As it’s already January, Happy New Year greetings to you! A time of optimism as we look ahead, and ‘dwell in possibility’, as the poet Emily Dickinson wrote.
But don’t expect too much from yourself, be gentle.
When a ship wants to change course, the rudders shift by small amounts, but gradually the ship turns and heads in the right direction.
So if you plan to get healthier, don’t try running 10K on 1st January & existing on kale smoothies… Just try scrubbing a carrot & crunching on it while you make dinner. Or throwing a handful of frozen peas into a pasta sauce to add an extra portion of veg towards your 5 a day.
If you plan to declutter the whole house & live a stylish minimalist life worthy of Instagram, just start with the cutlery drawer. It’s a 10 minute job that gives you a tiny win straight away & a natural hit of dopamine to mark the achievement.
Just don’t get rid of the hamster or the children, no matter how messy they might be today…
It’s tempting to imagine January 1st on the calendar signals a whole new You. Been there & done that. It didn’t work.
How could it? January can be a bleak, cold & dark month… especially if you’ve given up chocolate.
I’ve lost count of the years that 31st December would be spent polishing off every Quality Street, Roses & After Eight in the house… swearing that the following year would be one free from chocolate.
Then Cadburys would bring out the first Creme Eggs in early January, and it would be rude not to!
Growing up in Birmingham, with family & friends working in Cadburys chocolate factory, & having a name like Charlie, associated with a proverbial Chocolate Factory…
So from my 40’s onwards, I’ve figured out that this is never going to work. Instead I aim for the slightly healthier option of darker chocolate.
Initially it was 70%. But then I worked my way up to 85%. And occasionally the hardcore option of 100% cocoa. But work your way up gradually to that, it’s not for the faint hearted.
Lots of small decisions are yours to make over coming days, weeks, and months of 2022.
So start small, but be consistent. Be realistic. And before you judge yourself harshly as needing major improvement, first try a little Gratitude.
Sprinkle that on with the goji berry/linseed sprinkles on top of your Acai bowl, or whatever the trendspotters predict we’ll be noshing this year.
Appreciate that you’ve made it through whatever 2020 & 2021 hurled your way. And let’s be honest, they were not the easiest of years for any of us.
So whatever you’ve personally been dealing with, and might be utterly exhausted by, you made it through. So reward yourself with a New Year’s Honours list title of your own. I’m sure the Queen won’t mind.
What will you name it? The, ‘I home schooled my kids while juggling work Teams meetings, delivering shopping for vulnerable neighbours & not throwing a tantrum when the petrol stations had a petrol crisis that wasn’t really a petrol crisis, but the pumps were empty?!’
Actually you could try doing less.
In fact, try doing nothing.
How radical would that be?
Just for a few minutes a day. No laptop or phone screen, just set a kitchen timer if you want to mark the 5 minutes.
And maybe carve out a few minutes of chill-out time every day just for yourself. No expectations of achieving anything.
Not doing anything.
It doesn’t matter if you call this Meditation, or daydreaming, or just sitting.
In fact, if you’ve got a chair or sofa to curl up on for these sacred 5 minutes of peace, with a view of a tree – you can call it Tree time.
Or Cat time, if you’ve got a cat who would love to be adored for 5 minutes of your undivided attention. Just relaxing and giving yourself a break will help.
You can try focusing on your breathing. Nothing fancy, just noticing the air as it goes in through your nostrils, then down into your lungs, and finally filling your belly.
Let it rise, without judgement of the size or shape of your belly.
Be like a toddler who feels pure joy and wonder at their curving tummy, do not use tabloid journalist body shaming.
Allowing your belly to softly fill with air helps you to deepen and gently slow down each breath, making it more relaxing & nourishing.
This gentle attention on your breath helps give your brain a little ‘popcorn’ to snack on. This is less stressful than you trying to completely empty your mind & clear out your busy brain.
But it subtly takes your attention away from the 1001 worries that can swirl around your head like scrambled eggs in a washing machine.
Just giving you a few minutes breathing space can help calm your system down. This can boost your immune system, slightly lower your blood pressure a little and help to sooth the primitive part of the brain that may have been on constant Fight or Flight response mode in recent years.
Think of it as smoothing over a design flaw from centuries ago, as you help yourself trust that no woolly mammoth is about to chase you. Back then we didn’t have phone screens & 24 hour news channels that constantly flashed up woolly mammoth equivalents…
So that’s a good way to begin your New Year’s resolutions, by doing 5 minutes less every single day of 2022.
You may come to relish these few minutes as total bliss. Looking forward to a chance to de-stress and chill-out in peace no matter how demanding the rest of the day is.
Oh, and don’t forget the carrot.
Or the cutlery drawer. But only if you want to… baby steps.
**Would you like to try a monthly Mindfulness & Journalling session on Zoom? In small friendly groups where beginners are welcome alongside more experienced writers.
Where we practice new techniques that work on your Superpower of Mindfulness, in a relaxed & creative way. Where giggling & daydreaming are encouraged alongside fresh inspiration. Where you’re always welcome to share the things we think & write, but there’s never any pressure to do so.
If so, drop me a line & you’re welcome as a guest on the 2nd Sunday morning, or 2nd Monday evening of each month. Next sessions are 9th Jan at 10.30am, and 10th Jan at 7pm. All you need is pen & paper, and maybe a cuppa. Oh, and chocolate if you like… the higher cocoa content the better!