LIVING HEALTHIER DOESN’T NEED A TOTAL LIFE OVERHAUL. HERE ARE THE SMALL CHANGES THAT WILL MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE TO YOUR WELLBEING
New Year’s resolutions are now a distant memory, whether you’ve managed to stick to them this far or not. Trying to implement change straight after the excess of Christmas is always going to be a shock to the system and ultimately doomed to fail. In reality, cutting yourself some slack, getting used to the feeling of 2020 and waiting a couple of weeks for the new decade to bed in allows you to properly assess exactly which areas of your life you’d like to start afresh. Now feels like a much more natural moment to recalibrate and implement some easy, convenient and simple life changes – that, crucially, you will be able to stick to – to help make 2020 the year of wellbeing.
Below, we’ve asked a host of experts who can help inspire you to make some straightforward changes that will help you start the new decade as you mean to go on.
1. GET ACTIVE
We all know that taking physical activity is good for the body and mind. According to the NHS, regular exercise can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer by up to 50%. ‘The idea that we have to spend multiple hours a day exercising just isn’t true, so if 20 minutes is all you have then that is all you need,’ says fitness trainer, Dominic Jackson at BOXR. ‘Set yourself a realistic amount of time that you can dedicate to fitness on a weekly basis, even if it’s just once a week. Applying a short but effective routine will boost your endorphin levels giving you the motivation you need to stay on top of your fitness goals.’ In need of inspiration? Find out more about the 10 fitness trends of 2020.
2. EASE YOUR WAY INTO THE DAY – AND THE YEAR
Start the day the right way and invest in an alarm clock that wakes you up ultra-gently. ‘Lumie wake-up lights mimic sunrise to wake you naturally with light, setting you up to feel energised and refreshed the next day,’ explains Molly Baker, Assistant Buyer & Partner, Lighting. ‘Some models can also prepare your body for sleep using a specific warm light sunset mode. They have been clinically proven to improve the quality of sleep and awakening as well as boosting mood, energy and productivity.’
3. HAVE A HAPPY DIET
The new year is a good time to focus on healthy eating, but that doesn’t mean completely cutting out the fun. ‘Support your mood by eating foods that will make you feel good,’ says nutritionist Sarah Ann Macklin. ‘Go for Omega 3’s from fatty fish, vegetables high in inulin such as artichokes and flavonoids such as berries (tip: add Haskap berries to your morning porridge). Polyphenols found in green vegetables, red wine and dark chocolate should also help kick those January blues.’
4. IMPROVE YOUR GUT HEALTH
Gut health has had a lot of press recently and for good reason – now there is strong research supporting the link between gut and mental health (the gut-brain connection means that a contented gut will lead to a happy state of mind). ‘In the UK, most of us eat half of the recommended 30g a day of fibre. Try to be as diverse with your plant-based foods as possible,’ says Sarah. ‘Foods that contain beneficial prebiotics include beans, pulses, artichoke, legumes and Brussels sprouts – think of them as the fertiliser for your gut.’
“Practise positive self-talk, talk to yourself like you would a friend, with empathy and tact”
5. GET ON TOP OF YOUR FINANCES
Being even a little in debt can cause a whole lot of stress. With a few minor adjustments, you can feel more in control of your cash flow. See the new decade as a clean slate and work at getting on top of your budgeting. Personal finance expert, Lynn James of Mrs Mummypennyuk has these top tips: ‘1. Go through your regular monthly bills and check you have the best deal for everything. Renegotiate contracts or switch to get the best deal. Do this for energy, broadband, insurance and your mobile phone. 2. Set up an automated saving account with a provider such as Chip. It will autosave a small amount of money each week. It builds and builds without you noticing. A great way to save up for next Christmas or saving into an emergency fund. 3. Start a written spending diary or use a spending analysis app such as Yolt or Emma to review your weekly/monthly spending. This will help to understand your spending pinch points and enable budgeting and spending mindfulness.’
6. ENHANCE YOUR SLEEP
Go back to basics: your bedroom should be dark (try blackout blinds) and tech-free (blue light from screens interrupts our natural snoozing cycles) so keep laptops, tablets and smartphones out of the bedroom. Also, keep it cool – 16-18˚C is the ideal temperature (a smart thermostat will help ensure it’s just right). For an in-depth look into improving your rest, read how to make your bedroom perfect for sleep.
7. TAKE UP A HOBBY
Whether it’s gardening, drawing, sewing or letter writing, set aside some time every week for something you are passionate about. If you’re struggling to be disciplined, why not book a course or evening class? That way you are more inclined to do it. ‘Focusing on something gives clarity of thought,’ says hypno-analyst and hypno-psychotherapist Adeline Kam. ‘It will allow you to recharge and rejuvenate which is vital for both mental and emotional wellbeing.’
8. CUT DOWN ON SCREENS
Most of us are guilty of spending way too many hours on devices. And it’s no surprise, these days our phones are also books, newspapers, cameras, banks, shops, personal organisers and so much more. That said, it’s more important than ever to do stuff IRL, whether it’s the simple act of going shopping, heading to the library or meeting friends. You know it makes sense.
“Beauty is often dismissed as frivolous, but it is a powerful act of self-care. Applying make-up can actually reduce our stress levels”
9. BREATHE BETTER
We take roughly 20,000 breaths a day so it makes sense to get it right. ‘Breathing at a slower pace – aim for five breaths a minute – has a range of health benefits, relaxing the blood so that oxygen and nutrients can flow better to areas where the blood flow is restricted by stress and therefore reducing inflammation,’ says Nahid de Belgeonne, yoga tariner and founder of The Human Method. ‘Breathing slower helps to self-regulate your emotions and cultivate empathy.’ It also pays dividends to make sure the air in your home is purified.
