Kinder Resolutions for 2016
A new year starts and with it come all the promises that we make to ourselves, the evaluation, the pats on the back, and for some of us perhaps, a few regrets. I guess it is a little inevitable to go through that yearly ritual in January and chances are you have been thinking about your goals for 2016, what you’d like to accomplish and change in your life over the next twelve months. Your new year clock might be set to a slightly different time (mine is!), maybe it’s your birthday for instance, or September and its whole back-to-school nostalgia.
Either way, I believe one thing: we’re all a little too good at coming up with higher and higher expectations for ourselves and that’s why I wanted to write and share this blog post with you today.
On the one hand, planning for some changes and focusing on exciting things ahead is great, it provides some much-needed escapism and if you have the drive and gusto to go after what you want that’s fantastic. On the other hand, it can mean we always ride ourselves pretty hard, and can be unrealistic about what we can accomplish in just one year. Personally, I live with an endless to-do list at the back of my head. If that’s your case too, we both know that sometimes means beating ourselves up about not getting everything done as fast and as smoothly as we’d like.
This is why this year, I would love to encourage you to make some kinder resolutions for yourself if you can. At the end of the day, our inner ambition, creativity and drive will take care of the planning and the list-making regardless. What won’t take care of itself, or feature prominently on that to-do list, is the sort of goal-setting that would make a huge difference to our happiness day-to-day, to keep us a little more sane and at peace with ourselves.
This might sound like hippy mumbo-jumbo but since I’ve reached the age of reason (26 in case you’re wondering), I’ve turned a page and learned how important it is to take care of yourself better, to think about your wellbeing, your body and your head, just as much as you already do when it comes to your career, projects, loved ones, and everything else that you routinely put first. Of course I am not an expert in leading a fulfilled life, but the tips below have definitely made mine easier these last few years, so I hope they can bring you a little more happiness too. Sounds good? Let’s go.
Less Dieting, more Lifestyle Choices
I see a lot of friends talking about weight loss drugs diets every January and there is no shame in that, but I think it’s always good to remember that successfully shedding some weight – for good – comes with a change in lifestyle rather than just a loss goal. Otherwise, a diet is only ever just a short phase in which you deprive yourself for a while and then the minute you get your foot off the brake you go a little mental.
In France we always say that there are no secrets when it comes to being fit and healthy, it’s about the same old simple rules you’ve always heard: eating more wholesome foods, well-produced and local if possible, having a bigger portion of vegetables than protein or starch on your plate, limiting your consumption of processed sugar, drinks and snacks, walking more, taking the stairs more, and when you feel ready, doing a couple of sports classes regularly.
While we’re there, I would say don’t pick a class because it will burn the most calories or have the biggest impact on your body. Pick something you will actually be excited to go to, will get you out of the house and provide those endorphins in an enjoyable way. All those intense fitness classes, bootcamps and expensive online programs? Believe me you will quickly find excuses not to follow through with them after a couple of excruciating times.
Ruthlessly Schedule Time-outs
It’s a big one, and you know this already: you will be happier and more rested if you force yourself to step away from the screens a little more everyday. We’re always on our phones, laptops, ipads and let’s be honest, there comes a time when we’re just browsing and not doing anything particular online – yes? This is not giving us any rest, making us smarter, entertained or relaxed so even though it’s a bit of a pain at first, make sure you change your habits and have some off-screen time in the morning, at lunch and in the evening.
When you do this you’ll realise how much time you actually did spend in front of a screen and it’s a little scary. What to do instead? Things with your hands like doodling, cooking or DIYing, reading, listening to a podcast, or going for a wander with no other agenda than being alone with your thoughts. Bonus points if you talk to another human.
A couple years ago, I got those pretty bad headaches, they would come and go in waves and no pills seemed to be able to wrestle them into oblivion. I went to see the GP after an excruciating three-days stretch and I’ll be honest with you, I had fears of something neurological or optical. He practically laughed in my face. “What you have are tension headaches,” he scolded me, and I was floored. I didn’t feel stressed or anything, I wondered, or did I? Sure there were always a hundred thoughts swirling at the back of my head; yes okay, I would walk or talk with my arms crossed over my body, as if to protect myself from some big menace; and well of course I had a little trouble going to sleep in the evening, what with the frenzied cataloguing of my current list of worries. You guessed it, I was pretty stressed after all, and not very well versed in listening to myself.
