I’ve started taking a different route to work, including a longer walk there and home. It's a much nicer way to start and end the day – it helps me get ready/wind down, makes me feel connected to the outside world and my neighbourhood and is a bit of exercise as well.
My 2016 plan is to eat more vegetables. My Mum will be delighted that I've finally started to listen to her on this one, even if I didn't manage it until I turned 30. I've wasted so much time feeling guilty about what I eat, and I've decided that the only solution is to become positive and proactive about it. As long as I'm getting my five a day, and focussing on the veg content of my food, I can't begrudge myself the odd Mars Bar. That said, eating more fruit and vegetables has made me lose my taste for heavily processed food. They make my skin look better than any vitamin supplement, and I'm full of energy too.
My biggest change for this year is to be a better friend. I fear that dear friends who aren't social media users tend to get a raw deal from me: because I'm always online for work, it's easy to stay in touch with the people who use Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. If they don't, then it can be an embarrassing case of out of sight, out of mind. So this year I'm determined to make people offline my priority because you can't just wait for people to get in touch, you need to make them feel wanted too.
This year I am taking my skin seriously and am investing in a really great skincare routine. This means a twice daily cleanse, gentle exfoliation and moisturise. No matter how early I need to get up or how late I get home I have been sticking to my 3-step routine religiously (which in practise only take a few minutes). I've also cut down on wine and upped my water intake, which sounds incredibly boring but has made a noticible difference. I'm 28 now and my skin looks good, when I am 68 I want it to look great.
This year I am getting up when I tell myself I will get up – by which I mean getting up at the time when I set the alarm. Not setting the alarm and then using the snooze button for an hour.
This sounds a bit grannyish, but I was always beating myself up for not reading enough. That's the thing about books – there will always be too many you don't have time to get to. Since I started listening to audio books I feel like I've injected my walks – whether it's to a mate's house or to work – with a sense of purpose. I'm on Brideshead Revisited right now, read by Jeremy Irons. Added bonus because some of the poshest characters just sound like Scar from the Lion King.
When I was little, I was convinced that the best thing about being a grown-up was not having a bedtime. I’d make myself toast in the middle of the night! I’d read until 4am! I’d never go to bed at all! As soon as I was old enough, I stopped going to bed at a reasonable hour – at first, because I wanted to, and then, because I’d broken my sleeping pattern, and I couldn’t do otherwise. I developed horrendous insomnia, which made my anxiety worse. I didn’t make the connection for years – but my therapist did. “Have you heard of a thing called sleep hygiene?” he asked me the other day. I hadn’t. It was radical: the kind of bedtime I’d always hated. Bath. Pyjamas. Reading a story. The same time, every night. No napping. No cables in bed. No screens in the bedroom at all. I gave myself the last days of 2015 to binge on box sets until 4am, and started on January 1st. Phone off and pyjamas on by ten-thirty, any night I’m at home. A bath, with lavender. A near-miraculous (although horrible) camomile tea. A proper, print, paper book. No Kindles here, thank you. No iPhones either. I don’t have to go to sleep, but I do have to be in bed, hair braided, with my book. What can I say? My mum was right. I hate to admit it, but it’s as good as a sleeping pill – and a hundred times better than sleeping in fraught snatches, arms wrapped around my computer. It’s a tiny change, in the grand scheme of things, but it’s working miracles for my mental health.
I've stared running. Not fast, not for long and without the intention of scaling Everest. But my 30 minute weekly jog makes a BIG impact. Running through the city, I feel stronger, fitter and more alive. My head clears and adrenaline hits. The aches and stiff pains of the week stretch out. Finally I feel like I can breathe. The guilt of being sedentary is gone and a smidgen of smug keeps the motivation going. Try it. A little change can go a long way
Some people might think it a big change, but to me cutting or dyeing my hair always makes me feel like I'm making a fresh start without really doing much, and boosts my motivation levels. If I'm feeling in a bit of a rut with my job, personal life, living situation, etc, I just book an appointment. Good hair makes you feel ten times better.
After a busy week at work I very often skid into the weekend forgetting to arrange anything and then fill it with chores. So this month I've decided to sit down with the diary and get some dates in to catch up with old friends. A few emails rounding people up doesn't take long, and even if we all can't find a time to meet for weeks, it's a whole lot nicer way to spend a Sunday afternoon than cleaning the floor.