Ruth explores how you can feel better about yourself this year, both mentally and physically, without the cliché of unattainable resolutions.
Every January feels the same. The sparkling jewels that light our streets are being untethered from buildings, the nights are colder and darker than ever before, and the Christmas magic is over for another year. Even the excitement of New Year’s Eve is done, the champagne has been poured, the kisses on the cheeks at midnight have faded. And really, what is there to look forward to now?
The next holiday is Valentine’s day, and that’s not something that everyone enjoys. The resolutions made earlier in the month have not been thought about since then, and even if you were to take up running before work, it’s dark outside until nine am, and it’s most likely raining. There’s something heavy in the air; the sense of new beginnings that you’re not quite ready for, of which you don’t even know where to start.
It’s a time of expectations, to write down what you want to achieve this year, and where you want to be when you read it back in twelve months’ time.
But, when the year starts with January, which, let’s be honest, isn’t really anyone’s favourite month; we need to be giving ourselves a break. Not the Christmas kind of break where you watch movies all day and only eat chocolate. No, this is a time where we can start to make better choices for ourselves, to take a deep breath, and clear our minds. To make room for rejuvenation and reflection, and begin the little, everyday things that will help us feel so much better about ourselves throughout the entire year.
This first tip is probably the most predictable one, but nevertheless it is important. It is, of course, to drink more water. You will have heard the benefits of hydration before, so there is no real reason to re-establish the scientific details. But drinking at least two litres of
water a day is so necessary. Not only does it make you look better – brighter eyes, radiant skin, and shinier hair – it has a massive effect on improving concentration, exercise performance, and the immune system, as well as allowing you to have a more fulfilling night’s sleep. It is the very first step to making yourself feel better, and it’s so easy that you don’t have an excuse not to do it. If you’re not too keen on the taste of water, you can add lemon, mint, or fresh berries for flavour.
Another thing that is beneficial for our mental and physical wellbeing is meditation. It is universally regarded as a way to reduce stress, as well as allowing ourselves to focus on the present, and reduce negative emotions. Modern society is an environment based on immediacy and distractions, and it can be difficult to break out of the fast-paced thought process. We are told that the only way to succeed is to work as hard as possible, and to keep burning ourselves out in the pursue of ambition.
However, this understandably is not very beneficial for our health. Meditation has been proven to thicken the pre-frontal cortex, which oversees higher order brain function, resulting in increased awareness and more intricate decision making. It also contributes to the sense of contented well-being. A study revealed that eight weeks of meditation and similar mindful-based therapies resulted in improved mental health, especially anxiety, due to meditation being attached to the regulation of self-referential and cognitive processes in the mind. Just a few minutes a day of meditation can be valuable, even if it’s just taking a moment to sit and focus on your breathing.
The last twenty months of the pandemic have been incredibly hard for everyone to deal with. When in lockdown, it was nearly impossible to really talk to anyone, due to the limited communication of social and digital media. Somehow, a phone call or a Facetime just wasn’t the same as talking to someone in person. But, with everything happening and people grieving the loss of their loved ones, we still needed a place to empty our thoughts. This is why it is so important to write a journal. Even now, when we can see people in real life, there are some things that we don’t wish to share. To have a safe space where you can write down every single thing you feel even if it doesn’t make sense, is so imperative to understanding ourselves better. Write down every emotion you feel, not just when you’re enjoying yourself. Write when you’re angry, when you’re sobbing your heart out, just get it onto the page.
Dress-up for YOU
Another way to feel good about ourselves all year is to dress the right way for our bodies. This is something that takes a while to get used to, especially as the beauty industry relies on society not really liking themselves, so that they can provide us with tricks to relieve that burden. But real beauty, no matter who you are or what you look like, comes from confidence. Being kind to yourself. Choosing clothes that flatter your figure, and make you feel incredible every time you wear them. There is no point staring at those size 10 jeans that you haven’t worn in years, wishing that you’d fit back into them. So instead, focus on the inclusivity that the fashion industry currently provides, and wear whatever makes you feel the most beautiful.
The last tip is self-care. This is another one that should be a necessity in all of our lives, however, most people rarely take the time out to properly look after themselves. I’m not talking about the basics of drinking that extra glass of water or taking a shower, even when you can’t be bothered, and eating something other than Nutella straight from the jar. I mean proper, rejuvenating self-care. The kind that takes care of your mind, as well as your body. Having a long bath full of bubbles, reading a book, putting on a face mask, deep conditioning your hair, watching your favourite movie, going for long walks, baking a cake, moisturising you entire body, practising yoga, blasting your music really loudly and dancing, sleeping in till late on the weekends. Even adding a spoon of sugar in your morning tea can be an act of self-care.
It’s looking after yourself and prioritising yourself. It’s doing what makes you feel good, what calms your mind, what makes you feel truly content. And doing a little bit every single day can make you feel so much more balanced and revitalised.
Of course, how we take care of ourselves is a completely individual experience, and there is so much more that we can be doing to make sure that we feel content throughout the entire year. It is not a case of extremism. We don’t have to completely change our lives. But we can look after ourselves better by making little, everyday choices. And really, that is the best resolution of all.
You can read more of Ruth’s work on Instagram by following @thewriterruth.