Why I didn’t made any resolutions this year and feel better than ever

Every January I get swept up in the New year New me hype and consequently end up making some ridiculous resolutions along the lines of cutting back or banning certain things. Last year it was sugar-free and whilst I generally did feel great for the mini detox (especially after a typically unhealthy December), I needlessly turned down a lot of social events. Which was tragically out of pure stubbornness for not deeming myself a failure! Ultimately when I fell off the wagon I fell hard. I ended up bingeing on that much junk food I made myself ill. Funnily enough I never had an issue with sugar (or weight!) beforehand, and totally cringe looking back.

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As you may know, I’m always looking for ways to self-improve so a lot of my resolutions have been in this vein. But in hindsight, resolutions (‘rules‘) are sometimes so overly rigid that they can drive me crazy and dominate my thoughts. I tend to adopt an all in all out attitude and probably still think like a child in the sense that if you tell me NO then I now want whatever it is, x 100. Aside from being healthy, I’m not even sure what I was realistically aiming to achieve by going cold turkey when I could have probably just implemented a few small changes whilst maintaining my sanity. It’s true that small good habits really stack up in the quest for behaviour change.

Like me, I think a lot of people are swept up by the New Year resolution hype. Feeling as though they should be aiming to improve. Why? Because everyone else is.

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Have you made resolutions this year?

The big ones seem to (as usual) be along the health and fitness realm. Whether that is  giving up all aspects of a social life because everyday is #gymday or total elimination like #dryjanuary, or saving so much you turn into full hibernating squirrel. Or perhaps you now feel the sudden need to read a book a week, or become a full on yogi by February,  master meditation, create a 10 piece capsule wardrobe, or throw everything out because you read about #minimalism.

I think we are all guilty of this.

I look around me and see people adopting the same self destroying resolutions as previous me. It doesn’t work because it’s never good to jump straight into the deep end. To create a perfect 10 item wardrobe and become completely minimalist when you previously hoarded everything and the kitchen sink? Or the biggest meat-eater now turning vegan for the month. What it does is make you sick of the very behaviour you’re trying to adopt. Sick of cutting meat & dairy out when in reality you needed to do it slowly, make the small changes into habits and manageable behaviours. This way it becomes easier, meaningful and you become much more mindful over the new behaviour.

This year I proudly said a firm No to resolutions and I honestly feel a sense of relief. Note to self:

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Don’t make resolutions

..and of course rules too. Formulating rigid rules can be detrimental to success. Going cold turkey is hard, and making restrictions or rules so overly rigid will serve as a mental hindrance.

Ban should and shouldn’t language

Stop saying these words. Simple but effective. Psychological research supports this too – when people say they could rather than should do something, they are more likely to follow through with that behaviour.

Don’t jump straight in

I see so many people fall off the wagon because they attempt to go from 0 to 100 (or 100 to 0!) right off the get go.

  • Never been to the gym before? Don’t jump into a 7 day weight lifting program!
  • Struggle to drink water? Then you’ll struggle to drink 2 litres a day at the start. Perhaps incorporate an extra glass before one meal and once you’ve conquered that do it for all meals
  • Find reading hard? Then it seems you are wasting your precious time. You can get the information in so many other forms, audio books, Ted talks, documentaries, TV shows. You sure as hell do not need to pressure yourself into doing something you take no pleasure from!
  • Veganism? At least aim to adapt a vegetarian lifestyle first and foremost
  • Feel overwhelmed about cutting so much out? Whatever it is, make that first step small, then build on

It’s the little things we do daily that amount to who we are. Little by little these small habits stack up and contribute to a bigger change or goal.

I would love to hear if you made resolutions this year & whether you stuck to them 🙂

Hope you enjoyed reading and have a great day!

x

 

Do you have phone addiction? My thoughts about a digital detox

On average we check our phones 150 times a day and either swipe, tap or click over 4000 times a day. Since the introduction of smartphones over the last decade research shows that our attention spans have reduced to being no greater than that of a goldfish. 

