With the festive season comes a host of exciting activities: the merriment of the holidays, family gatherings (which usually involve a lot of food), and trips away with the family.
As thrilling as this time may be, it’s also a time where you may find that you overindulge a lot more than you usually would, and find that as you end the year, you are mentally and physically exhausted.
That’s why it’s important to get your new year off to a great start – with a renewed focus on mental and physical wellbeing. This is the perfect time to wipe the slate clean and to start 2018 fresh, invigorated, and motivated.
Here are a few things that you can do to ensure that you have a happy and healthy start to the new year:
PRACTICE GRATITUDE DAILY
Developing an attitude of gratitude is probably one of the biggest favours you can do for yourself, as there are a plethora of emotional, mental, physical and social benefits that come with it.
The emotional benefits of practicing gratitude: the more you are grateful for the little things in your life, the better you will feel emotionally – you will find that you feel more relaxed, more content, have greater patience and empathy, are more resilient when times get tough, and create happier memories for yourself as your attitude filters into your daily activities and interactions.
The mental benefits of practicing gratitude on a regular basis include a feeling of increased self-esteem as you become aware of how many incredible blessings you have in your life, which leads to a more optimistic outlook on life.
You will notice an improvement in your health, including increased energy levels. It’s important to remember that your emotional, mental, and social health directly impact your physical health.
The social benefits associated with gratitude include increased quality of relationships with loved ones, and strangers. Your relationships will flourish as you develop deeper connections with those close to you, and you will find that you become kinder as well.
Not sure where to start? You can start in the car on your way to work – running through a list of things that you are grateful for in your head, or saying them out loud. A gratitude journal is also an effective way of keeping you grounded.
BE KIND TO EVERYONE YOU MEET
A recent study conducted by Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, found that performing acts of kindness as little as once a week led to an increase in happiness. Participants reported that they felt more positive, optimistic, and moral. The science behind these feelings is this: when one performs a good deed, the brain produces a hormone called oxytocin, which plays a role in regulating social interaction, empathy and generosity.
So, the next time you go out, do something small for someone else, without expecting anything in return, and notice how you feel.
GET MORE EXERCISE
You’re probably already aware of the myriad of benefits of exercise, including:
It makes you happy: through the secretion of a protein called Brain-Derived Neurotropic Factor (which acts as a reset switch in the brain), as well as the release of endorphins, which make you feel good.
It’s good for your health: exercise is good for the heart, promotes weight loss, prevents osteoporosis, lowers high blood pressure, prevents colds from developing, has a role in preventing Type 2 diabetes, and is good for your brain.
Aim to exercise at least 3-4 times a week, for an hour each day. You’ll notice that you have more energy, sleep better, drink more water, and feel better about yourself.
COMMIT TO A HEALTHY EATING PLAN
Eating healthily is a vital part of life, as it affects how you feel and how your body functions. Healthy eating is one of the surest ways to control your body weight, as it helps you to avoid weight gain (especially when combined with regular exercise). Committing to a well-balanced diet also lessens your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, improves your energy levels, and helps to prevent diseases such as depression, some forms of cancer, and even arthritis.
If you’re not sure where to start, consult a dietician who can help to develop a healthy eating plan, or do a search on the internet for healthy and quick recipes that you can implement into your daily life.
GET MORE SLEEP
Sleep-deprivation is so common, that many people have simply resigned themselves to the fact that they will forever feel tired. In between the demands of work, family, friends, and everything else, sleep is often the last priority. However, developing a healthy sleeping routine is vital for both your physical and mental wellbeing. Sleep helps to improve your memory, helps you to live longer, boosts creativity and attention, regulates weight, lowers your stress levels, and lessens the risk of feeling depressed or irritable.
The only person who can determine what ‘enough sleep’ constitutes as is you, as sleep requirements differ for each individual. The recommended amount of sleep for adults is between 7 and 9 hours, however, some people can function with as little as 6 hours of sleep a night.
SPEND MORE TIME AROUND PEOPLE THAT UPLIFT YOU
Spending more time with people that make you feel good and who have a positive impact in your life is beneficial because they make you feel appreciated and valued, and inspire you to be the best version of yourself that you can be. It’s important to have a reference point when times get tough – chatting to a person who has your best interests at heart can help you to feel better about your situation, and can remind you about your own resilience.
If you start your new year off with a new set of goals and criteria specifically around your mental and physical wellbeing, you’ll lay the foundation for an incredibly successful and happy future.