January can feel like a cold, hard slap in the face after the joys of Christmas – a time for making New Year’s resolutions, only to lose focus a few weeks later. All too often our good intentions don’t last for long, leaving us back on the bottle and using our phones in bed at night again. But if you follow these seven simple steps, you could approach this month with a whole new mindset…
Do What Makes You Happy
January is a tough enough month as it is – returning to work in the post-Christmas slump, the dreary weather and no longer having cosy festivities to look forward to. Why make it harder by dragging yourself to gym classes you don’t like, eating soggy salads and saying no to having a drink with friends because you’re doing dry January? With reports of loneliness and depression at an all-time high, there’s no more important time to be kind to yourself and do the things that make you happy – whether that’s eating comfort food, getting spa treatments or whiling away a Saturday afternoon in the pub with your favourite people.
Be Grateful For What You Have
You’ve probably heard it before, but taking the time to think about what you’re thankful for in life can have a hugely beneficial impact on your mental state. Write a list and read each item out loud, or stick them on individual Post-it notes around your room as reminders. Then, when you find yourself slipping into patterns of negative thoughts – that promotion you didn’t get, a failed relationship or nagging boss – refer back to your list of things you’re grateful for; it can be as varied as your good health, a particular friend or family member who’s always there for you, a holiday you loved or – on a simpler level – the fact you live in a warm house with a roof over your head.
At the same time, it’s important to think about yourself positively too. What are your best traits? Whether it’s your sense of humour, your looks, the fact you’re an excellent conversationalist or your caring disposition, reaffirm these things to yourself each day instead of fixating on the things you don’t like.
Forget What Others Are Doing
Your best friend got engaged, your colleague got a promotion and your ex bought a house with his current partner – all while you sat on the sofa eating turkey sandwiches and watching reruns of The Crown on Netflix. But so what? Comparing yourself to others will only inspire envy, and what use is the green-eyed monster to you and your future plans? Absolutely nought. It’s also worth remembering that any updates you see on social media should be taken with a pinch of salt, as the rose-tinted versions of our lives we post about never reflect the full reality.
Be Honest With Yourself
We often get so wrapped up in our routines we don’t take the time to sit and think about what it is that truly makes us feel happy. Use January as an opportunity to reflect on your situation: is your career following a path that feels right? Do you have a good work-life balance? Is your living space a healthy environment? And, perhaps most importantly, are you happy in your relationships? The people in your life – be it a partner, friends or family – should all be positive forces of energy in your life (and you in theirs); they should celebrate your successes, be a listening ear for your problems and help hold you up when you’re down. Those who drain your energy might be worth seeing less of or, in extreme cases, cutting off.
Broaden Your Mind With Self-Help Tools
From wellbeing books like Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now and Self-Care for the Real World by Nadia Narain and Katia Narain Phillips, to meditation apps like Headspace, there’s a wealth of advice on living calmly and finding inner peace and happiness. Why not make 2018 the year to embrace it?
Be Brave & Try Something New
Hear us out – doing something ‘new’ doesn’t necessarily mean a signing up for a sky dive, forcing yourself to go to weekly high-intensity gym classes or setting yourself the challenge of learning a new language by summer; it can be as simple as taking a new route to work, trying a new coffee shop or making a new dish for dinner. Breaking your routine is vital for brain function and can positively impact your mental health, according to psychologist Serena Simmons.
“Working on autopilot and living out the same daily routines essentially means that our brain is running along the same neural pathways or 'schemas' it’s learnt to work over time,” she says. “When we do this, we’re doing very little to expand or work our brains.”
Set Yourself Goals
Once you’ve given yourself time to work on the above, it’s time to start setting yourself goals. For example, if you know you want to change jobs, set yourself a deadline to do so – but try not to let this self-inflicted deadline cause you stress. Instead, focus on what you need to do to achieve it – for example, brush up your CV and dedicate a couple of hours every weekend to searching for suitable roles – essentially, letting the deadline motivate you into taking the necessary steps between now and then to achieve it.
You can do this for longer term goals too, such as buying a house, getting married or going travelling. When do you realistically want to do these things by? And what do you need to do between now and then to make them happen? Let these goals help you approach 2018 with positivity, and make this your year to start planning.