Ten Tiny New Year's Resolution Ideas!
New Year is almost upon us and I don’t know about you, but I always quite like the feeling of freshness and potential that a new year brings. I’m not very keen on the New Year’s Eve part – I can err towards melancholy and excessive reflection if I think too much about the old year ending! However, I am partial to a New Year’s Resolution and, if I do say so myself, I am generally quite good at sticking to them.
This was not always the case. In my youth, there were times when I was so desperate to reinvent myself completely that I would become overwhelmed with self-improvement choices and would find myself unable to commit to anything properly because I was spreading my good intentions too thinly. While we all probably know an exceptional person who seemingly transformed every aspect of their life overnight, I think it’s fair to say that we all know many more people who year after year set themselves targets that they fail to meet.
In a previous life, I used to work in a pub and I’d often hear customers saying that they didn’t bother to make New Year’s Resolutions because they are pointless and nobody ever sticks to them anyway. Given the number of people whose unchanging habits and attitudes seem to support this theory, you might think that there is an argument against setting New Year’s Resolutions. After all, if you don’t set yourself a target, you cannot fail to meet it, and so you will not know the disappointment or self-criticism that accompanies that. On the other hand, humans are by nature goal-oriented. Right from childhood, we derive satisfaction from succeeding at things, however humble. One of the symptoms of clinical depression can be apathy, which might manifest as a loss of motivation to complete daily activities. Even small, mundane tasks like getting showered and dressed, washing dirty pots, or filing away our paperwork bring us a degree of satisfaction and it is important for mental wellbeing that people are able to set and achieve goals for themselves. The apathy and loss of direction which often accompany depression are therefore doubly distressing, because not only do they hinder the opportunity to experience satisfaction, but the temporary loss of small, regular satisfaction fuels further depression.
I was watching YouTube while I ate my lunch today and I saw a comment that if one wishes to have good self-esteem, one must do esteem-able deeds. This is very true and seemed pertinent to the blog I had planned! I think part of the value of New Year’s Resolutions is that they offer opportunity to set a noble intention, honour the intention, and experience the feelings of achievement and satisfaction that go along with that. Any kind of successful self-improvement must at least therefore be beneficial to our self-esteem and might bring with it additional benefits to ourselves and those around us.
Someone wise once told me that with small bites, you can eat a big elephant. This is very true. My life now does not look much different to a year ago. That life did not look very different to the year before. That one didn’t look very different to the year before that. But my life looks quite different now to how it looked ten years ago. Don’t get me wrong – I am by no means anything to aspire to! There are still all kinds of flaws and all sorts of improvements to be made! But I eat a bit more healthily; I am a little more organised; I am a little more active. I am now a little bit more like the sort of person I wanted to be when I used to set myself lots of unattainable targets all at once. And hopefully in ten years’ time, I will be even more like the kind of person I’d like to be! The point is, for most people it does not happen all at once and it does not happen on the first try.
I don’t know what kind of person you would like to be and I don’t know what self-improvement means to you. However, as someone who has made and successfully stuck to at least three fairly life-changing New Year’s Resolutions and has formed various other positive daily habits, I thought I would use this month’s blog to throw out some suggestions for those of you who would like to make a resolution, but can’t decide what to do!
(For those of you who are interested, my three main New Year’s Resolutions have been: making sure to drink at least 1.5 litres of plain water a day – something I started well over a decade ago; getting fresh air every day – something I think I started in 2013, though I could be mistaken; and journaling positively every day – something I probably started about three or four years ago, although I have kept diaries regularly at other times in my life. The water one I stick to every single day and I usually hit at least 2 litres a day now. The fresh air one I stick to most days, though occasionally if I’m ill or just extremely busy with work, I do miss a day. I stick to it at least 350 days a year. The positive journaling I do most days – I probably stick to it for about 340 days a year. I’ve also made other dietary and lifestyle changes over the years and I am always attempting to alter my personality for the better!)
