The past 12 months have gone by so quickly and, just like that, we’re at the start of a new year. Did we stick to our 2018 resolutions? No. Did we achieve everything we wanted to? Probably not. It could be so easy to view these things as failures but is that only because we set ourselves up to fail from the very start?
Every January we hear ’new year, new me’. Whether it relates to health, finances or work, we seem to think the changes we make need to be bold and a complete 180-degree turn around. Setting such high expectations and believing we can make a success of each one puts us under immense pressure from the get-go and can, in the majority of cases, only be sustained for a short period of time.
Yes, a new year brings opportunities for a fresh start but in 2019 make it your goal to put into action small changes that you can realistically stick with.
We don’t know about you, but we like to head into the New Year with a super clean and tidy house. It’s always our intention to keep it this way, and we start off well, tackling the whole house with enthusiasm, but our fussiness quickly falls by the wayside.
Not everyone is a born Mrs Hinch or Marie Kondo and sometimes, after a long day of commuting/working/looking after the kids, the last thing you want to do is break out the hoover, duster, mop and bleach and set to work. Likewise, Saturdays and Sundays are meant to be spent doing what you love, not cleaning bathrooms and scrubbing floors, so leaving all the housework until the weekend isn’t a great option either.
Making small changes to how you live in your home will become second nature and result in a much smaller chore list, leaving you more time to relax.
- Make your bed as soon as you get up. This is an easy one.
- Clean as you cook. Spills and splashes are so much easier to deal with when they’re fresh.
- Wipe down the sink/shower/bath every time they’re used. These will still need to be cleaned properly but it’ll take less effort and elbow grease if you keep on top of the toothpaste stains.
- Once you’ve finished using something, put it away (a great tip to teach kids from an early age)
- Hang clothes up as soon as the washing machine is finished and/or fold them as soon as they’re dry. This will reduce creasing and might even mean you don’t have to get out the dreaded iron
These all seem totally obvious but taking a few minutes to consciously tidy up as you go reduces the amount of time you need to spend doing housework.
While people have always been busy, now more than ever we seem to be juggling work, family and obligations – sometimes without much success. Applying organisation to all aspects of your life is a small change that will make a huge difference.
- Regularly back up your phone/tablet/computer. While it’s great to live in the digital world, one small glitch could wipe out work assignments, important documents and even precious photographs.
- Jot it down. To-do lists are perfect for short-term and long-term projects. And, while we’re on the subject of writing things down...
- Your diary is your friend. Our brains are awesome but sometimes they struggle to remember if your dentist appointment clashes with your child's dancing display. Avoid social faux pas and keep a note of all events, appointments and your Mother-in-law’s birthday!
- Weekly meal prep. Taking a little time to bulk cook dishes that can be refrigerated or frozen can really help on those evenings when you have to feed the family and get the kids to Brownies, football and swimming!
Diet and Exercise
This is where we regularly fall down when it comes to following through with resolutions. We’re good at clearing the house of Christmas goodies (if you eat them all at once before the start of January, the calories don’t count) and we always think that this year will be the year. However, chances are if you’re not a fan of exercising and healthy eating on December 31, you’re unlikely to magically become a fitness superstar on January 1.
So how can we make changes to our lifestyle so that we become healthier and fitter, without falling at the first hurdle? Our tips:
- Make your own lunches. It’s cheaper, you have more control over what you’re eating and you’re less likely to head to McDonald’s
- Take the stairs. We’re not saying climb 80 flights of stairs in a block of flats but if you’re somewhere that has a few sets of stairs, choose to climb rather than take the lift.
- Portion control. Eat your dinner on a smaller plate. as we eat with our eyes, and you’ll think you’re eating more than you actually are. Our favourite tip> buy a multi-pack of chocolate (it’s more economical and the bars are smaller so they’re less calorific...just don’t eat them all at once).
- Get up from your desk during the day. Not only is it good for you to take a break from the computer screen, going for a quick walk around the office will get the blood pumping and burn a few calories.
The festive season is a time to reflect on relationships, good and bad. Maybe tensions have been running high over the past few weeks and you’re at the end of your tether with your partner or family members. Perhaps you got a card from a friend you haven’t seen in years, complete with the token ‘we must meet up for coffee’ invitation, which you both know won’t happen.
The changes you make here don’t need to be drastic to be effective.
- Follow through. Don’t let those invitations become empty promises. Take the first step and get in touch with your old friend – by letter, on social media or by phone – and set a date for coffee and a catch up.
- Be honest. Tension can highlight little problems that, left unaddressed, can become big issues in a relationship. Talk honestly with your partner/family about how you’re feeling. Chances are they’re feeling the same and clearing the air is the first step to fixing things.
- It’s okay to say ‘No’. Trying to be all things to all people is only going to make you miserable. Take control of when, where and how often you do things. If you don’t want to do something or go somewhere, be honest and say ‘No, thank you.’ Being clear from the start let’s everyone know where they stand.
Speaking of feelings, it’s often easy to neglect the one person in your life you should be taking care of – yourself. Over the past few years, we’ve all become more aware of the importance of looking after our own well-being and mental health, but it’s still difficult to justify taking the time to focus on you.
- Get enough sleep. Being physically and mentally tired can really affect your mood and ability to cope with situations.
- Be self aware. If you feel your mood dipping and anxiety levels rising, just stop. Take a moment to assess your surroundings and, if you can, remove yourself and take a few moments to get back on a level.
- Embrace mindfulness. It may sound like an airy-fairy phrase but mindfulness classes are recommended by many health care professionals as a means of focusing your thoughts on the here and now, in order to calm anxiety.
As we said at the start, small changes are easier to make and more sustainable than grand declarations of swearing off everything and changing your life completely. Choosing to commit to something, whether it’s once a week or once a month, gets you into a routine that you’re more likely to continue with long after January is over. Our tips:
- Meat-free Mondays. Or meat-free any day you like but we prefer the alliteration! Making the choice to remove meat from your meals for just one day a week can have a positive effect on your health and the environment.
- Lose the plastic. We can’t change our habits in one fell-swoop but saying ‘no thanks’ when you’re offered a plastic straw in your drink, taking a reusable bag to the supermarket and even using your own cup at the coffee shop are all steps towards helping the environment. You’ll also be helping your bank balance, too, saving yourself 5p-10p on carrier bags and saving as much as 25p on your Starbucks.
- Choose a different mode of transport. Exercise and save money by walking to work once a week. Or, beat the parking charges and travel by bus every now and then. Feeling super athletic? Get out the Lycra and cycle to work – save money, exercise and help the environment with just one change.
Keep it real in 2019 and let’s reconvene next January to see how we did.
You might also like:
How to get fit for free
Money saving tips for January
It's easy being green! How you can help the environment by taking the bus.