New Year’s Eve and I bet you’re thinking about making resolutions. The natural urge is to think big – we all want to shift our entire lives in one fell swoop. Just pause a moment. Before you resolve to change your job, relationship, shape and size in one giant-sized gulp, bear in mind that one in ten New Year’s resolutions will be broken by the 4th of January and almost half won’t make it into February, according to research by health insurance provider Aviva.
When it comes to resolutions, we all seem to want pretty much the same things – the top New Year resolutions are to lose weight, to eat healthily and to exercise more. All good and healthy, so it’s a shame that so many of us fall by the wayside.
‘The problem with many resolutions is that they’re unrealistic,’ says life change guru Pete Cohen. ‘People put too much pressure on themselves to achieve.’
Jane Matthews, author of Have the Best Year of your Life (O-Books) agrees. ‘We set the bar too high. Instead of deciding to change one or two unhealthy habits or get a little more exercise, we commit ourselves to radical crash diets and fitness regimes that would defeat serial gym members.’
They’re spot on. The reason New Year resolutions don’t work is because we try to shift too much too soon. If one part of the resolution package crumbles, the rest falters and, before we know it, we’ve decided there’s no point continuing with any of it. We give up.
Not just that but January can be a tough time for many resolutions – it’s too cold for stringent diets and a new determination to go out running every day is going to stumble at the first snowfall.
But all this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make resolutions. Research shows that people who explicitly make resolutions are still ten times more likely to attain their goals than those who don’t. It’s just a case of how you manage them. ‘Break the resolutions down into smaller, manageable steps,’ suggests Matthews. I couldn’t agree more. So get canny and make the resolution to shift your life over the whole of next year – not just the first week of January. Here’s how.
RESOLUTION: ASSESS YOUR LIFE
Think about what you want to achieve over the coming year and figure out the best ways to do it (source courses, find helpful people, make lists). Don’t race to join a gym (they’re packed for the first few weeks of January). Coax yourself into healthy eating by cutting back on rich heavy food and alcohol and shifting your diet to warming soups and energy-boosting lean meat and fish (with plenty of fruit, veg, nuts and seeds).
• Ditch: draconian diets and detoxes – truly, it’s the wrong time of year.
• Take up: Pilates or yoga – indoor (warm) workouts that stretch body and mind.
• Small shift: take a good quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement. I love All Natural Perfectly Balanced MultiNutrients
RESOLUTION: CLEAR THE DECKS
Make this month’s resolution a total clear-out on your home, getting rid of all your clutter. Have a cull of your address book too, losing any “false friends” or sponges. Clinging onto old stuff, even outdated emotions and opinions, literally holds you back. Slash and burn. Honestly, life’s too short.
• Ditch: all the dross. Make charity shops happy with your cast-offs or try selling on eBay.
• Take up: mindfulness meditation. Take five minutes every so often to focus on what you’re doing, right there and then.
• Small shift: switch from coffee to warming herbal teas (try Licorice and Peppermint from Pukka Herbs – delicious)
RESOLUTION: REGULAR EXERCISE
If you want exercise to ‘stick’ you need to find something you enjoy, says Jane Matthews. ‘Even with Mamma Mia pumping through my headphones I just find jogging boring,’ she says. ‘But I do love chatting with my mates so we schedule regular power walks and yabber our way round the block.’
There’s a sport or class for everyone – from circus workouts to circle dancing so don’t be put off if you’ve been a couch potato for years.
• Ditch: Sugar. Honestly, it’s ageing, inflammatory, fattening, a serious no-no for your health, vitality and beauty.
• Take up: rebounding. Invest in a small trampoline and pop it in front of your TV – bounce during the news for a mini workout (and a great lymph booster).
• Small shift: make breakfast or lunch your largest meal. Try not to eat after 7pm.
RESOLUTION: BE KIND TO YOURSELF
‘The message behind many of our resolutions is that we’re not good enough as we are,’ warns Jane Matthews. She advises changing the mindset. ‘See resolutions as a positive choice to grow or to make healthy changes in your life.’
Pete Cohen agrees. ‘Be patient with yourself,’ he advises. ‘And if you slip up don’t give up. Give yourself a pat on the back every time you take positive action.’ So don’t think in terms of what you’re going to give up but rather what you can do to make yourself feel better, more positive, happier.
• Ditch: Looking for instant dramatic results. If you’re trying to lose weight, aim for a healthy one or two pounds a week. If you want to get fit,take it in slow sensible stages.
• Take up: massage. Can’t afford it? Buy a “how-to” DVD or take a course with a friend and trade.
• Small shift: drink two litres of water every day (filtered tap water is just fine). Keep it room temperature (not freezing cold) or even warm.
RESOLUTION: TAKE A GENTLE DETOX
Forget New Year, now is the optimum time to undergo a good thorough cleanse. My book The Detox Plan (now available in e-format from Amazon) offers several suggestions. Basically cut out all processed food, sugar, salt, caffeine, alcohol and instead boost yourself with fabulous health-giving foods. If in doubt, seek the help of a qualified nutritional therapist or naturopath.
