter. If you’re struggling with similar things a good question to ask yourself: will this really matter a year from now? Probably not. So why let it take prime time in your conscious now?
Stopping moaning. I notice a default setting for a lot of people is to just moan about anything and everything. I still find it tough spending too much time around particularly negative people because I’m aware of the potential rubbing off effects. If you’ve read my toxic people post you’ll understand that I went through a period of working out who was good for me and who was creating toxicity in my life.
Stopping being reactive. I noticed waking up feeling stressed at the number of notifications, messages and emails on my phone. In hindsight what I was doing was training my brain to be reactive and to deal with the demands of others, rather than my own. It was also feeding into my feelings of being overwhelmed which put further undue stress on my body. The way I combatted this was through decluttering digital waste (below). Now I wake up to feeling stress free.
Digital decluttering. I switched my phone onto do not disturb in the mornings and evenings and I turned my notifications off. The first and last hour of my day is my time and completely uncompromised. There’s scientific evidence that demonstrates that notifications on digital devices feed into the dopamine cycles and addiction pathways in the brain. I.e. you get that initial fix and unsatisfyingly seek more. I was surprised at the effect it was having on me. Now I reduce my brain with collateral and am more than content to engage in being more proactive and productive.
Clearing my mind. Carving out distraction free ‘me‘ time is when I am my most creative. Clarity of mind enables me to operate in my most proactive state; and taking time to really think, write or journal, enables me to reflect, plan and learn. I express gratitude, reflect and learn, which in turn boosts my happiness and self-efficacy. 2018 will include more of this and will be about getting back to being on my own personal agenda.
Seeking support. I can be pretty stubborn at times (I’m working on it!). I like to think I’m invincible and also really dislike feeling defeated, so asking for help can be somewhat uncomfortable for me. However, opening myself up to a number of people and asking for their help or patience has been one of my turning points this year. I felt overwhelmed with love and support and incredibly grateful for having such amazing people in my life.
Writing as personal therapy. I’ve developed a newfound found love for writing, be it to do lists, journaling or blogging about things I care about. The cathartic process of writing enables me to clear my mind and gain insight into where my passions lie.
I could write so much more about 2017 but these are a snippet of my learnings.
What have you learned in 2017?
Thanks for reading 🙂
It’s a Christmas to do list!
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, it really is good to get into the festive spirit. Aside from all the get togethers, presents (and stress!) at the heart of it Christmas should be about sharing and caring. The time of year when most people take some time out to relax and spend it distraction free with loved ones. As things start to slow down a little (mentally, not physically) some of my favourite things to get into the spirit of Christmas!
To do: Festive sports
The perfect time to try a new winter sport. How about trying Ice Skating at a Christmas market? Somerset House in London is beautiful, but any outdoor skating rink is perfect.
To do activities list: Ice skating, winter walks, indoor/outdoor skiing or snowboarding, sledging, christmas decorating.
To go: Christmas Cities & Markets
Mulled wine, market food and crowds of festivities? There’s just something special about a Christmas market that brings people together. I also love to get dressed up and go out for Christmas drinks with the girls.
Top UK cities: Manchester, London Winter Wonderland, Belfast, Birmingham, Bath, Liverpool, Leeds, there are tons spread out across the UK.
Overseas: I hear Copenhagen, Prague, Amsterdam, Berlin (or anywhere in Germany), Tallinn, Paris, again, tons spread out!
To watch: Christmas Films
I’ve already watched Home alone 1 & 2 and Love Actually. But others I recommend are The Holiday, Bad Santa and Christmas with the Kranks. Christmas is the perfect time to watch some nostalgic TV and films. What are your faves?
To bake: Festive treats
I really like the idea of making personalised treats for stocking fillers as I think it’s just that extra bit special when somebody goes out of their way to make something. Last year I made biscottis which were delicious! For the ones above I followed a standard biscotti recipe and then to make them more festive I added pistachios, cranberries and grated orange peel.
To make: Christmas DIY
There are tons of DIY ideas out there. One year I made a wreath when I had a craft day. Other nice things to make are decorations, candy canes, potpourri, jewellery. They also make great gifts!
To practice: Self love
One thing I think is seriously neglected at this time of year is taking care of ourselves. Year round it is so important to take the time out to relax and look after our minds and bodies, but especially at this time of the year when we become super busy, our stress levels rise and our bank levels drop. It can be hard to find free time so just remember to practice being grateful and express thanks to keep you grounded when surrounded by such abundance. Also try to take a bit of time out to unwind – visit your favourite coffee shop, read a book, have a pamper evening or take yourself to a quiet spot to clear your mind. Manchester Central Library (above) is amazing for peace and quiet.
As well as loving yourself, practice extending that love to others. Express kindness to people you meet (regardless of being cut up in traffic or in a queue :-P) as you really do not know what is going on in the minds or lives of others. Instead of falling into the trap of becoming bitter, senseless or unappreciative, just remember that everybody is feeling just as stressed out. So forget the nitty-gritty of who buys what and who owes who, and don’t allow yourself to be pulled into the dramas that crop up at this time of year. After all it’s the time to forgive and forget.
Top tips: Daily gratitude, smile at people and have an open heart. Why not donate your time to a good cause? This time of year it would be good to donate a jumper or coat to the homeless. Share your time with people and fill it with good things
..and of course to complete the list: a spot of indulgence!
Festive foods, party spreads and Christmas dinners. This was an incredible spread we made last year. I think we can all learn to ditch the guilt on that one day of the year (or week!). Enough said.