I for one am not suprised by these statistics. Unfortunately the times that I feel I truly have somebody’s undivided attention seem too few and far between these days. Social events can somewhat be the opposite sometimes when people are attached to their screens, frantically responding to notifications (or pops of ‘’pseudo-pleasure’’?) or anxious about curating the right picture to highlight the night. It’s a bit of a paradox when social situations become more antisocial than being on your own and following the night through updates. Instead of being spoken to you’re forced to engage with a sea of blue foreheads who are probably and ironically checking in/posting about having such a good time with you/uploading that perfect photo of your evening (because if they didn’t Instagram/Facebook it, it didn’t happen, right?). Sound common?

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But is it really our fault? Companies and scientists use powerful behavioural and psychological techniques to make their apps addictive. With these techniques becoming more subtler and sophisticated. Why? Currency. Time on their platform equals revenue.

On a more sombre note, the phone addiction epidemic is damaging us at all angles. It has shown to be damaging to brain power, reducing attention span, eliminating capacity to think deep or creatively and affecting mental health. These platforms are creating an environment that predicates on vulnerable people, breeding a generation of unhappiness or eating into sleep. I cannot stress the  importance of quality sleep enough.

Low and behold even ex Facebook/Google (etc) employees who help to design and develop these addictive like qualities are pushing back and recognising the problems. I mean, the very person who designed the ‘like’ button has removed Facebook althogether now. I absolutely love Tristan Harris’ Time well spent movement. As an ex google designer that used to work on products that aimed to keep your attention he now advocates spending time well as opposed to merely wasting spending time. He is essentially aiming to establish a new ethical community that realigns technology and our best interests.

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So do you feel addicted to your phone?

I can hand up say I was probably addicted (on some level) to my phone. I spent a lot of filler time scrolling and subsequently reading about the lives of others, especially people I would never come into contact with nor did I care about. There is a lot of research that demonstrates links between absentmindedly scrolling and feeling worse about yourself, and on a more signficant level between heavy social media use and mental health issues. I certaintly felt the negative effects, making undue comparisons and eroding my self worth but on reflection the issue I am most annoyed about is the time wasted that I am unable to get back. Just 25 minutes of Facebook a day is worth 2 years of your life!

Digital detox?

All those hours wasted following others’ lives yet not truly living my own? I understand I am not totally culpable because these apps designed to do this to me, but no more. About 6 months ago I felt it was time for a detox. I deleted Snapchat, I switched my notifications off and I did a cull of Facebook and Instagram *friends*.

Committing to culling my digital life has given me back time I did not realise I had. Don’t get me wrong, I found it difficult because my muscle memory would put me on autopilot to check my phone first thing in the morning, automatically open my social media apps when stuck in a queue, or feel a sense of urgency/anxiety when my phone buzzed with a notification. Remember the days when we didn’t have the two blue ticks to say your message had been read, people left voicemails and actually waited patiently for a response? Or being out to dinner without a screen in sight?

Bring those times back.

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Fast forward 6 months …

I rarely check social media because I don’t need to

I switched my notifications off (this is bliss)

I don’t feel an urgency to respond to messages right away, nor am I apologetic for responding to a message *late*

I don’t check my phone first thing in the morning or late at night

And what have I noticed?

It’s been somewhat of a process for me but changing a bad habit is a slow endeavour. Totally worth it though. After my first post back in September about wanting to take a step back, I spoke about the changes I wanted to make and part of that was this digtially cutting back. What a huge difference a few months have made. I am now back to living on my own agenda and fill my time with things I want to do. I am rightly putting my brain back into proactive, productive and creative mode. I don’t feel as though I am spending time at the demands of others. am starting to notice the time gained enables me a greater capacity to think more creatively and freely, and I for one have increased my productivity and I now operate more effectively. I also enjoy real conversation much more now and prefer phone calls to texts.

🙂

My 2018 motto

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.

What’s yours?

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Three simple tips to make 2018 your best year yet

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.

Reflect

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.

Project

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.

Prioritize

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 🙂

Staying fit during winter

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…

Motivation.   

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  • 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

Be prepared.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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:

Essential nutrients to boost energy levels

Tips to eat healthily during the festive period

‘Healthy food’ mistakes you need to stop

Let me know if you would like any specific workout or nutrition tips

Good luck!

L x

 

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Three essential nutrients to boost energy levels this winter

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.

2. Magnesium

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.

3. Chromium

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!

 

 

 

 

Festive Feasting: healthy eating in December

Since I wanted to focus a new series of posts about the festive season, what better way to kick it off with some healthy eating tips!

