Want to make some New Years Resolutions that are both meaningful and sustainable? Jessica Lacey has the advice you need.
Blame it on the January issue of every glossy magazine but by now we have a collective sense of ennui for New Year’s Resolutions. You’ve signed up to enough gyms only to cancel your membership by 28th February, abandoned every exciting new hobby and fallen so far off the diet wagon that you may as well set fire to it for the insurance money. When the pressure to set a significant life goal is determined by the start of a new year rather than deep-rooted personal intent, it’s hardly surprising when that new practice doesn’t stick.
“Changing our behaviour and well-entrenched norms is never easy but, rather than aiming at one monumental transformation, choose a small habitual shift,"
says Dr Elena Touroni, Consultant Psychologist and Clinical Director of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic. Something with a low level impact on daily life, she recommends, but which will "cumulatively and consistently improve your life. The keyword here is small, the smaller the aim and the less effort it takes, the more chance you have of upholding it."
The widespread theory of it taking just 21 days to form a new habit has been thoroughly discredited: an in-depth study carried out by UCL, published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, proved it is in fact 66 days. That’s how long it takes to fully imbed a new routine until it becomes an automatic habit. The study also found that it’s consistency that successfully establishes new habits. Of course, it’s entirely up to you which you choose. But if you're looking for some prompts, here’s our top smart life choices to adopt - perhaps one each month? - to better your future self and create a positive year ahead.
Eating or Time Restricted Eating has positive impacts on health
TRE (Time Restricted Eating), is even less effort than intermittent fasting because you eat every day as usual but fit all meals between 9am and 7pm, allowing a 14-hour break. The positive impact on the body of adopting TRE is impressive and clinically proven to improve body composition and heart health, reduced blood sugar levels, increase energy, improve focus and productivity, boost immunity and decrease inflammation.
Keep your coffee habits under control
If you’re a caffeine fiend, it might not be a realistic aim to quit cold turkey. A gentler switch is to green tea after 2pm. Green tea contains even more caffeine than coffee with none of the dehydration drawbacks and boasts a heck of a lot of antioxidant benefits too.
Emails and work life balance
Improve your work boundaries by adding an auto-reply thanking the sender for their email and promising a reply within 24 hours. That is perfectly acceptable turnaround time and avoids wasting their time in them chasing you.
Listen to your body more often for best decision making
If you’re consistently turning to the internet or surveying those around you to get guidance on the best course of action, you’ll keep on making bad choices. On your own, close your eyes, remain silent for a few moments and listen to what your intuition is telling you.
Your gut is your innate navigation system warding you against bad decisions, you only need listen to what it’s telling you.
Set up smart and realistic exercise goals
Don’t sign up to the gym if you’re that person who quits it a few months into every year.
Try something short-term and with a set end date that you’ll genuinely enjoy and could open up a new interest. A six-week yoga course, 3 golf lessons, a team sport with friends that holds you accountable to show up.
Adopt the right concentration methods
Adopt the Pomodoro method developed by Francesco Cirillo for anything you’ve been serially putting off.
Set a regular timer for 25 minutes for that single task. All you have to do is focus on that until the buzzer goes. If nothing comes, so be it? The likelihood is that you’ll stick to it for far longer.
Choose variety over routine for a healthy rapport to food
Put one ingredient in your online shopping basket that you haven’t cooked with before.
A spice, a new fish, seafood or vegetable might not seem like a lot, but that single element will shake up your dinner fatigue. It's an easy way to become a tad more adventurous, without being overly taxing after a long working day.
Benefit from reciting the right kindness and tolerance mantra
Becoming a kinder, more tolerant person is too vague an aim for most, so find a mantra and hook onto it.
‘Grace for me, grace for you’ is an effective calmer when people rile you or ‘Hurt people, hurt people’ encourages acceptance. When you feel yourself flaring up at others, a known phrase with a few deep breaths will change your perspective.
Sleep better by exposing yourself to more daylight
Daylight exposure dictates the ancient circadian rhythms that govern our sleep, meaning your morning decides if you’ll sleep well that night.
On a clear day, staring at the horizon, our eyes take in 10,000 lux of light, whereas most offices and homes contain a paltry 300 lux. Go outside in direct sunlight for 30 minutes first thing. This signals to the brain that it’s daytime and in 16-17 hours it will be night, therefore setting the body right on track for bedtime.
These small habits can reduce the negative impacts of eating junk food
No need to give up on takeaways, but if you know you’re going to eat out or consume processed food? Put in some damage limitation first. A tablespoon of apple cider vinegar beforehand levels your insulin; taking two activated charcoal tablets will help your body to mop up the sugars and breakdown MSG. Then when you get back home, drink a detox tea to help your body digest what you’ve eaten.
Get used to being stylish wherever you are
A complete wardrobe overhaul is somewhat dramatic. Instead, make a pact to dress smarter than you need to be. Better to be overdressed and appear confident, then underdressed and feel apologetic in any situation.
Reduce sugar cravings with these 2 habits
The more you have of it, the more your body craves it. Stop the spiral by eating one square of dark chocolate every single day. Liquorice tea after dinner is also excellent for quelling late night sugar cravings.
Originally published Dec 15, 2021.
Written by Jessica Lacey.