It's a brand new year, and while you might not believe in New Year's resolutions ("You forget them halfway through January anyway," is one friend's excuse), January always brings with it the sense of a fresh start.
Here's a list of ways to inspire you to start your year on the right note — and you'll notice that there are no references to quitting smoking and never eating chocolate again! In my view, life is all about moderation, but also being sure to enjoy all the things you love, too, whether it's that glass of wine after work every evening or a frothy cappuccino to get you started in the morning.
These are simply ideas to get you feeling on top of the world as 2010 begins, whether it's a post-festive season cleanser or ditching the gym to take up yoga!
. . . B o d y . . .
Inspire Yourself To Get Fit - Change Your Exercise Regime!
It's a new year and you're already dreading going back to the gym. Just the thought of the Gym makes you want to dive back under your duvet, even though you could really do with a post-festive season workout! If this sounds like you, perhaps it's time to change your exercise regime and opt for something that's less of a chore — something you really look forward to doing and can actually enjoy!
There are so many more exciting ways to get fit and toned, while also improving mental agility and even raising your consciousness. In the East, exercise is treated holistically, targeting not only the health of the body but also of the mind and soul, the thinking behind this being that you can't have one without the other. There's so much to choose from, too, from Kick Boxing or Kung fu (which you can now do at many gyms) to Tae Kwon Do and Karate.
The exercise of choice for stars like Madonna, Yoga is another way to get your body, mind and soul in tip-top shape. There are several different types of this ancient art form from which to choose and so much stuff on the net that you can read about the various types of yoga and also help you find instructors/classes in your area.
. . . M I N D . . .
In a country where so many adults are illiterate, count yourself lucky that you've had the kind of education (hopefully - though if you are reading this, then you can read!) that allows you to access the vast, wonderful world of books, opening up infinite depths of information to you as well as allowing you to escape into distant or parallel universes through fiction, or have your soul touched through poetry and other erudite forms of prose.
If you've been labouring through that one dog-eared book for the last 12 months, either resolve to finish it (and do it) or ditch it! If you find the cost of books prohibitive, renew your library membership — you will be impressed by how up-to-date our librarians are!
If you need motivation to read more, join a book club — or start your own! This is what you do: get your friends together (and invite them to introduce someone new to the group) and plan to meet with your fellow book club members once a month, with someone different hosting at their home each time. Pool your resources to buy books (each person buys a book per month - you can get lists of new and recommended books from your local book store) which can then be shared, discussed and enjoyed within the group. Eventually, the books will become the property of individual group members.
Exercise Your Grey Matter!
Get your poor, under-used brain in shape by embarking on a little mental gymnastics! No, you don't have to start solving Mensa-style puzzles — simply start using that grey matter a little more! A fun way to get the brain cells working is by getting into crossword puzzles. Even games like Scrabble played with friends are better for your brain than staring vacantly at the telly. This level of problem solving can ultimately help you cope better with some of the other problematic stuff that crops up in our day to day lives. And what fun to be able to pepper your conversations with the new vocabulary you've picked up in your dictionary during your search for that right word!
Whatever research you do on the Internet and in health related books, you keep coming back to information citing stress as one of the most important factors influencing disease and a wide range of "modern day" complaints like panic attacks, depression and insomnia. With our work styles mostly having adapted to increased pressure to cut costs and yet produce more, we have to deal with longer hours, more demands and often less money.
Apart from work, things like finances and even family can get the blood pressure up. The only thing is, most of this is unavoidable (like that traffic jam you have to sit in twice a day!), so we pretty much have to learn to deal with stress as a part of life. Of course, even though it can be difficult, we have to learn not to let life get to us and also how to enjoy our lives more!
Luckily, there are many ways to overcome stress — exercise being one! Deep breathing is another (most of us breathe shallowly without even realising it. Stop what you're doing right now — breathe in slowly to your lungs' capacity, hold your breath for a few seconds, now gently and slowly exhale for the same length of your inhalation. Do it a few more times. Feel better?). Then, there are a host of "alternative" therapies and forms of exercise you can try, from tai chi to yoga. Get into meditating. Treat yourself to a Reiki, reflexology or long, super-relaxing aromatherapy massage session. You will feel relaxed afterwards!
. . . S o u l . . .
Resolve To Spend More Time In Nature!
Is this you? Every day you wake up, get in your car, drive to work, sit in the office (or drive around in your car) all day, perhaps taking a quick break for lunch which you eat on the run. Then it's back to the office, off to the gym and back home for supper, a bit of TV, then off to bed. By the time the weekend arrives, all you want to do is sleep late at perhaps hire piles of videos or watch movies to escape the routine.
While there's no harm in doing any of this, it can be all too easy (especially if you live and work in a large city) to "forget" to enjoy the soothing benefits of our natural world. And we happen to live in one of the finest countries in the world when it comes to natural beauty! There's something incredibly healing about being "close to" or "near" the earth; about spending time marveling at nature's magnificence and sheer perfection, whether during a walk on the beach at sunset or in the park early in the morning when drops of dew still glisten on petal and leaf.
Resolve to wake up earlier on weekends and drive to the veldt or mountains or sea to hike or picnic or simply just be, and take your supper outside on hot summer nights. Your life will be so much the richer for spending more time in nature, and for noticing and appreciating small, simple things... like the colour of the sea, the formation of a cloud, the smell before a thunderstorm...
Pray and Meditate!
Prayer and Meditation offer a way of finding inner peace in a world that sees you always occupied with one or another activity, with a mind that's constantly buzzing with thoughts, ideas and worries. For many of us, finding a retreat from the incessant "noise" in our minds seems unlikely — there's just so much going on in there!
However, it is possible to find that "inner quiet" — through prayer and meditation, which is essentially about allowing the mind to rest and go quiet. Religions around the world have used meditation for centuries to "purify the mind and body" – monks do it, the clergy do it, and now many a man-and-woman-in-the-street are enjoying the benefits of retreating inwards for a short period each day.
If you are going to try meditating, then most of the experts agree it should be performed daily (early morning is best), preferably at the same time and before a meal; the spot chosen for meditation should be quiet and used specially for the purpose (unplug the telephone!) and one should be sitting upright with the spine straight. Playing soft music also helps some people. You can open or close the eyes while meditating, but if the eyes are open it is recommended that you "gaze on a blank wall" or the object you have chosen to concentrate on. The duration of your meditation is up to you – beginners usually start with about ten minutes at a time.
Get In Touch With Your Spiritual Side!
Whether it's going back to your church or other place of worship regularly if your attendance might have lapsed, praying more, going on a Buddhist or meditative retreat, or simply taking time out to quietly acknowledge your place in the world, resolve to nurture your soul as much as you look after your body and your mind. Bringing ritual into your life, whatever your religion or beliefs carries with it a rich sense of fulfillment for the individual. The rituals can be small, and meaningless to others, whether it's lighting candles and incense when you pray or turning your daily meals with your family into a time of loving togetherness; it's essentially about making every moment of your life more meaningful to you.
Here's to a healthy, happy, brand New You!