New Year, New You? Isn’t that what is supposed to happen? All the hopes, dreams and ambitions you put in place at the beginning of 2018. Maybe you reached some of those, but maybe you didn’t achieve everything you’d set out to. You had the best intentions. The very best intentions. According to a YouGov poll, the most common resolutions for 2018 were to: eat healthier; get more exercise; and take care of ourselves better. So at the start of January you bought a low-fat recipe book, got a new gym membership, and pledged to get eight hours of sleep every night. But as the weeks go by motivation starts to dwindle. You’ve had some late nights at work so didn’t have time to shop for the ingredients required for the low-fat recipe book. You haven’t managed five hours of sleep per night, let alone eight hours, and you just don’t have the energy to use the gym membership anymore. Oh well, back to the daily grind. You’ll try again in 2020, right?
But what if I were to tell you, you don’t need a New You for the New Year? In fact, in case you didn’t realise, you don’t need a New You at all - We Are All Wonder Women already! Throw out the idea of changing your life around just because of the date. There’s a much easier and more authentic way of reaching the goals you have set yourself time and time again. Tweaks. That’s right, you are going to tweak yourself in 2019! If that sounds a bit strange then let me explain.
There’s lots of great tips online around improving your health and wellbeing. So many it can feel overwhelming. The ‘one simple trick’ articles are actually talking about major life changes that take time to integrate into your day to day life. So don’t even try! And definitely don’t try to do them all at once. By making tweaks, you can try something for a few weeks, and if it’s going well, then move on to the next thing. If not, try something else. Most important of all, stay relaxed about it. These changes are meant to improve your wellbeing, so you need to enjoy the process. I see it as a set of experiments on my body - finding the right amount of sleep, right foods, right time to exercise which fits into my life. Take control of these things and make the decisions which are best for you.
Let’s start you off with three small tweaks you can make to your routine over the next few weeks:
Tweak 1: Five minutes of meditation and mindfulness per day
Daily meditation is not only possible on a busy schedule, it is practiced by many successful business people to help them stay calm and focussed on their work. Something as simple as focusing on breathing smoothly and evenly can really help defuse stressful or difficult situations. This is about bringing yourself into the present moment. This moment. The past is gone and the future can be dealt with when it happens. Be in the moment. I began to add daily meditation to my schedule. I found that taking just five minutes at the beginning or the end of the day to close my eyes, breathe deeply and empty my mind released tension in my body I didn’t even know was there! I now use an app called ‘Simple Habit’. It is free to download and is full of meditations for different situations throughout the day - such as a quick pick me up first thing in the morning, a meditation for when you are waiting for someone or something, or even just going for a walk. Try downloading the app and finding a meditation to suit you. Or just take 5 minutes a day in a quiet space where you will not be disturbed and focus on your breathing. Notice your thoughts without letting them distract you. Be gentle with yourself.
Tweak 2: Introduce happy foods a few times a week
Author Rachel Kelly tells us that the mind and body are very much linked. What you introduce into your body in terms of the food you eat affects how you feel. Her book ‘The Happy Kitchen’ is full of great meal ideas using a variety of foods which can help to improve your mental health. It doesn’t have to be rocket science, or involve strange and expensive ingredients which take hours to prepare. In fact quite the opposite. By eating a more wholesome and varied diet, rather than processed convenience foods, we can feel better about ourselves and know that our family is healthier too.Think about how you might incorporate more whole foods into your diet this week. What foods do you enjoy? Can you make them easily using wholesome ingredients? How can you plan the time for cooking into your schedule for the week ahead? Keep it simple to start with. Use easy to prepare recipes, one pot dishes are fantastic for this. You don’t need to use foods you are unfamiliar with, or that are expensive. Plan at least three meals to be home cooked this week. And make a larger batch so you can keep leftovers for lunch the next day, or even to freeze for those days when you have less time for food prep.
Tweak 3: Just move more
The UK National Health Service advice has recently been for adults to incorporate 30 minutes of exercise per day to have a positive effect on your health. This is not just your physical health but your mental health too. When there is housework to be done, kids to be looked after, and a full email inbox to get through, it can be challenging to incorporate exercise into your life. However, the catch-22 is that by engaging in regular exercise we are better able to make decisions, deal with stress, and stay healthy. We are busy women with full-time jobs and we can build exercise into our lives in very different ways. By just moving more we can tick the 30 minutes per day box easily. Find ways to move more during the working day. Set a timer on your laptop or phone to remind you to move away from your desk every 30 minutes or so, even if it’s just for a walk around your building. Do this a few days a week at first and see how it goes. Then find a day where you can take a walk outside in nature, either during your lunch break after work, or with your family or friends at the weekend. Commit to doing this at least once in the next few weeks and see how it goes.
Like a snowball effect, your motivation will build and grow as you make these little tweaks. Once you have the hang of these, incorporate new tweaks, for example, setting a regular bedtime, or switching off electronic devices in the evening. Whatever approach you take, stay relaxed. Don’t try to change too much at once. Remember you are a Wonder Woman who just needs a few tweaks :)
We Are All Wonder Women is an international movement for female conservation professionals to be inspired, connected, and empowered to create an authentic, fulfilling and happy career.