• Ditch: late night horror movies or violent thrillers while detoxing. Listen to soft music or read a spiritual or self-help book.
• Take up: skin brushing to stimulate the lymph. Use a soft bristle brush on dry skin, brushing towards the heart before bathing or showering.
• Small shift: get out into nature (yes, parks count). Breathe deep, feel good.
RESOLUTION: OVERHAUL RELATIONSHIPS
Take time to “check in” with your loved ones. What do you want from the relationship? How do you both feel? Remember it’s a two-way process so keep an open mind. Take it in turns to say how you feel, explain what you want from life. Give each other undivided attention. Be honest but kind.
• Ditch: overt criticism. Instead of carping on about someone’s shortcomings, describe how YOU feel.
• Take up: yoga together – there is nothing like it to bring partners and families together.
• Small shift: get involved with your community – help out an elderly neighbour, start a book club.
RESOLUTION: BOOST YOUR SELF-ESTEEM
Start listening for the inner voice that tells you that you’re rubbish. Pete Cohen describes it as a duck quacking away inside your head and recommends you get angry with it. ‘Tell it to “shut up”,’ he says. Recognise where those negative thoughts comes from – from parents, teachers, friends?
• Ditch: negative thoughts: you don’t need them anymore.
• Take up: affirmations – write down positive phrases such as “I love my beautiful healthy body”….20 times a day for the month. It sounds corny but it does work.
• Small shift: invest in a juicer and have a blast of fresh vegetable juice each day.
RESOLUTION: HAVE FRIVOLOUS FUN
It’s summer, so let go of your inhibitions and enjoy yourself! Remember what you adored as a child and try to capture those blissful feelings again. Get outdoors and into the elements – splash in the ocean, walk the hills, ride a horse, paddle a canoe.
• Ditch: being grown-up and responsible – just for a while.
• Take up: dancing – it plugs you right into your body. Whether it’s ballroom or belly-dancing, Zumba or Bokwa, get into the groove.
• Small shift: be sun-safe. A certain amount of sun stocks up your vitamin D levels but never every let yourself burn.
RESOLUTION: GET STRESS UNDER CONTROL
‘If you run away from stress, it will run after you,’ warns Vera Peiffer, author of Total Stress Relief (Piatkus). If you’re not already making mindfulness a part of your daily life, take it up now (or check out meditation or autogenic training). Exercise also banishes stress –yoga and tai chi are the ultimate chillouts but tough aerobic exercise also nudges your mind and body into stress release.
• Ditch: the fizzy drinks and doughnuts. Snack on a handful of nuts and seeds and a glass of water (or try coconut water for an energy hit).
• Take up: time management. At the end of each day, make a list of how you will spend the next day, breaking it into blocks.
• Small shift: sign up for a new adult learning course. Stretch your mind.
RESOLUTION: PREPARE FOR WINTER
Get ready for the onset of winter with a short five-day cleanse. For the first three days have just fresh juice (apple and carrot are good choices); steamed vegetables; vegetable soup and plenty of water. For days three and four, add wholegrains. Day five you can add a baked potato. Perk it up with warming spices.
• Ditch: salt – add celery to food to give a salty tang. Herbs and spices also perk up food.
• Take up: a short course of immune enhancers to prepare you for the cold weather ahead. I’m into Zell Oxygen Plus.
• Small shift: walk more (even if it’s only up the stairs instead of taking the lift).
RESOLUTION: START SOUL-SEEKING
As the nights get longer focus shifts inwards. Start soul-seeking by paying attention to your dreams. Ask yourself what emotion you felt in a dream; what was the dream trying to say to you? Try drawing or painting your dream; daydream what might happen if you continued the dream.
• Ditch: junk food and ready meals – try home-made soups and stews (warming and so easy – I use a slow cooker).
• Take up: keeping a dream diary. Keep pen and paper (or a tape recorder) by your bed and scribble your dreams.
• Small shift: taking time out for a long pampering soak with delicious natural bath oils. My favorite? Deep Relax from Aromatherapy Associates.
RESOLUTION: RELAX AND ENJOY YOURSELF
Resolve that this year Christmas won’t be stressful. Have a reality check – how much of Christmas is duty and a chore? How could you change that? Don’t try for perfection – it’s unachievable and absolutely no fun. Stick to a budget – presents don’t need to cost the earth to be thoughtful. Or get creative with home-made presents and decorations. Above all, take time to think about what place spirituality has in your life.
• Ditch: healthy eating (just for a little while) but don’t lose the plot entirely!
• Take up: goodwill to all – get into the festive spirit.
• Small shift: don’t mix your drinks – for every alcoholic drink, have one of water.
For more ideas on living seasonally check out The Natural Year.
For more ideas on safe detoxing, check out The Detox Plan.
Fancy some healing, mind-shifting weekends? Check out The Weekend Healer.