If you want to look and feel better, Tanya Sweeney says the best way of tackling a New Year to-do list is to conquer a manageable goal every month.
So you’ve just had the sort of slothful, devil-may-care calorie fest meaning that the New Year can only start one way: with a New You.
Racked with guilt (and, in all likelihood, new cellulite), you’ve decided that 2015 will be the year of magical thinking and doing.
Often, this means a military-like operation in which you will attempt to do most of the following: learn a new language or musical instrument, eat only bulgur wheat and supergreens, only drink tea of the green kind, try Buddhism on for size… oh, and an hour of gruelling exercise a day. Sound familiar?
Well, here’s the bad news: though the fire in your belly will certainly get you through the cold dark weeks in January, an operation of this size is destined to hit the skids.
Rather, says, supercoach Judymay Murphy ( www.judymay.tv ), taking small but immediate steps is the only way to get anywhere. According to research, it takes ten days for our minds to ‘warm’ to a new habit, and 28 days for the habit to stick effortlessly and permanently.
“The great thing about focusing on and improving one aspect of life at a time is that first of all you can see the progress really clearly,” explains Judymay.
“If you have success in tons of areas it can be harder to feel successful. One reason it’s good to focus intensely and set yourself a goal within a shorter time span than a year, is because the brain can’t really conceive of a year.
"If you have a month in which to do something, you have a sense of urgency so you’ll actually get up and do it. Just make sure the new habit really excites you and feels good to you, or you’ll slip back into old patterns.”
It stands to reason, then, that the best way of tackling a to-do list is to conquer a manageable goal a month. And, when it sticks, you can move on to your next ‘assignment’. Here are 12 lifestyle tweaks that should add up to a vastly improved you in about a year’s time…
January —Clear out your wardrobe
Gyms, hypnotherapists and nutritionists are often booked solid in January. This means you’re joining a hectic race, which might make you feel under pressure.
According to reports, 73% of us who start a fitness regime in January fall of the wagon by March.
So ditch the gyms’ New Year marketing gimmicks and take on a more fun project.
By regenerating your existing wardrobe, you won’t feel so bad about giving the January sales a wide berth, too.
February — Drink more water
It’s simple and it’s accessible: aim to drink 2 litres of water a day. Once your body gets used to it (after a day or two of feeling like you’re sloshing about), you’ll crave the water and it’ll soon feel like second nature.
Another really easy habit to put in motion is to drink a glass of hot water and lemon juice every morning before breakfast. Not only does this alkalise the body, your liver and kidneys get a boost, meaning that the system gets a gentle cleanse.
March — Give up smoking
This is one of the most common, albeit the toughest, resolution to undertake. And now that you’ve managed to overcome dull and dreary winter, use that spring energy boost to tackle this project.
If the prohibitive cost of smoking isn’t enough to make you want to stub out, a hypnotherapy session might sort the situation once and for all. If finances are stretched, try a free smartphone app like MyQuitTime.
April — Watch less TV
Here’s an eye-opening fact: The Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association study found that every hour spent watching television actually increases the risk of dying from any cause by 11% and increases the risk of suffering a cardiovascular disease-related death by a scary 18%.
So if you can’t bear the thought of a life without Corrie, change the way you watch TV. So break the cycle by investing in a digital box that records programmes on request.
Not only will it help you ditch the habit of drifting from one programme to the next, you can block off an evening a week to catch up on your genuine favourites.
May — Start writing
Becoming the next Marian Keyes may or may not be part of the plan, but writing is part of a healthy and happy life all the same.
Journalling — the simple act of writing down your feelings — is a great way to organise your thoughts, and get any anxieties and stresses out of your system.
June — Exercise more (without the gym)
If you find the gym boring, no amount of hot musclemen and fancy yoga pants will incentivise you.
Instead, take stairs instead of lifts/escalators, and ride a bike instead of taking public transport.
Spend around €50 on a small piece of home gym equipment and get stuck into it if ever you’re in front of the television.
Rebounding (bouncing on a mini-trampoline) is particularly effective, thought to combat sagging skin, low metabolism, low energy and even cellulite with just 30 minutes a day. No wonder space agency NASA think it’s the perfect form of exercise.
July — Take supplements
Add flax seeds, linseeds or shelled hemp seed to foods like yoghurt and cereals, and you instantly top up your good fats and vitamin intake.
Aloe vera supplements gently cleanse the colon and keep the digestive system on an even keel.
Milk thistle strengthens the liver against anything thrown at it (including alcohol and sugar), while cod liver oil boosts brain power and also nourishes your skin, hair and nails.
August — Go to bed earlier
It’s official; those who wake later in the day experience lower moods, so wandering about aimlessly on Facebook until 1am is a habit worth breaking.
Try to improve the quality of your sleep, too. Drink less alcohol, which can affect how deep your sleep is.
Drink fewer liquids before you hit the hay; getting up during the night can affect the production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep quality.
September — Do a digital detox
According to Nielsen Online research, those with an acute case of Facebook addiction can spend a week of the year on the website.
And that’s before you add in every other time-sucking website. Never mind detoxifying our actual bodies — it’s our online selves that need the real health kick. First things first: get rid of the friends you never speak to in real life and the colleagues you don’t get on with.
Next, give yourself a set period of time to visit (30 minutes a day should see you brought up to speed), and be sure to log off at least an hour before bed for proper detoxing.
October — Eat better
Feel ready to finally tackle the whole diet rigmarole? Slow and steady does indeed win the race. You might have your head turned by new-fangled diet plans and hi-tech detoxes, but this is ultimately a false economy.
The easiest way to overhaul your diet is to make sure that every meal includes coloured fruit and vegetables. At the very least get something green into your system every day.
November— Stop stressing
Stress is inescapable these days. The trick is to know how to recognise it and harness it. Firstly, look for disturbed sleep patterns, tension in the neck or regular headaches.
B-vitamin supplements can also strengthen your nervous system whether you’re already depleted by stress or storing up for an onslaught of stressful circumstances.
December — Learn to meditate
By now, the New You should be looking and feeling great. No better time to round off a productive year with something that should improve your mind for the better.
Meditation is a hard skill to acquire, but shoehorning a little reflection time into your day is hugely beneficial.
Even just sitting on your bed, closing your eyes and breathing in and out while counting to 100 can make a huge difference to your stress levels, moods and even your heart health.
If you fancy something a little more substantial, Deepak Chopra’s YouTube videos will have you centred quicker than you can say ‘ommmm’.
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