This time of year many people are thinking and talking about making changes, big and small, generally shaking things up a little. Maybe you are too?
For me New Year is a great time to recommit to be simply better to yourself and those that matter. Choosing to be more present, kinder, and more grateful.
Someone recently said to me about making the New Year ‘your best year yet.’ I like the sentiment expressed and at the same time i understand its all about progress rather than perfection.
Perhaps making just one small positive change that lasts, even it’s simply committing to be kinder to yourself and others. But in the spirit of the phrase of making this year your ‘BEST YEAR’ yet here is my mnemonic of strategies to consider for a health filled 2020.
There is so much noise and negative stress in today’s world. So many people struggle with anxiety, experience symptoms of emotional exhaustion or burnout.
Taking the time to consciously slow down your breathing to four or five slow deep breaths a minute fills your lungs and body with life – enhancing oxygen, and is a mindful reminder of your presence. Quietening the busyness of your monkey mind. As the breathing centre is located quite close to the emotional alarm clock (amygdala) in your brain, slowing down your breathing lowers levels of inflammatory and pro aging hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. This dampens down the stress response and helps you to relax and recharge from negative stress. It also increases heart rate variability, which can lower your long term risk of heart disease and boost longevity.
I call it ‘10-4’ breathing – four breaths per minute for a total of ten minutes over the entire day. Perhaps a couple of minutes in the commute to and from work, a couple of minutes before or after that important meeting or conference call. It’s such an easy tip to implement, no gym gear or special equipment required. Just an awareness of the importance of your breath.
E- Eat More Mindfully
I’m not talking about any fad diets or short term plans that eventually self combust and weigh people down with even more guilt and negative self talk. Change is slow. It’s about progress not perfection. And making small simple changes that stick. Resolving to actively choose to eat more health enhancing foods is a great idea because, if you’re like most people, you eat at least three times a day which adds up to almost eleven hundred times a year. That’s a lot of opportunity to build better health with some simple positive food choices – for example more plant based proteins such as beans, peas, lentils, more wholegrains, vegetables, nuts, seeds, more colour.
Eating more mindfully, knowing what you’re eating and perhaps even more importantly, why! The Japanese call it Hara Hashi Bu which means eating until you are no longer hungry (80% full) as opposed to until you are full up. This can make a real difference to your waistline and long term health.
S – Simplify
Leonardo Da Vinci once write that ‘simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.’ So true! How can you simplify your life more? Say no to more of those things that take you away from what’s most important. Start to declutter. Your office, your home, your life. Less can be so much more.
Time for you is so important because self-care is not selfish care. Far from it, the greatest gift you can give to yourself and those people around you is to be good to yourself. Not in an egotistical or narcissistic way but to value yourself, in terms of your mental as well as physical health. Understanding that this habit of self care will also benefit those people around you.
Time perhaps for that check up with your doctor. Time to cultivate habits that build emotional contentment, self compassion and acceptance.
Quiet time to think, time in nature, time for those things that matter most. Time to rest and recharge, including (especially) time for enough restorative sleep (most of us need close to eight hours a night)
Time for significant others in your life to sustain and develop great relationships. Time to volunteer some of your time perhaps to support and build connection with others.
What do you want from life? What do you really, really want? Who are you? By this I mean taking the time to figure out who you really are on the inside. Are you living a life true to yourself? What about the various roles you play?
Can you bring more purpose and meaning to what you do. How can you serve others? How does what you do connect with your values and strengths?
E – Exercise
Exercise and movement is what I call the greatest pill of all because it is simply so good for your physical health, psychological fitness and emotional vitality. Giving yourself the gift of a biochemical cocktail of brilliance from exercise induced mood boosting chemicals (including serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine) enables you to think, feel and be close to your creative best. As I like to say you are far more likely to rust out from disuse rather than wear out from overuse.
Please don’t beat yourself up if you feel too time pressured to make it to the gym. Simply moving more during the day (taking the stairs, perhaps a walk at lunchtime, or a few minutes exercising at home) all adds up. Small positive changes making a big difference over time.
A – Appreciation
Gratitude is a commitment to channel your energy into what’s present and working rather than what’s absent and ineffective. The art of true gratitude is to want what you have and not to simply have what you want. Putting on my medical hat for a moment, an attitude of gratitude is a powerful antidote to needless negativity. Just as it is not possible to feel optimistic and pessimistic at the same time, it’s not possible to feel negative, resentful and grateful at the same time.
Perhaps there is something or someone in your own life that you take for granted that you could see more clearly through the lens of gratitude? And if there is, there will never be a better time to write about it and reflect on it than today!
R – Reduce Carbon Footprint
Finally let’s not forget the environment you live in. Make this year a better one for our planet. Mindful awareness of the importance of reducing your carbon footprint is a great place to start. Follow through by changing what you can. Those small changes can all add up over time.
Have a health filled 2020.