Supercharge 2019: six simple steps to make 2019 your best year yet!
We all want to start the new year off right and find a way to be happier and healthier from day one, but self-care is too often mocked for being self-indulgent.
And it is – that’s the entire point. If you had a physical injury you’d take time out to rest and recover, yet we so rarely give our mental health the same kind of care. In fact, studies show that self-care is vital for your health, as stress, loneliness, exhaustion and low self-esteem can trigger a myriad of health issues. But, unfortunately in our hectic lives, self-care is often the first thing that falls to the backburner when the year speeds up. The World Health Organisation recognises that making time for leisure activities helps restore balance in our lives by not only helping us to relax, but by improving our mood and emotional resilience. A more positive you also enhances your ability to positively connect with others – and since strong relationships are key to our emotional wellbeing, acknowledging that you are worth looking after is the first step to having a more positive year. Here are 6 easy steps that you can take to kick-start your self-care routine this year!
First, give yourself a break.
Don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Given December is a busy month between the general end of year burn out, school finishing up, flitting between holiday parties, not to mention Christmas shopping and preparation, you’re physically and emotionally exhausted. So, putting a lot of pressure on yourself to start kicking brand new bootcamp and dieting goals from day one of the new year is doomed from the start. What your body and mind really need is a bit of downtime to not only recharge, but supercharge for the year to come.
Instead of resolutions, choose one thing you love to do but never have any time for, and then commit to doing it just once in January. Pick something that nurtures you holistically – whether that be reading, meditating or practicing yoga, soaking in a long hot bath, taking time out to complete a crossword puzzle or walking along the beach with your dog – and mark it down in your diary. Committing to just one thing you LOVE will not be a huge time commitment, so you won’t be stressed about running short of time – and you will have put something in your future that excites you, automatically boosting your mindset.
There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time – Desmond Tutu.
This quote by Desmond Tutu links to the basic psychological principle that when we are faced with overwhelmingly large tasks, we become stressed and start to procrastinate to distract ourselves from the enormity of what’s before us. A better way to approach any kind of project or goal is to first break it down. For example, if your goal for 2019 is to write your memoir, it’s easy to become anxious about how huge a task that is. Instead of thinking about the finished book you need to produce, instead think what do I need to do today? Step one might be to write a synopsis. Step two might be to write a chapter plan.
Studies show this process puts us on the path for success, as it is what neuroscientists call self-directed learning. When we achieve small wins, our brains release dopamine – which not only stimulates feelings of pleasure, but also helps motivate us. Once we’re motivated half the battle is won because our brains become programmed to continue finishing each small step of our goal in order to be rewarded with more dopamine.
After January is over and you’ve rewarded yourself with an activity you love and you’re beginning to feel refreshed, it’s time to sit down and get organised. Write down three things that are achievable for you in the New Year – and start to break them down into small parts you know you can do.
Tip! Be sure to space them out to eliminate time pressure.
Anticipation of joy creates positive vibes that not only increase your general happiness in advance of an event you are looking forward to, but also uniquely induce positive emotions that boost your ability to cope with and recover more quickly from stress.
So consider some positive events you’d love to do in 2019 and plot them into your future. This can be something as big as a holiday, or it can be as simple as organising a gathering with friends to see a movie or theatre show. Perhaps you want to book into a restaurant you’re dying to try? Or you can earmark when that book or video game you’ve been waiting on is being released, before making a commitment to buy it on that day and spend the rest of that same day enjoying it.
Look after yourself.
We all know we should take better care of ourselves when it comes to diet and exercise. But the key is to make things achievable for yourself by taking small, practical steps to improve your general wellbeing.
No one wants to slog it away at the gym counting the minutes away, so the key is to make exercise fun. Don’t believe it can be? Then you haven’t found the right activity for you. Why not try something different, like a dance class, boxing or even rock climbing? Or be bold and sign up for a circus class, where you can recreate the joy of being outside as a kid with a hula hoop – you can even hang upside down like Pink from some silks!
None of these are for you? That’s OK! Dial it down by creating a playlist that motivates you and go for a walk outside in the fresh air. You can also get stretching! Stretching has proven health benefits that include increased flexibility, enhanced sleep, improvement in posture and the prevention of injury.
Dieting is hard for most people and is usually unsuccessful. So start by drinking 500ml of water every morning when you first wake up. Since we dehydrate when we sleep, water will not only rehydrate you, it’ll flush out any nasty toxins. It’ll also fire up your metabolism to reduce the amount of food you eat in a day, while fuelling your brain so you are more alert with improved concentration. Once this becomes a positive habit, try another small step. Swap out one unhealthy lunch a week to a salad, or try your hand at a healthy dinner recipe you haven’t tried before. By easing yourself into it, you’ll make it easier to transition to a healthy lifestyle that’s more likely to stick.
Nurture your mind.
Read more books! Reading for pleasure is proven to increase your mental abilities, such as memory and creativity, as well as your social abilities, such as empathy. It also improves your health. Studies show that looking at a screen before bed keeps your mind active and decreases your quality of sleep; but reading a physical book can beat insomnia and reduce stress by up to 68%!
The key to self-improvement is to focus on what it is you really want or need in the new year, and set realistic, attainable goals in small steps. And, don’t forget that to be happy, you need to have fun – so taking time out for yourself is vital.
Written by Debra Thomas | Debra is an award-winning writer, editor and communications specialist based in Melbourne.