The definition of health 2020 took a completely different turn, as we all felt a lot of pressure to improve ourselves. Say for an instance to read a book every week, to learn a new language, to create dozens of new recipes. The reality was very different and lots of my resolutions went out of the window. For some people that can be inspiring, for others it can be overwhelming. So, we’ve made this list with a view to it being as accessible to everyone as possible. It’s not meant to be an exhaustive list, and it’s not something that you should put pressure on yourself to accomplish every single day. Take what works for you, and approach it calmly. The recommended and better way is to focus on one thing well, rather than to struggle to accomplish many at the same time and fail. New resolutions take time and patience to become a habit, so don’t worry if it doesn’t click straight away. After such a difficult year, we owe it to ourselves to be kind and gentle with how we approach this new one.
And on that bombshell, here’s my list of helpful intentions, goals, and aspirations to help you move into the new year slowly and mindfully. Don’t let unhealthy habits hold you back!
1.GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK
2020 was hard. For everyone, in different measures. So maybe the biggest healthy habit you can take into 2021 is to give yourself a break - a mental break; a physical break; a break from the negative words in your head. From pressure from yourself and others. A break from watching the news. From social media. We all deserve a break in whatever form feels necessary for us, and it is probably one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself moving into the New Year.
2. SET LIMITS FOR SOCIAL MEDIA
As someone whose job is online, I struggle with being totally addicted to my phone. I took a break over the Christmas period and did a bit of a digital detox and it was wonderful. I have been doing this for years now and it makes me come back feeling refreshed every time. But one of the healthiest things I’ve done since coming back online is to set limits for my social media usage. You can try this in the form of no phones in the bedroom, no phones at night, no phones after dinner, no phones for an hour after waking up etc. To help me implement this, I have changed the settings on my iPhone by going to Settings > Screen Time > App Usage and set restrictions on my app usage. For example, I have set my downtime to be between 9pm and 9am where I can only use the apps Spotify, Clue, Calm, Audible, Weather, Google Maps etc. in case I want to listen to music, meditate, or check the weather. I also have made the decision to leave my phone in the hallway overnight, outside of the bedroom. Similarly, I am limiting app usage of all social media and entertainment apps to 2 hours every day. While social media can have its benefits of entertainment and connection, too much time can quickly become unhealthy for different people in different ways. Setting these very specific limits is much more powerful than deciding “I want to use my phone less”, and instead puts it into play.
3. ADD FRUIT AND VEGETABLES TO YOUR MEAL
I’m not one for promoting diets and am avidly against diet culture in general. So instead of going on a juice cleanse or restricting your calories, simply adding fruit and vegetables to every meal is a healthy habit that will soon become second nature. Making mac and cheese? Have it with some broccoli or cauliflower. Enjoying peanut butter on toast? Add on a banana or some berries. Cooking some chips and a burger? Enjoy with a side salad or grilled greens. It doesn’t stop you from enjoying the recipes and meals you usually enjoy, but adds in the extra nutrition to keep you feeling your best.
4. WALK MORE
I used to think that in order to be fit and healthy you needed to do intense HIIT workouts, or be able to run a 5k without collapsing at the end of it. I would walk my dog every day and not count it as exercise. But I’ve realised what a great form of exercise walking actually is. It is low intensity, suitable for everybody, low impact on your body, enables you to get outdoors, and has huge mental health benefits. Setting the intention to walk more will not only keep your body healthy, but it’ll likely become one of the favorite parts of your day. Take an hour to listen to your favourite music, podcast or book and explore where you live. You don’t have to suit up in sweat proof workout gear or pay for an expensive gym membership - all you need is yourself. So get out there and start walking more.
5. SLEEP MORE
Sleeping is another underrated activity. We glorify working hard and hustling at the expense of a good night’s sleep - why sleep when we could get more work done? Well, sleep is actually one of the most important parts of our day! It is a pillar of health that lots of self-proclaimed healthy people neglect. Getting a solid 8 hours sleep per night can help to reduce stress, improve recovery from exercise, improve productivity, and ultimately give your body time to rest. And rest is important. Start to find a sleep schedule that works for you and priorities getting enough every night, even if that means missing out on an episode of your favourite Netflix show, putting your phone down earlier, or adding a nap into your day to catch up on the zzz’s.
6. STOP BUYING STUFF YOU DON’T NEED
When living in a capitalist society, it can be tricky to avoid buying everything we are told we need to buy. But let’s make 2021 the year that we say no to unnecessary purchases, and try and see if we can make do with what we already have. One of my best tips for reducing your consumption is to really sit and wait on any purchase. If you’ve been eyeing up a new pair of shoes, or a beautiful set of ceramic bowls for your kitchen, save them to Pinterest or copy the link and come back to them later. The likelihood is that a lot of these purchases will never happen, because in the time that has elapsed since saving the item you’ll have either forgotten about it, or realised your money is better off staying in your bank account. On the occasion you do purchase it is far more likely to be a considered and sensible purchase you won’t regret.
7. DEVELOP A ROUTINE
In these uncertain times, it can be very difficult to feel like your two feet are firmly on the ground. Every day and every week there is news telling us lockdown rules are different, and we can or can’t do this or that. It is very unsettling not only for our job security or the health of our loved ones, but for our emotional state. Personally, finding a routine in my day has enabled me to better handle these changes and repercussions of the current pandemic. A morning routine where I enjoy my coffee and breakfast at the table looking over my calendar, get dressed and do my skincare routine, go for a long walk with my dog, and come home to start my day is a routine that makes me feel happy and settled first thing. While our routines are interrupted, develop new ones or try to keep hold of parts of your existing one to keep you grounded.
Why always so serious? Being an adult makes us believe all we’re meant to do is work, earn money, tidy up, pay bills, look after our children and pets, read important articles and watch important documentaries, and be entirely responsible. What happened to running around with the sense of freedom we had as children? Being silly and expressing ourselves? This year I personally am introducing a lot more fun into my life: going for swims in the ocean, making time to hang out with friends and let out hair down (of course when this is allowed), playing outdoor sports, dancing around to my favorite songs, and inviting fun into my life - because we all need some more of that in 2021.
Taking out 10 or 15 minutes of your day to just be still is more powerful than you would imagine. Using apps such as Calm or Headspace, or even following guided meditations on Spotify or YouTube make it a lot easier for beginners to understand what it is to meditate. We’re conditioned from an early age to always being doing something, to be completing a task, so it goes against our instinct to actually stop and do nothing. But meditative states reverberate throughout our day and its power accumulates over time to bring stillness, peace and acceptance in our day-to-day lives.
10. CREATE A SUNDAY RITUAL
For me, Sundays are me time. I make the time to have a bath, watch a show I enjoy, read a book, have a cup of tea and a bar of chocolate, and just switch off. Your Sunday ritual could be yoga, or an extra long walk. A phonecall with a friend, or playing music. Go on a date with yourself and set aside time just for you, and make it a priority every week before you get back to working out at home.