The trick, I think, to keeping a New Year’s Resolution is to keep it modest and achievable. It’s very noble to resolve that you will go walking for 90 minutes four times a week, but if you’ve got a job and a house and children and hobbies, and you live in the dark, rainy United Kingdom, it might not be realistic. 90 minutes is a lot of time to block off at once in bad weather around all your other commitments. It is very achievable, however, to resolve that you will meditate for ten minutes at least four times a week, because let’s be honest, you probably spend longer than that on Facebook or Twitter in one go. The other trick is to not try to change too much all at once. Rome was not built in a day!
If you’re a seasoned New Year’s Resolution keeper, there probably won’t be much new in this list for you. However, if you’re the sort of person who would like to make a positive change but does not know where to begin, maybe you will find inspiration from one of these ideas!
1) Get at least one of your five a day at breakfast.
If you don’t currently eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, then setting yourself the target of achieving that might be too daunting. More people than would care to admit it regularly go a whole day with not even one proper serving of fruit or veg passing their lips. Toast or cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, pasta or pizza for tea – it’s all too easy to eat lazily! From that place, attempting to eat all five of your five a day might seem like too much work. But can you start the day right by getting at least one of your five a day boxed off nice and early? Could you put some berries on your cereal? Could you have some baked beans on your toast? If you’re scrambling eggs, could you fry up some mushrooms with them, or cut up an avocado? How about a tomato on your bacon sandwich? Making sure that I have a couple of portions of fruit or veg with my breakfast is really important to me, because if I do that, achieving my full five seems much easier and it is nice to feel that I have started the day in a healthy manner. If you don’t eat breakfast that’s fine – just do it with whatever your first meal of the day is.
2) Grow some fruit or vegetables.
If you’ve always fancied getting into gardening, why not start this year by growing just one or two items? Nobody says you have to become Alan Titchmarsh right away and have ten different things on the go. But you could start with just one or two easy things and build on that. If you grow things yourself, you’ll feel that much more inclined to eat them! You don’t need land to do this – if you live in an apartment, you can start with some rocket in a tray on your windowsill or a few strawberry or tomato plants next to a window. Orange, lemon and lime trees are popular indoor plants, and apparently figs are easy to grow indoors too, though I have never tried to grow these!
3) Get fresh air daily.
When you work from home, which many people have been doing for the last year, it is very easy to stay inside for days at a time! Getting fresh air daily does not have to mean that you go for an hour long walk every day, or venture off somewhere scenic. It just means leave the house and breathe some outdoors air for a few minutes! As I mentioned above, this was one of my New Year’s Resolutions several years ago and it is one I have stuck to. Mine was borne out of working from home and in those days my anxiety was quite bad, so it was very easy to just hide indoors for days on end. I now go for a walk most days, but this is not always as wholesome and energetic as it sounds. Some days, I am busy and not in the mood and it’s raining. On such days, I at least make the effort to waddle up the road and spend about ten minutes outside and when I get back inside, I feel proud of myself for being disciplined. I don’t always want to go outside and I don’t always have time to do more. If the goal were that I would walk 10,000 steps a day, every day, I would not meet it and I would probably soon give up trying. Because the goal is just to get outside and spend at least a few minutes walking, I achieve it almost every day of the year. And usually, once I’m out, I decide to go a bit further than I thought I would, even on days where I didn’t think I felt like it. Because the goal is so easily achievable, it became a daily habit and now it is harder for me to NOT go for a walk than it is for me to do it. Even on lazy days, it sort of feels uncomfortable to not get outside, and in this way, I now get fresh air and a little exercise most days! Set your expectations low and exceed them, rather than setting them high and disappointing yourself!
4) Drink two litres of water a day.
