New Year, New You
by Hanna Lindon
After the frenetic festive period, January is the perfect time to stop, take stock and focus on improving your life. Here’s how to get your year off to a fabulous start.
Start a health kick that lasts
The most common New Year’s resolutions are health related. According to a recent ComRes poll, 38 per cent of us resolve to exercise more, 33 per cent are determined to lose weight and 32 per cent want to eat more healthily. Sadly, however, the majority of New Year health kicks won’t last beyond January. Researchers have discovered that most of us stick to a new, healthy regime for an average of three weeks and four days. The most common reasons cited for falling off the wagon are the temptations of a Friday night takeaway, a holiday or a night out.
So how can you make a lifestyle revamp last? Persuading your partner to adopt the changes with you is a major step towards success. Thirty-five per cent of people attributed the failure of their health resolutions to their partner’s unaltered habits. If you can’t persuade your other half to clean up their act, draft in a friend who will help boost your flagging motivation.
Another key pointer is to find something you genuinely enjoy doing. If every minute spent on a treadmill feels like torture, it’s unlikely you’ll stick it out for more than a few weeks. Instead, get a training programme tailored to your tastes or sign up for a sport you’ve always fancied trying. Why not get the kids involved with something that suits all ages, such as tennis, horse-riding, swimming, martial arts or even golf.
Finally, start small. Commit to an exercise class one day per week, cut out processed foods instead of trying to limit calories, or walk for short journeys rather than taking the car. Build on little goals, and you’ll be acing that treadmill in no time.
Give your mind a workout
You’ve thought about keeping your body healthy – but what about your mind? Brain games such as Sudoku and crosswords are the equivalent of weight-lifting for your mind, boosting the brain’s ability to remodel nerve cell connections, increasing its processing efficiency and reducing the later risk of dementia. In one study, normal adults who took part in a ‘brain fitness programme’ improved their auditory information processing speed by around 58 per cent. Nearly half of participants also reported positive changes in their everyday lives, including better recall of shopping lists, greater self-confidence and being better able to attend to conversations in noisy settings.
You can download brain-training apps designed by expert neuroscientists, but Sudoku, crosswords, card games such as Bridge and even jigsaw puzzles will help keep your mind sharp as well. If you’re not the puzzle type, you can still relax and rejuvenate your brain with regular mindfulness, meditation or yoga sessions.
Plan a makeover
Looks might not be everything, but there’s no doubt that a new wardrobe and a spot of pampering can do wonders for your confidence.
One of the fastest and easiest ways to dramatically change your appearance is to try a new haircut. Hair can frame the face, bring out your best features and complement colour tone – so what hairdo should you opt for? Women with oval face shapes can carry off most looks, but avoid the current trend for donut buns to avoid adding length to your face. Long and square faces suit soft layers and choppy ends, while round face shapes can be elongated with longer hair and sophisticated waves. If in doubt, opt for the so-called ‘perfect’ do – a feathered cut with a slight side-parting that falls between the chin and the shoulders. For men, choose short sideburns and an upward style if you have a square face, a fringe for a triangular face or a short back and sides for a round face.
Once you’re happy with your hair do, it’s time to give your wardrobe a detox. Start by chucking anything damaged, out of shape or dyed in the wash, and donating items you haven’t worn for at least a year to a local charity. When you hit the shops, consider your body shape. For women, pear shapes look great in A-line skirts and strapless dresses, rectangles suit sweetheart necklines and colourful bottoms, and apples can create curves with belts and v-neck tops. Men with rectangular body shapes suit layers and skinny pants while inverted triangles can carry off tailored waists and v-necks.
Try something new
“The best thing for being sad is to learn something,” says Merlin to the young King Arthur in T.H. White’s novel The Once and Future King. He had it spot on. If you’re stuck in a rut, getting a new interest is a sure-fire way to revamp your life. It could be a sociable team sport – stoolball, football or hockey – a craft such as knitting or simply joining a local committee. Use local newsletters, websites and shop noticeboards to find out what’s going on in your area. How about trying something new? There’s a whole range of arts and crafts you could try, while sports are often lowcost with plenty of choice if you’re looking to join a local team.
Stuck for ideas? Think about what you loved doing as a child – was it writing stories, drawing pictures, netball or horse riding? Is there a local issue you feel passionately about or a campaign you’d like to start? Maybe you’d prefer to master a productive skill, such as cookery, foraging, or a new language. It’s never too late to get a new interest, whether it’s a makeover, a new hobby or a health kick that lasts. Make 2018 the year you turn your life around.