It’s still resolution time (just about) and I actually thought long and hard about what could make my life better in 2014 than it had been in 2013.
Which things were vacuums of my time but yielded no benefits?
Which activities would make me feel happier and calmer every day if I just took a few minutes to do them?
What would help me end 2014 with a happier healthier body and mind?
The following are what I came up with.
My attempts at them so far have proved that (as difficult as they may be to stick to completely) incorporating them into your life in even some small way can be of huge benefit.
I hope you give some of them a try! You won’t be alone if you do.
1. Stop eating sugar.
Sugar really is poison. By this I mean white refined sugar. If you do go for brown sugar (which also isn’t great), make sure it’s actually raw and unrefined and not just coloured. If you put some brands of brown sugar in water, the colour comes off – that is not raw sugar.
Sugar consumption affects your kidneys and liver and can lead to Type II Diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay and some cancers. If you need any further convincing check out John Yudkin’s book Pure, White and Deadly. It’s amazing.
I use maple syrup and coconut sugar as normal white sugar alternatives. I am also partial to the occasional piece of dark chocolate, which is fine. I’m not a saint and won’t pretend to be.
2. Stop eating refined processed foods and white flours.
Try choosing wholegrain equivalents such as wholemeal bread, brown rice and brown pasta. If you must have potatoes go for new potatoes rather than mashed or roast. Processed food has to be out. There’s no room for that stuff in 2014.
3. Go organic.
To make this possible, as barely anyone can realistically afford to go entirely organic (or can even find every vegetable in organic form), have a look at the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen to see which fruits and vegetables it’s more important to buy organically and which you can carry on buying as normal.
4. Cut carbs in the evening.
Unless you’re underweight or have very little body fat we could all do with losing a few pounds, particularly after the indulgence fest that is Christmas and New Year. So rather than driving yourself mad counting calories, eliminating desserts or plain starving yourself, just cut carbohydrates from your evening meal and have protein and lots of steamed green veggies. If you do this and don’t overeat the rest of the time, you should lose the excess fat reasonably steadily. Also you won’t bloat, so you’ll look like you’ve lost loads of tummy fat immediately.
5. Choose a form of exercise you enjoy and do it regularly (at least every other day).
I would recommend resistance and body weight exercises over cardio if you want to see real changes to your muscular structure but anything is better than nothing. My personal favourite form of exercise is Pilates, particularly if you have any back problems or need to build up your strength slowly.
This Pilates: Body In Motion book by Alycea Ungaro is pretty good, as are Mari Winsor’s DVDs and for the guys (and brave girls) Mark Lauren’s Your Are Your Own Gym is a cheap and inspiring way to get fit and strong. He trains the special forces so his exercises are pretty hardcore.
6. Switch to chemical free products.
Try using chemical free shampoos, conditioners, body washes, hand soaps, detergents etc… You may have to go through a fair few products to begin with but if you eventually find one that works for you, you’ll feel better knowing that in the long run you’re not putting any harsh or dangerous chemicals onto your skin that can be absorbed into the body.
7. Stop watching television.
Or at least limit it drastically. If you stop watching telly you might actually read that book, write something, do some exercise, have an actual conversation or even a nice long bubble bath. All of these are better for your life, than watching TV.
8. Limit the social media.
It just makes you miserable. Really. Posting the occasional photo to share with your friends or using it as a way to keep in touch with people who live far away is one thing. But trawling through photos of people you don’t know or you’ve met once is quite another. I think this resolution includes the Daily Mail. Get off the Daily Mail website and JustJared. Reading about famous people you’ve never met is no better.
9. Meditate once a day.
If you meditate for 5 or 10 minutes everyday you will slowly start to notice a difference in your attitude and wellbeing. Even if you don’t feel any different at first, the benefits to the brain are well documented and scientifically proven, so keep having a go. If you think you’re doing it wrong, just keep doing it anyway. Using a guided meditation is often a good way to get started and don’t be too hard on yourself. Some days you’ll manage, some days you won’t.
If you want to learn more about it The Art of Meditation by Matthieu Ricard is worth perusing.
10. Listen to more classical music.
The range of benefits from classical music is astounding and includes everything from helping to treat illness, reducing anxiety, blood pressure and stress, improving mental function, enhancing cognitive development and reasoning, boosting your mood, helping you sleep and increasing creativity.
Listening to Mozart, in particular, seems to be of huge benefit with listeners showing increased IQ scores and a lessening of epileptic symptoms.
11. Learn something new.
You don’t have to learn three languages, four instruments and become a chess master all in one year, but you could learn one language, one instrument or to play chess (some of us managed to get this far in life without knowing how to play chess, it is what it is, that’s just the embarrassing truth).
12. Don’t spend more than you have.
If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. Really don’t. You will never wear/use it and you’ll wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night worrying that you’ve hit your overdraft limit and the bank is coming to get you.
13. Be grateful for what you have.
Even if it’s just a simple sandwich at lunchtime, try to take a moment to feel grateful for what you have before you eat. Being grateful for the small everyday things can make you much happier and more content in the long run. It can also stop you becoming a bit of a spoilt, entitled brat.
14. Be kind to the people around you.
Those you know and those you don’t. You never know, you might just make someone’s day.