At last, the new year is upon us…. A time for renewed hope and a time to look forward to the opportunities that will be presented to us in the days and months ahead.
I, for one, welcomed 2021 with open arms. I don’t need to sit here and write how tough last year was for many of us, even the strongest of individuals, but for me, the celebration of the new year is like a reset button being pressed and (a lot of) the pain, trials and tribulations of the previous year are put into an airtight, sealed and never-to-be-opened-again box.
For the year ahead, my focus is on self-love, self-care and my own personal development. This is something I’ve been working on a lot in the last few months and I’ve really noticed a positive difference in my mindset. I’m able to deal with things better than I used to, I’m more positive and I feel more relaxed, happy and very nearly, content.
Contentment is where I want to get to.
Here are some of the things that have helped me on my journey so far:
Goodbye, Social Media!
Well, almost! Back in July, I made the decision to deactivate my Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat profiles.
The thing with social media is that it’s all too easy to portray the “perfect” life or share the “perfect” (but heavily edited) image. Scrolling through my timelines and seeing posts and images that I knew weren’t accurate was increasingly frustrating me, especially on these platforms, so I made the decision to take a break.
Six months later and it’s now an extended break, but I genuinely feel much more at peace without these social media platforms. There’s also something lovely about not feeling the need to share everything I do with the world.
I’m not saying that in time that won’t change, but for what I need at the minute and where my head is at, this has been a very positive decision for me. Try it – you might even surprise yourself!
Reducing Screen Time
This has been a huge, but positive change for me and one of the many advantages of no social media. Each Monday morning, I would dread the delivery of my weekly screen time report, which was averaging about five and a half to six hours per day (at least!).
Initially, I began by turning off all app notifications and badges on my phone, which appeased my OCD when I wasn’t constantly looking at those little red numbers, and it also meant I wasn’t being interrupted by irrelevant notifications throughout the day.
I then activated the downtime feature on my phone, whereby the majority of my apps are unavailable to use between 10pm and 7pm, before increasing the downtime from 9pm to 9am.
Having this time away from my phone at night gives me time to wind down, without the constant urge to check my phone. Similarly in the morning, I don’t get any notifications until I’m starting work and even then, I only check to make sure I haven’t missed anything important.
This means that I don’t begin my day being bombarded with emails, messages or news, which let’s face it, has been less than positive in the last year.
I’ve now got my screen time daily average down to one hour 30 minutes. My aim at the start of this year was one hour per day so I’m going to have to work *slightly* harder to achieve that goal!
In the words of Dr Seuss, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
Thanks to my reduction in screen time before bed, I now have more time to read and I make a conscious effort to read every night for at least 20-30 minutes. This is great for destressing and I love the feeling of getting lost in a good book that you can’t put down. For 2021, my goal is to read 25 books over the course of the year – an ambitious one for me, but one I’m on track with (even though we’re just over one week in) as I’m almost finished book #1!
A great companion for my daily walk to and from work! I’ve really got into podcasts in the last 18 months and some of my favourites are Jay Shetty’s ‘On Purpose’, NPR’s ‘Consider This’ and The Food Medic.
I also really enjoy Bressie’s ‘Wake up, Wind down’ podcast. For the month of January, the focus of the wake up podcast is to be more mindful, whilst the wind down podcast is helping you learn or improve your meditation skills, which nicely brings me on to my next point…
Mindfulness and Meditation
These are relatively new areas for me. I have been dipping in and out of mindfulness and meditation for some time and before Christmas, I had been taking part in the Headspace 365 series.
Where I struggle with meditation is that my mind wanders, but I suppose that’s all the more reason to continue with it. I do believe it’s very important to take time out for yourself each day though, and even if it is only 10 minutes to meditate, then it’s time well spent.
out down on Alcohol
This. Is. Going. To. Be. A Toughie.
Anyone who knows me knows that I love my glass or two of wine… The one thing I *don’t* love though is the associated hangovers, guilts and anxiety after a night on the town!