The bad news? Challenges and worries are probably not ever going to go away. The good news: how “away” you stand “from” them is something you can absolutely influence and that’s what’s going to make your life about 200% easier. It’s called mindfulness and the sooner you get started on it through meditation and yoga, the sooner you can keep your stress at arms’ length and refuse to let it pollute your daily thoughts because let’s face it, it’s pretty very rare that agonising over something has solved anything at all. No, it’s the opposite way around: the better you get at taking a step back and decluttering your arsenal of logic and creativity from the dread and chaos it’s currently entangled with in your head and heart, the sooner your problems will actually get solved.
If I can do it, you can do it too – it just takes practice. In a nutshell, mindfulness is the killer combo of taking time to be with yourself, coming back to your body, quieting your thoughts, learning to breathe better, stretching your head, shoulders, and back more regularly, and little by little I promise you will see a tremendous impact on your wellbeing, how you sleep at night and how you come to deal with every hurdle that comes your way. You can use the Headspace app, and follow some gentle yoga routines on YouTube thanks to Adrienne.
This one sounds easy but it really isn’t as you need to learn to be more vocal about positive things: love that dress that someone is wearing at the party, the office, or on the street? Tell them. Tell them even, or especially, if they’re a stranger – it will make both of your days better. See someone looking at their phone with a puzzled brow? Offer directions before they need to ask. See someone carrying a heavy bag in your neighbourhood or near your office? Offer to carry it for them even if it makes you do a ten minute detour, it’s such a nice thing to do.
The catch here of course, and it’s a big one, is that kindness without an agenda comes with being a lot more attentive to the world around us and here again, you’ll probably need to unlearn some unconscious behaviours. I for one was always braving the outside world with my headphones on whereas I was walking, taking the bus, doing groceries. And to practice kindness, you have to spot opportunities to do something for someone, you have to be more present.
Being more kind also starts at home, with family and friends and what I mean here is: you don’t really need to have the last word, you don’t really need to be inflexible about every little thing someone says or does that you dislike or is against what you wanted, and you most certainly should not reach out to others only when you need something or want to talk about your problems. These are little things we don’t like to admit but that we probably take liberty with.
Just Walk Away
Maybe this is a slightly controversial one but I’ll still say it. That show, website, film, book, or even friend that you engage with and then almost immediately feel stressed, uncomfortable, or unhappy about? You need to walk away from it, to drop it, to stop engaging with it. Life is way too short to spend heaps of time recovering from interactions that make us unnecessarily happy and I’m saying this because I’ve had my share of toxic things and people in the past and it never gets easier with them.
People who make it all about themselves, are overtly sensitive, moody or negative, whose lives seem to be an endless succession of one drama situation after another are just draining energy from you and you know exactly who they are. It’s better to let them go and you shouldn’t feel bad about it, you don’t owe anything to anyone. People have as much power over you as you let them, so just don’t let them. You can’t fix them and it’s pointless and self-righteous to try.
Trust Yourself More
Here is an easier one: if you’ve been thinking about this last year and weighting everything up at lengths then it’s likely you have thought about how you would have done some things differently, am I right? It’s so easy to know what you should have said, chosen or done in hindsight. So why not take the reflection a step further and put pen to paper to write a letter of advice to yourself – a year ago?
Because chances are, most of that advice is still very much valid for the year ahead and if you trust the wisdom that comes from the experiences you’ve had those last 12 months by trying to extract what you’ve learned about yourself from each challenge and each success, I bet it will help you navigate this year with more trust and confidence.
Phew! That was a long one, wasn’t it?
Seriously though, I hope you’ve found some food for thought in this post, these are some hard-earned lessons I’ve made and although it’s definitely a work in progress, being kinder to myself has had a real impact on my life day to day. Plus, once you start, it’s a virtuous circle. I’m sincerely wishing you all the best for 2016 and if you’re happy to share, I’d love to know the little (or the big) things that you do to be happier? It’s always helpful to compare notes.