The festive period is always the worst time to be healthy. With an endless supply of treats, Christmas parties and indulgent dinners, weight gain is almost inevitable. Then January arrives with a renewed sense of motivation for getting fit, losing that extra 5 or 10lbs and adopting an all round healthier lifestyle. Gym memberships peak and new fad diets flourish… which ultimately fail. Did you know that 80% of New Years resolutions fail before Valentine’s day, a mere 6 weeks later? Sorry to be the barer of bad news but the statistics do not lie in this case.

My question is this: instead of letting yourself totally go in December why not attempt to have a healthier season? It doesn’t have to be about restricting fun but rather indulging in moderation.

I always advocate living a healthy lifestyle that is sustainable and actually enjoyable. It’s never about cutting back or deprivation but more about being aware of how food impacts on your body, health and wellbeing. Christmas is all fun and games until your jeans are too tight!

With that being said, I often get asked how to eat healthily during this season, so I wanted to share some simple tips:

 

Tip 1: Stay hydrated

People often forget to drink water during this time, instead opting for more indulgent or alcoholic beverages. However, dehydration causes lots of issues such as playing havoc on the digestive system, lethargy and drying out your skin. On the alcohol note, be aware of

  • For optimal digestion aim for 2 litres a day
  • Drink a glass first thing in the morning 
  • Have a glass before or with each meal 

Tip 2: Alcohol calories

They easily add up. Simple as. Cocktails, creamy mixers and adding booze to your hot chocolate are easy ways to consume a lot of calories.

  • Opt for lighter spirits such as gin and vodka
  • Tonic water and sodas are lower calorie mixers
  • Drink water in between drinks

 

Tip 3: Never go to a buffet hungry

You’ll end up overeating. Buffet food is rarely healthy because it’s cheap and full of salt and sugar, making those little nibbles far too addictive.

  • Have a small snack beforehand to avoid turning up ravenous
  • Don’t skip other meals or ‘save yourself’ throughout the day as it will lead to overindulgence
  • Always eat breakfast (full of protein, healthy fats and slow release carbohydrates) to balance blood sugar levels and preventing a sugar crash. It’ll set the tone for the rest of the day

Tip 4: If you don’t love it, forget about it

Just because you’re surrounded by a plethora of food it does not mean you have to eat everything. Try to only indulge on the foods that are worth it and you really love or want to try. Before filling your plate at a buffet, look at the entire spread to decide what few things you want to indulge on. Fill the rest with healthier options such as protein and vegetables. The fibre will prevent overeating. You don’t want to be in the situation where you have eaten three desserts before spotting your absolute favourite! If it’s a three course meal, try to choose two healthier or lighter options out of three, or better yet share!

  • If you like the decadent dessert option then go for a lighter starter & main (and vice versa) 
  • Share a starter or dessert
  • Ask a waiter to adapt the option to make it healthier (restaurants can be very amenable to intolerances)

Tip 5: Don’t forget to eat the rainbow

Fruit and veggies that is! A plate of vegetables isn’t the most attractive food option at this time of year, but aim to eat around 5 portions a day. Why? If not you’ll end up with sluggish digestion and stomach problems. The fibre will also fill you up, potentially stopping you from overeating and preventing a sugar crash.

  • Fill half your plate with vegetables
  • Opt for fruit based desserts
  • Seasonal fruit and vegetables are delicious!

Tip 6: Out of sight out of mind

Simple. If it’s not in eyesight wont be as tempted.

  • Eat from a plate to be aware and accountable for what you’re eating

Tip 7: Be mindful and guilt free

Be mindful over the choices you make and remember the bigger picture. One indulgent day is not going to make a lot of difference in the grand scheme of things, but several could lead to unwanted weight gain. It’s easily done. Eat only when you are hungry and not out of boredom. Eat in a way to fuel your body and your soul.

  • Are you hungry or bored?
  • It’s ok to say no!
  • Do you really need that second helping? The first and last bite are always the best so enjoy in moderation
  • Going out? choose healthy options for the rest of the day but don’t restrict (e.g. Fill up on lean protein and lots of veggies for lunch)

 

Most of all, relax and enjoy the season! Focus on the bigger picture: taking time out and spending it with loved ones 🙂

 

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