I’m making a conscious effort to cut down on my alcohol consumption, hence why I’m committing to it in this post – no more sneaky mid-week sips and where I can, no weekend sips either! I’m not deluded – I know that this one isn’t going to be easy but I’m currently on Day 12 and feeling good! When I make it to the end of January, well, maybe I’ll celebrate with a glass…. (of water, guys, come on!?)
Get up and move – Exercise!
This is something that has really helped me, although it’s probably one of the things that’s hardest to do!
I started back at the gym in November after taking a sabbatical during my tougher days, but the improvement in my mood, even during that first week, was incredible. I LOVED being back with my gym family and the difference in how I felt was like night and day.
Getting the motivation to get started with any form of exercise is the hard part but if I’m ever feeling down, I know that by getting up and doing something, even if it’s just taking myself out for a walk and some fresh air, will be beneficial for my mind. It doesn’t have to be a long walk – it could be 15 minutes or two hours, but I know that regardless of how I feel when I leave the house, I’ll always feel better when I arrive back.
I also recently took part in my first Yoga session as I’ve wanted to practice it since hearing about its benefits for the mind and body. I enjoyed the session but think I need a (good) few more to get to know the practice and reap the benefits.
“A Clean House is a Happy House”
One of my favourite and most used quotes.
I realise this may be another one of my OCD tendencies rearing its head, but I really love that feeling of accomplishment after completing a good clean of my house! Dusting, hoovering, clearing out drawers… you name it, I’ll clean it. It’s one of my favourite things to do and a simple but effective way of feeling better!
Swiping Left on Dating Apps
Life can be difficult enough at times, especially when we’re not loving ourselves like we should or feeling our best, without going on dating apps and seeking verification from others who are basing their opinion of us on a short blurb and a handful of pictures. Not to mention the one-word replies (that’s if you’re lucky enough to match AND get a reply) or the ghosting…
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my fair share of Tinder and Bumble dates, some enjoyable, others not so much. I’m not against dating apps in any way though – I know many couples who are still together after meeting on them.
And I have been tempted to go back on at times, however right now, I’m not in the headspace where it would be healthy for me to do so. Focusing on loving and looking after myself takes precedence over meeting someone, so dating apps are a no go for me for the foreseeable.
Writing / Journaling
This has been a saviour for me in my tough days and even on my better days. I’ve said this before but writing and journaling allows me to get all the fuzz from my head down on paper and once it’s out of my head, it’s like the mist has cleared.
If you’re feeling down, I would highly recommend picking up a pen and a piece of paper and just starting to write. It can be how your feeling, what you’ve been doing today or the things that you’re grateful for. Regardless of what you write, I would be very confident that once you put down that pen, you will feel a great weight lifted off your shoulders.
* If you are considering writing, I suggest investing in a really nice pen and journal, both that will be used simply for the purpose of writing down your thoughts and feelings
And last but certainly not least…
I’ve heard many people talk about gratitude, and Rhonda Byrne and many of the teachers who contributed to my favourite book, The Secret, talk about how powerful the practice is.
There were days in the latter part of 2020 where I felt like I was simply existing… I wasn’t living, I wasn’t enjoying life, I was just there in body, but not in mind. Thankfully, those days didn’t last too long but when I started to come out of that episode, I started looking for the things I was grateful for at that time and therefore started practising gratitude.
No matter how good or bad the days (or the years!) are, there is *always* something good in every day and once we start to look for the positives, they come in abundance.
Every night before I go to bed, I try and practice gratitude for the things I’ve been grateful for that day and when I wake in the morning, I practice it for waking up to another day of being alive.
I really feel that this practice of gratitude has helped me to become more peaceful and not focus on the negative things that we experience. It’s also an opportunity to look for the silver lining in all situations, even the year that was 2020.
I know that the practices above will not protect me from some of the curveballs that life will throw at me, but I feel like they have helped me to deal with the ups and downs of the last year and will help me with what’s yet to come.
Let me know if there are any other practices that you’d recommend!