Well, a substantial part of this website is devoted to the bladder! Anyone with a track record of urinary tract infections knows that getting dehydrated is a sure fire way to end up with cystitis. And yet, we’re in work, we’re busy, we forget to drink, we don’t have time to go and get a drink, or we run out of drink and don’t immediately have access to another one. If drinking water has not become a proper habit, it is all too easy to become dehydrated and not realise until we go for a wee and feel the tell-tale burn. My tips for drinking enough water are: measure it out in the morning (either by opening a large bottle of mineral water, or by getting a large reusable water bottle and filling it as soon as you get up); drink some water as soon as you wake; drink some water every time you empty your bladder; make sure the whole amount of water that you measure out is gone by bedtime. If for practical reasons you need to use smaller bottles instead of one big one, either write numbers on them in marker pen, or buy different coloured reusable bottles and drink them in the same order each day so that you won’t lose track of where you’re up to. I open a large bottle of mineral water every morning. I know that by the end of breakfast, it will be approximately one third empty. I know that by the time I have done my daily walk it will be around half empty. I know that I should need to open a small bottle sometime in the evening. It is easy for me to see if I am behind schedule with my fluid intake. If I’m going to be leaving the house for more than about half an hour, I take water with me. I drink almost obsessively to be honest, but it’s better to need an extra wee than to not need enough wees and then end up with cystitis! I am told I look quite young for my age and I think part of this is that I stay well hydrated and have done for years.
5) If you’re doing dry January, swap alcohol for kombucha.
Ideally, swap some of your alcohol for kombucha anyway! Make sure to buy it raw and unpasteurised so that you will get the full probiotic goodness. Kombucha is lovely and as discussed in this blog post, I now much prefer it to ordinary soft drinks. If you’re used to drinking alcohol and don’t really like plain water, switching to kombucha might be an easier way to stick to dry January. It’s lightly fizzy; it looks like a mixer; you could serve it in a glass with ice and a slice; you could decorate it with cherries or umbrellas or leaves if you want to make it more exciting. I use Loving Foods and occasionally Remedy or Los Bros. I have no idea why people think that all fermented foods increase interstitial cystitis pain. I’m sure they do for some people (everything probably does for someone!), but I think traditionally fermented kombucha is safe for most IC patients and it certainly never gives my bladder any trouble at all. Just don’t drink too much at once, because it is fizzy.
6) Swap commercial pickle and relish for raw, unpasteurised sauerkraut or kimchi.
Again, as discussed in this blog post, they are delicious and full of probiotic goodness. Proper traditionally fermented ones contain no vinegar or added acids – they are just vegetables and salt. Many commercial pickles and relishes are high in sugar, but sauerkraut and kimchi are not. They are also wonderfully nutritious and can be counted towards your five a day. They do not taste ‘mouldy’ or fermented – they just taste like normal pickle really and can be used in all sorts of interesting ways.
7) Switch to cruelty-free cosmetics.
This is so easy to do – you don’t have to throw out all your existing cosmetics and buy all new. If you do decide to go cruelty free, you can simply wait until something runs out and then replace it with a different brand. Not all cruelty-free products are expensive – I believe that Marks and Spencer’s and Superdrug’s own brands both carry the leaping bunny logo, meaning that they are not tested on animals. Shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, nail varnish, foundation, deodorant – there are cruelty-free options available for all these and more. So if you’re on the lookout for a New Year’s Resolution that isn’t to do with your own health, but benefits something or someone else instead, this one might appeal to you!
8) Don’t skip the adverts! Or maybe skip in the adverts!