10. MAKE SOME ‘ME’ TIME
It might take some effort to carve out time for yourself but it’s almost always worth it. ‘Me time is essential for your mental wellbeing,’ says Adeline. ‘You can’t pour from an empty cup, after all. Think about what relaxes you and makes you happy. Whatever you choose, whether it’s a leisurely swim or walk in nature, remember, no guilt.’ Our beginners’ guide to yoga may be a good place to start.
11. TAKE A BATH
‘There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them,’ said the poet Sylvia Plath. In our rushed world, it’s hard to break from the shower habit but making time for at least one leisurely bath a week – ideally with a luxurious bath oil – will help you relax and unwind. ‘If all else fails, you can’t go wrong with a long soak while a Le Labo candle flickers away in the background,’ says beauty editor, Cassie Steer.
12. EMBRACE THE POWER OF BEAUTY
There’s no two ways about it: looking good makes you feel good. ‘Beauty is often dismissed as frivolous but it’s a powerful act of self-care,’ says Cassie. ‘Psychologists have found that the ritual of applying make-up can actually reduce our stress levels and who can deny the power of a good hair day? My beauty wellbeing ammo going into 2020 is a punchy red lipstick like MAC’s Retro Matte Liquid Lipcolor in Fashion Legacy and when I’m feeling a bit frazzled Disciple’s Miracle Drops CBD Oil really are miraculous.’ Read Cassie’s guide on how to Marie-Kondo you make-up bag.
“We need our homes to be comforting and uplifting to get us through the darker months”
The North Face body warmer, Adidas tracksuit bottoms and Diadora trainers, from a selection
13. GET THE KIT
Whatever activity you choose to take up this year, functional clothes that look and feel the part, are important. You want sports or gym kit that is comfortable and cool enough to take you from a Park Run to a leisurely Sunday lunch with friends. If you need to get kitted out follow our guide to how to look good in the gym and if you want to go one step futher, we’ve got ideas on how to create a gym at home.
14. SEE THE LIGHT
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a common affliction at this time of year resulting in fatigue and low mood. While exercise, getting as much natural sunlight as possible and good diet are all recommended to combat it, you can also help ease the symptoms by using a SAD lamp. John Lewis & Partners have a range of lamps to suit your needs, which will blend in seamlessly with your decor.
15. CREATE A CALM AMBIENCE AT HOME
Make your home a warm, inviting haven during deepest, darkest January. ‘We need our homes to be comforting and uplifting to get us through the darker months,’ says interiors stylist Rory Robertson. ‘Candles are essential for achieving a calm, cosy environment. If you’re not sure which scent to choose, remember that something warm and smokey always works in the living room, and a classic linen adds freshness to a bedroom or bathroom.’
16. GET ORGANISED
A key ingredient in tidying up and getting organised is of course, storage. ‘Storage is one of the most important issues to tackle because it allows you to clear the decks, organise your space and make way for change, helping you achieve that new start by neatly stowing away your possessions.’ says Rory. ‘From handy under-bed containers to new shelving units and cupboards, storage options can streamline your home and your life.’ Look no further than our ‘10 storage solutions your home’s been waiting for’ for some insipiration on where to start.
“Meditation plays an important part in regulating emotions and helps combat stress and fear”
Reebok sports bra, Reebok sports legging and Adidas sweater, from a selection
Adidas trainers, from a selection
17. LOOK GOOD, FEEL GOOD
Sportswear has come a long way in the last few years. Now, as well as having technical attributes to ensure your workout goes smoothly, it needs to fit in to your everyday look. ‘Sports and outerwear has become an increasingly important category for us at John Lewis & Partners,’ says Sophie Eberjer, Partner and Assistant Buyer, Sportswear. 'There’s a big trend for wellbeing and getting outdoors, so sportswear has become part of our everyday wardrobes. Brands now not only offer the technical benefits our customers are looking for but also the style element.’ Make sportswear part of your everyday wardrobe in the new year.
18. THINK POSITIVE
Easier said than done? Think again. ‘We are our own biggest critic and over time this can lead to a negative self-image that can be hard to change. Altering the way we speak to ourselves can help enormously to silence the negative thoughts. Talk to yourself like you would a friend, with empathy and tact,’ says life coach Sam Burgess, founder of Small and Mighty Co. ‘Practising gratitude is shown to improve self-esteem, reduce stress and build resilience in difficult times. Think of things, moments or people that bring you happiness and joy.’
19. MAKE TIME TO MEDITATE
In our busy lives, taking time out to observe and understand our feelings is helpful. Meditation isn’t about escaping but increasing awareness and compassion, focusing our thoughts more clearly. Even just 10 minutes of meditating every day can help and with apps like Buddhify, Calm and Headspace, it’s never been easier to tap into your thoughtful self. ‘Meditation increases the part of the brain that controls learning and memory and plays an important part in regulating emotions,’ says Nahid. ‘It also helps combat stress and fear.’ Adeline adds: ‘With a relaxed person comes a more plesant personality. Someone who is less reactive, emotionally secure and able to think and function more effectively.’
20. STOP THE COMPARISONS
The old adage ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ is so true. We all know that perfection doesn’t exist but with the filtered lifestyles that can be seen on social media, it’s easy to fall into the comparison trap. ‘Identify your triggers,’ says Sam. ‘Who or what do you regularly compare yourself to or envy? Make a list and write out why it affects you. Next time you catch yourself feeling envious or inadequate, practise positive self-talk and unfollow or mute people that make you feel less than wonderful.’