Have a very Merry Christmas
December arrives with a plethora of christmas parties, festive nights out and good old catch ups. Personally I enjoy having lots of festive fun, but with a jam-packed schedule it can be difficult to stay on top of fitness.
During the winter your body produces more fat storing chemicals (ATLPL to be precise) and you crave more comfort food (serotonin levels drop which leave us more tired and hungry) basically serving us a double whammy. Exercise offsets both of these hormones which makes it even more essential to stay active during the cold and wet winter months. Beyond obvious physical health benefits, exercise boosts your mood, reduces stress levels and decreases your risk of depression. All of which are prone to suffer the most as the nights draw in and the mornings become increasingly darker.
This got me thinking about little ways to change things up a bit and stay fit during winter; since I definitely do not want to turn into the stuffed turkey…
- Dark mornings and nights play havoc on energy levels so it’s natural to feel a dip in motivation at this time of year. The last thing you want to do is get up extra early to exercise but don’t fall into the trap of excuses
- Read about my ways to boost your energy levels and my tips to eat healthily during the festive period
- Action comes first and motivation follows. If you wait to feel motivated, it’ll never happen. Build those good behaviours day by day and before you know it habit takes over
- Schedule.. your week ahead by making exercise plans in your diary. It helps you stay accountable. Aim to get in some form of activity most days, whether that’s a gym class, walk on your lunch break or taking the stairs
- Pack up and go.. Early morning gym session? Lay your gym kit out and have your bag packed. The last thing you want to do in the morning is spend time searching for something to wear
- Fuel up.. Keep water next to your bed and drink first thing to wake you up. If you’re struggling, grab a coffee or quick snack for some energy. A banana, handful of nuts or raisins will give you that quick burst
- Jump out of bed.. 20 minutes spent deliberating about getting up? Those could be spent going for a quick run, getting to the gym or working out at home. Having done a quick 30 minutes of exercise, be showered and dressed before 9am? Now that will certainly put you in a good mood for the day
Banish the excuses.
- Sign up to classes..
- Grab a friend or gym buddy.. make plans with others and it’ll make you more accountable. You can catch up, make your workout fun and feel good after
- Too dark and cold out? Work out at home. 30 minutes and your body weight is all you need
- Busy day? Use time creatively and make sight adjustments to the day. Go for a walk on your lunch break, take the stairs, get off the bus at an earlier stop, walk/cycle to work
- Make your social plans active.. go for walks, bike ride, a yoga class, ice skating, indoor trampolining, whatever takes your fancy
Winter proof your workout.
- Try a new activity, sport or class… avoid becoming stagnate by changing things up
- Embrace the cold.. by trying a winter activity. Get outdoors, countryside walks, ice skating, skiing, snowboarding, sledging…
- Invest in new workout gear.. nothing says new motivation like a new piece of kit. Get the right gear and layer up. Once you start moving you’ll warm up
- Workout at home.. if you can not face going outside. With a plethora of YouTube videos and workout apps you can do almost anything from the comfort of your living room
- Motivation.. update your playlist and grab a friend to up your motivation
For more tips for health and wellness over winter check out my other posts:
Let me know if you would like any specific workout or nutrition tips
Feeling tired, moody or blue? You are definitely not imagining that dip in your energy levels at this time of year.
The reduced sunlight hours over winter seriously impacts energy levels, mood and appetite. Research suggests that 9 out 10 people will experience a dip in their energy levels and in more serious cases people can experience SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). SAD is a type of depression that occurs in winter, where the lack of sunlight significantly reduces the production of the hormones that regulate sleep, appetite and mood. It is thought to affect around 3% of the population and is complex and serious. Luckily the majority are not effected to the same extent, but in all seriousness the lack of sunlight can really leave people in a state of winter blues.
Simply put, serotonin (the mood boosting hormone) is produced when the sunlight enters the eye and regulates all things related to energy, appetite and mood. When you aren’t producing enough these behaviours get thrown out of whack. Melatonin is produced in darkness (regulating the sleep cycle) and prepares the body for sleep. Hence dark early nights mean your body produces less of the mood boosting hormones and more of the drowsiness inducing hormones, making you want to hibernate and eat more.
Luckily, you can boost energy levels through foods and supplements to avoid dipping into hibernation mode for the next four or so months. Food is medicine as they say and these three nutrients can be found pretty easily, so incorporate into your foods and feel on top form this winter!
1. Vitamin D
This might be the most essential vitamin to take during the winter months. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in converting tryptophan into serotonin so it’s not surprising that Vitamin D deficiency is linked to depression. The best source is through sunlight so over winter it’s even more important to add in to your diet. Luckily it’s easy to incorporate through foods such as fatty fish (e.g. Salmon, Herring, Tuna), egg yolks and fortified foods such as some milks (check the label). Besides sunlight the best form is in supplements, with a dose of 3000iu having high absorption rates. I cannot stress the importance of Vitamin D enough.
Magnesium has been shown to boost mood, as well as being a great all round protector for the body. It helps with serotonin and is often used to help combat fatigue and balance emotions. Magnesium is easy to get through foods, as well as sprays and supplements. Good sources of food include: Nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts), spinach and beans.
Chromium works directly with the hormones that regulate energy and mood (serotonin, norepinephrine and melatonin). It helps to stabilise blood sugar levels which prevent energy dips. It’s found in small quantities in a lot of foods but the best sources are shellfish, brazil nuts, pears, broccoli, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and oats. If taken in supplement form, research suggests 200mcg is the best amount to reap the benefits.
Upping your intake of these three nutrients will definitely help to boost your energy over these long dark evenings!