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With the excess of Christmas well and truly over, our waists a little bigger and our bank balances a little smaller, January is the time that we become focused on setting new goals, strict exercise and diet regimes and eagerly sign ourselves up to ‘Dry January’ or ‘Veganuary’! We MOT our bodies in a bid to become healthier and happier but quite often by February we’re so tired and exhausted from hitting the gym five days a week or implementing a strict no carb, no sugar, no meat policy that we fall back into our old habits.
What if I told you that promoting physical and mental wellbeing isn’t about setting crazy goals and regimes that cannot be maintained in the long run. It is about recognising the importance of self-care and making small and manageable changes that can be incorporated into everyday life. Prioritising self-care in the long run can have a massive impact upon your mental and physical health; not only promoting your happiness and resilience but also your safety. If you are tired and run down there is more chance of you making mistakes, losing concentration and having an accident. This is why first aid and mental health first aid need to be looked at and talked about alongside each other; not seen as separate issues.
We’ve come up with some ideas for how you can improve your physical and mental wellbeing this January so read on to find out more….
Try Something New
Taking up a new hobby, whether that is something creative like painting or drawing, or starting a new exercise class can be a great way of improving your physical and mental wellbeing. Research has proven that learning is a core need for psychological wellbeing; boosting self-esteem and self-efficacy. Learning also improves our cognitive processing and is a great way of getting out and meeting people. Set manageable goals that you can stick to, be kind to yourself and don’t expect to turn into Pablo Picasso overnight! If you haven’t got time to attend a local class, there are some excellent you tube videos out there which you can follow from home.
Get out in the great outdoors
Connecting with nature is an essential part of self-care, particularly at this time of year and even more so if you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, which according to research affects up to 1 in 3 of us here in the UK. Spending time outside is proven to improve physical and mental wellbeing and reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stress and high blood pressure. We’re also not talking long 3 hour treks in the local woods here, we’re talking about a brisk 30 – 60 minute walk, three to five times a week. The other benefit of walking, jogging or running is that it is completely free and can be carried out alone or with other people. If you do choose to go it alone, what a wonderful opportunity to practice being mindful. As you walk pay attention to the beautiful nature around you; the little detail on the leaves and flowers, the depth of colour of the sky and the different tones of the birds calling out around you. A wonderful way to help manage anxiety and stress.
Give Something Back
Volunteering has been proven to provide benefits to both mental and physical health. Giving to others not only helps to reduce stress, combat depression and keep you mentally stimulated, it also provides a sense of purpose. It’s also an excellent way of connecting to others, can enhance your CV and career and also enable you to learn new skills. Volunteering doesn’t need to be a full time commitment and can be something that you do once day a week or fortnight or on a short term basis. What is important is that you don’t overcommit so that it starts to impact negatively on your own wellbeing.
There are lots of opportunities for volunteering out there from helping in a charity shop for a couple of hours a week to visiting an elderly person in their own home. Sites such as Do-it.org provide great advice in terms of what opportunities might be out there for you.
Just Do Nothing!
When we think of self-care, the first thing that often comes to mind is a list of things we can do such as booking in for a massage, a trip to the Spa, a coffee with friends or a yoga class. However, the truth is that self-care can be a lot simpler than this. It’s about prioritising you, speaking kindly to yourself when things don’t go as planned, not beating yourself up because you had that extra biscuit after lunch or being able to say ‘thanks but no thanks’ to the friend whose invited you to the cinema on Friday night, when all you want to do is curl up on the sofa with Netflix!
There are so many little acts of self-care that we can incorporate into our daily lives, which unlike things like Dry January, we can stick to long term. Here’s just a few of our favourites:
- Positive affirmation – think of one kind thing that you can say to yourself when you wake up each morning.
- Moments of gratitude – keep a diary and write down one thing you are grateful for each day.
- 5 minute mindfulness – sit for five minutes with a warm, soothing drink and just allow yourself to breathe deeply.
- Small, manageable changes – if you do want to cut down on your drinking habits or eliminate meat from your diet then rather than stop it all together, make small but gradual changes. For example, allow yourself to have a glass of wine at weekend but not in the week or choose to eat a vegetarian meal three times a week. In the long run this will be far more sustainable.
- Listen to some music – music has such a massive impact on our emotions and wellbeing. Stick on your favourite tune and dance around the house safe in the knowledge that nobody will see you!
The Trainingly Team