“New Year, New You!” 10 Simple Tips from “Walking on Sunshine” by Rachel Kelly
Sharon here, letting you know that, after the New Year holiday, I will begin a 2016 series of posts with lots of practical and useful information about brain-based training, teaching, and learning. Meanwhile, with the New Year just around the corner, I decided to post this article which I paraphrased from “The Guardian“ with 10 tips that are simple and delightfully easy to do.
Rachel Kelly is the author of Walking on Sunshine: 52 Small Steps to Happiness. She suggests that making a few small changes as you go through your day can have a huge positive impact on both your mind and body. Small lifestyle adjustments can make a big difference in how satisfied and happy you feel both during and at the end of the day.
Here are 10 simple changes to consider making – easy actions that are the first steps towards living more mindfully, peacefully, and happily. Just choose one (or more, if so inclined) to do each day, and be sure to reward yourself for doing it.
1. SLOW DOWN. You are human being, not a human doing, and it’s very easy to forget that when your day feels really frenetic. Make a point of setting aside time for an hour off (or an evening – but if that’s too long, 15 minutes will help) to do nothing at all. Make sure this happens by scheduling the hour or evening in your appointment book (you can write: “appointment with myself” if you wish, so that you can say to family or friends, “Oh, I’m sorry, I have an appointment at that time”). Furthermore, if you suffer from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), reframe it and think of it instead as JOMO (Joy OF Missing Out). 15 minutes, an hour, or an evening with nothing to do can be just what you need to restore a sense of balance in your busy life.
2. BE MINDFUL. Build a “mindful activity” into your day. It can be any routine activity you perform amid the haste of the day, like doing dishes, washing your hands, or changing clothes. Slow down and give the task your full attention. You’ll soon start appreciating these small moments of calmness.
3. FOLLOW THE 60% RULE. Perfectionism is an illusion, but the pursuit of it is real and can have damaging consequences to both your mind and body by releasing a continuous stream of stress-related hormones. So readjust your thinking. If a friendship, relationship, or work project is 60% right, then you’re doing just fine. Beware too, of perfectionism’s close friends: an all-or-nothing approach, workaholism, fear of failure, relentless self-judgment, and being overly-sensitive to the judgment of others.
4. NOURISH YOUR BODY. The food you eat has a direct impact on your mood and serotonin/dopamine levels (the “feel-good” chemicals in your brain). So surround yourself with the good stuff: fresh fruits and leafy green veggies, lean protein, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and occasionally a bit of dark chocolate.
5. UNPLUG. Unfortunately, screen-time before bed isn’t conducive to deep sleep. Try a “wind-down hour” before bedtime in which all screen devices (TV, smart phone, digital tablet) are also “retired” for the evening. If you’re used to reading before bedtime with a tablet instead of a book, make sure its screen backlighting is on the lowest setting possible. Turning off all electronic screens an hour before bedtime will calm your mind and help ensure that you get a restful night’s sleep.
6. DECLUTTER. Clearing space in a cupboard, drawer, or on a shelf helps give you a sense of control over your space and, more importantly, your life. It can be a small step towards transformation, as author Marie Kondo maintains in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It also helps you enjoy the objects that you’ve consciously decided to keep, instead of relegating them to a crowded place with all the other general “stuff.”
7. BREATHE. When things get to be too much, try the one-finger-on-the-nose breathing trick. Surreptitiously lift a finger against one side of your nose. Then just breathe through the other nostril. By halving the rate at which you breathe, you lower your blood pressure and trigger the body’s relaxation response. This is a great little strategy to use when you’re feeling overwhelmed by an especially stressful situation and the accompanying emotions it generates.
8. REDEFINE FAILURE. Reframe your mental picture; look at mistakes as stepping stones that help you in your journey towards a specific destination or goal. If truth be told, you probably have learned more from your mistakes than from your successes. Embrace the stumbles along the way.
9. EXERCISE. Moving briskly for 10 minutes, ideally first thing in the morning, releases endorphins (more feel-good brain chemicals) and sets up both your brain and body for a more positive day. Lack of exercise can leave you feeling sluggish and lethargic, so, if you can, start your day right. Walking quickly around the house or office, up and down the stairs a few times, or simply walking in place for a bit will do the trick.
10. READ A POEM ALOUD. The quiet rhythm and rhyme of the poem will help melt away mental chatter. Your thoughts become still as you focus entirely on the lyrical sounds of the words. Alternatively, listen to music that soothes your soul: something that speaks to you, quiets your mind, opens your heart, and makes you feel grateful to be alive.