Are you a couch potato? Do you feel like you should do more exercise, but you really can’t stand it? Do you feel like you should do more exercise, but your health prevents you from doing so? This one might be for you then. If you watch television in an evening and have one of those fancy televisions that allows you to fast forward the adverts, cut it out! An advert break is only a few minutes long. Unless you’re completely immobile, there is no reason why you can’t do some sort of movement in the advert break. Can you stand up and march on the spot? Can you lie down and do some sort of Pilates movements or do cycle motions with your legs? (Go to YouTube and type in something like ‘short leg workout’ to find something suitable. I detest exercise, but I found a great leg workout on YouTube that I manage to do a few times a week because it literally only takes about two minutes. It’s so short that by the time I’ve remembered how much I dislike exercise, I’ve already finished!) Can you ‘twerk’ or ‘shake your booty’ – both excellent for PGAD? Can you stay seated, but spend the advert break doing some sort of arm workout? It might amuse you to know that I have an arm dance that I do to the theme music of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ just to get in some movement between episodes! If you’re a couch potato, at least a couple of times a night don’t skip the adverts and maybe skip during the adverts instead! It is the lazy person’s way to get some exercise and I should know, because I am about as un-athletic a person as you will meet!
9) If you successfully used a particular supplement or product to manage your chronic health condition, write to your GP or consultant and let them know.
Please do this politely! You don’t want to seem like a know-all and you don’t want to make the poor health professional feel that they are being lectured in their own specialism! Doctors see a LOT of patients and they don’t have a lot of time to spend with each. GPs are, as the name suggests, general practitioners, so while they know a bit about a lot of things, they don’t know a lot about many things. If you’ve had a great experience with Waterfall D-Mannose for cystitis, or freeze-dried aloe vera capsules for interstitial cystitis, or another niche product that you used on something difficult to treat, why not write to your healthcare provider and politely tell them about it so that they can recommend it to other patients? So often, bladder pain patients lament to me that they wish their doctor had told them something or say, “Why do they not tell you this at the hospital?” Yes, sometimes it is arrogance, or lack of care. But often, they just don’t know. Your doctor cannot recommend a UTI patient to try D-Mannose for long-term prophylaxis if they have never heard of it or have never had first-hand patient testimony about it. If something works really well for you and you think your doctor ought to know, tell him! In the current climate with waiting times to see doctors so long, he might well be glad to have things he can recommend to people!
10) Save your loose change in a pot or jar and at the end of the year, see if you have enough for the health screening test or treatment that you have been dreaming of.
Going back to my barmaid days, one of the things I used to love was saving up my tips in a piggy bank. I don’t handle cash very often these days and I quite miss the satisfaction of seeing it mount up and then counting it! I know all too well that chronic health issues are expensive. They’re expensive because they can limit our income and they’re expensive because the therapies, supplements and diagnostic tests they might entail can be extremely costly. If you really want a food intolerance test from Cambridge Nutritional Sciences, an in-depth hormone test from Genova Diagnostics, a three-month supply of some sort of supplement that you can’t afford, or a session with a private specialist in your condition, why not make it your New Year’s Resolution to save up all your 50 pence pieces or all your £2 coins in some sort of container and then see what you’ve got in a few months or at the end of the year? Heck, if you already spend all your money on your health, do it anyway and buy yourself a nice treat instead that’s nothing to do with your health! By putting just one type of coin in just one container, or by putting a few mixed coins in on the same day each week, you will find the vague goal of ‘save money’ becomes more attainable.
Right, that is my ten suggestions for some relatively easy New Year’s Resolutions! I think I might do another of these lists next New Year, because I have lots more ideas that I could have included. If your track record of setting and sticking to targets is not that great, I hope that something on this year’s list will take your fancy and become the first resolution you manage to keep! If you’re such a pro at keeping resolutions that you’ve done all of these already and you want some other productive things to try, then you might like to head over to this website and get yourself a pack of these positive activity cards. I invented them during lockdown, but to be honest there hasn’t been much interest in them, so they won’t be on sale for much longer as they’re taking up space in my store room!
I really hope I don’t sound holier-than-thou in this post – honestly, I don’t do all of the things on this list myself and there are many, many areas in which I need to improve myself, so please don’t go away thinking that I’ve got life sorted! I definitely haven’t!
Wishing you all the best for 2022 and beyond,
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