Hooray it is almost a new year! Like a newly made bed or a first page in a notebook the first of January is a fresh start. This year I’m going to be making simple resolutions that should be easy to stick to. They are small changes to my daily routine that should keep me healthy and happy into this brand new decade - and you are welcome to join me.
The first is to floss my teeth once a day. I know in a perfect world this would be twice a day but I need to keep it real. Flossing regularly is thought to protect heart health because of the link between periodontal disease and heart disease. One theory about why the two are linked is that bacteria from a mouth infection is thought to enter the bloodstream and then move its way to the heart and then be pumped to the rest of the body. Flossing is also good for our gums and if I am going to be invested in my health I need to include my whole body in that picture.
My next resolution is no screens after 9pm. I have an alarm on my phone that goes off at 8:30pm and that is my wind down alert. My phone’s do-not -disturb function turns on at 8:30pm as well. Even though my phone has a night shift mode (so as not to send blue light/ it’s-still-day-time messages to my brain), I need to get off my phone to calm my mind. By picking up a book I create a clear signal that it is time to mentally and physically prepare for sleep.
2020 is going to be the year that I manage to keep a plant alive. Not just my slightly ill spider plant or thrive-on-neglect aloe vera plants either. Why? Well the presence of indoor plants can lower human stress levels. Not only that - actively caring for plants is supposed to calm the autonomic nervous system and lower blood pressure. People who work near plants report greater concentration, satisfaction, and perceived air quality. It’s worth a try. I’m going to need a reminder in my phone though..
A much easier resolution for me is to take the stairs. Again this is a commitment to my heart health and fitness. When it is an option at a tube station I will walk up static stairs, otherwise I will walk up escalators. Apparently tired women who climb stairs for 10 minutes get a bigger energy boost than those who had the caffeine equivalent of half a cup of coffee. I will need buy-in from my children for this as I take the tube home from school with them. But it is my job to model the way that I would love for them to behave. I want them to move for movement’s sake and to see the energy payoff for themselves.
I already volunteer at Girl Guides and University of the Third Age (This is Meirelle) but I’ll put this suggestion in as a nudge for any of you reading who don’t volunteer regularly. It is a very easy health hack. There is so much research backing up how good giving is for us. It is thought to lower stress and blood pressure, increases our sense of well being and for me it bolsters my connection with my community which is another thing that helps us live better for longer. Working with older adults helps me appreciate my health. Working with teenagers helps me appreciate that I am a grown up and not going through All. That. Stuff. being a teenager is hard.
Something that I’ve been working on is an optimum about myself and the future, as a perfectionist I have had to train myself to be open to making mistakes. As Eric Franklin says, our brain is a recording device. He also asks: we have about 60,000 thoughts a day how many of them are positive? When I first thought about this I was alarmed. Having been a performer I have spent my whole life focussing on my flaws and technique mistakes as a way to make myself better. This approach is also a way to make trying new things impossible. And this is no way to live.
I know that cells that fire together wire together and so that means when I say or think negative things about myself my brain takes that as a constantly reinforced truth. To override old patterns I need to focus on best case scenarios - how I want my movement, my body, my future to be. And here is a photo of my gorgeous nieces. They approach the world with curiosity and joy which is such great way to be.
Another goal that I think I can achieve this year is to meditate three times a week. Yes, I know, in a perfect world I would meditate every day, I’m not perfect. I need to keep things achievable and so this year I'll aim for three times a week and perhaps next year I will be able to get to five? The benefits of meditation are endless -better sleep, less stress, clearer mind, increased sense of calm and more focus, it gives the central nervous system a clear body map and it is a chance to listen to the body without jumping in. I see that Headspace has a walking meditation. Once the kids go back to school I’ll check it out.
Again we know that being grateful makes us happier, gives us perspective, brings focus to how much we have instead of what we don’t yet have. So this year I am getting a new doormat. My doormat - the dirty top one is falling apart a little so I've ordered the bottom one- who doesn't love a badger? This will be my gratitude trigger. Every time I come home it will be a reminder for me to feel grateful. Grateful that I have a home; that I have children to remind to put their “shoes and coats away” (every single day); that I have enough food; that I can pay my bills; that I have a lovely supporting husband.. you get the idea.
An easy resolution is to drink a cup of Green tea a day. Green tea seems to be a miracle drink filled with nutrients and antioxidants. Antioxidants can help your body fight free radicals which are molecules that have been shown to increase disease risk and speed ageing. People who drink green tea tend to live longer, have a lower risk of heart disease and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. This is correlation not causation I know but Green tea also contains epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and caffeine. These compounds are thought to be metabolism boosters. So I figure. It’s worth a try.
My last resolution is going to be my hardest. It is to ask for help. I think I might have some emotional stuff to unpack here about why this is so hard for me. In 2014, Care.com took a survey of working mothers and on the subject of asking for help 29% of respondents felt guilty about it. At the same time, 79% felt like they were falling behind at work, and 75% saw an overall reduction in stress when they did enlist help. I know that it takes a village to raise a child but I kind of feel like my village is on the other side of the planet. Anyway. This year I will be asking for help and feeling guilty about it - but the more I practise surely the better I’ll get, and the less guilty I’ll feel. Right?
And that’s it. Ten resolutions for the new decade. Small things that I can fit into my routine to keep me physically and emotionally well.
Happy New Year everyone