We’ve all been doing it recently, haven’t we? Making a huge list of New Years resolutions that we probably know in our hearts will be forgotten and discarded mid-february, and we’ll be back to old habits with gym memberships burning a hole in our bank accounts, and bags of kale rotting in the bottom drawer of the fridge. (Hopefully not though, throw that away please!)
When I was doing the exact same thing last week (because yes, we are only in the second week of January as I write this, even if it does feel like October already) I thought to myself – what is the point?
I can try all I like to do yoga everyday, read a book a week, and eat salad all the time, and yes, it will probably make me healthier, but it’s highly unlikely to make me any happier. Especially not in January.
January is already the most depressing month of the year – why do we insist on making it worse for ourselves by depriving our bodies and minds of things that make us happy?
I love carbs. I really love carbs, and I really hate boring old salad. I hate water, and I love hot chocolate. I’m not an avid reader – I wish I was – but I’m not and never have been. So, why am I choosing January to try to change that when I could spend it under the duvet watching Friends drinking a hot chocolate with extra whipped cream, a plate of mash potato and being really, really content?
I don’t mean we can use January’s depressing worthlessness to go on living another year exactly the same without any change or personal growth. That would be silly. I just think there is a better way to go about things that might make any change more long-lasting.
At the moment, I am indulging myself. Not as much as I did at Christmas, but still as much as I want, or need, to make going back to work, and life a little easier. I have occasionally had salad, and later binge ate a family size bar of aero because its cold right now, and I just need a warm food cuddle for dinner not a cold, heartless plate of leaves. (Please note, my summer brain doesn’t share these feelings. In summer I will gladly eat and enjoy lettuce leaves, spinach and cucumber. Some of my favourite foods are vegetables, I just like them warm, and preferably pasta-y right now.)
Now I know what you’re all thinking ‘yes we know chocolate and pasta will make us happy, but how is it going to make me more productuve?’
Well, for now my strategy is to make short-term achievable goals.
It takes 21 days to make a habit, and it’s amazing how much one new habit can feel like a big change. In February, my habit will be exercise. In March, it will be getting my 5 a day. Right now, it’s making my bed and getting up before 10am.
I’ve been combining this with a short, easy to accomplish to-do list every day such as
‘wash hair, eat breakfast, walk dog, reply to at least 5 emails, read a chapter of that book you got for christmas, do a load of washing, make dinner, write tomorrow’s to-do list’.
And you know what? I’m more productive than I have ever been in assessing my life. I’m not feeling guilty or obsessing about my weight and appearance because I’ve allowed myself another month to come to terms with everything, and ease out of Christmas slowly. It also means the smaller tasks don’t build up and get in the way when I have a bigger task to complete.
Giving myself permission to feel proud about a few very minor lifestyle changes can really turn a day around and make me want to do more. I feel more productive, more willing and more able to make the bigger changes that are needed.
Some day’s I’m so proud of the fact that I’ve got up and showered it even makes me WANT to eat healthily. I want that feeling to continue, and I feel happy because I know that I can eat whatever the bloody hell I want later on without being overcome with guilt and negative feelings about myself.
Deprivation tends to limit our happiness. And happiness will help in all other aspects of life. So, I say if happiness is a Spaghetti Bolognese ready-meal then get yourself off to M&S and enjoy it.