5 easy ways to feel better this year

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Who else is over the ‘New Year, New You’ crap that gets thrust down our throats this time of year? I don’t need a ‘new’ me, and, frankly, neither does anyone else.

Instead of falling into the ‘diet and exercise’ culture that the New Year seems to bring out in overabundance, let’s instead take a look at some other ideals that might only require a change of focus, or simple minor edits to our daily routines, in order to keep our minds and bodies healthy in the new year and beyond.

Here are a few things I’ve been trying to make strides towards for the past few years. None of them promise weight loss, improved appearance, or significant physical changes in any way. Instead, they encourage healthy mindsets, self-love, and a consideration of the environment.

Try Intuitive Eating

This is NOT a diet. In fact, Intuitive Eating is the exact opposite: Giving your body what it wants, when it wants it.

Yes, that might sound like a terrible idea if you’re one who loves to eat a whole bag of chips at the end of the day, but learning to listen to your body is NEVER a terrible idea.

Health at every size is a movement we should all be working towards. Imagine feeling comfortable inside your body, instead of trying to manage difficult restrictive diets and exercise regimes. The ideals of ‘thin is beautiful’ is outdated (and never should have been a thing in the first place), and I think we all are aware of that.

An acquaintance of mine works with individuals (including children), helping them enjoy their changing bodies, and find satisfaction in food choices, bringing beauty and pleasure back into their lives. Check her out at www.foodfreedombodylove.com, then learn more about the woman behind the website in my (old) article Jill from The Food Freedom/Body Love Method.

Embrace Body Positivity/Neutrality

This goes hand-in-hand with the Intuitive Eating section above. While you make peace with food and non-restrictive eating, your body image has to adapt. Accepting your body for what it is and how it looks will give you unending peace of mind.

The Body Positivity movement focuses on accepting all body types, including size, shape, skin tone, and abilities. Of course health is important, but this movement steers clear of criticizing those who don’t fit the societal framework we’re conditioned to think is “normal.”

Refinery29.com said that “it’s a pretty simple concept to grasp: Your body is a vessel that gets you through life, and what it looks like is neither a positive or a negative. A body is just that — a body.”

While researching for this article I came across a lot of pushback on the Body Positivity movement. I encourage you to do some reading and research of your own into the history of the movement and where it’s at now, including the idea that we don’t need to “love” our bodies – feeling neutral about them is a positive way forward as well.

Set goals/develop healthy habits

This one feels like a resolution. It’s not intended to be. Setting goals and developing habits can put us in a position to recognize how far we’ve come, and celebrate the small victories, as well as the large ones.

I set goals all the time for myself – it’s a way to take my scattered thoughts and ideas and organize them into some sort of framework I might actually be able to work through.

Goals can be as simple as ‘go outside twice a week.’ That’s a very do-able goal, and an excellent way to move into healthy habits. It could lead to ‘take a 30-minute walk outdoors twice a week’ or ‘meet two neighbours within a month.’

One that worked for me was ‘fill a glass of water in the morning.’ Now I drink at least 6 cups of water a day (most days.) Once you’ve got that water glass by your side, a next step could be ‘keep chopped fresh veggies in the fridge’ which makes it so much easier to grab a handful when you’re feeling munchy. Small easy changes can lead to healthier eating, or meal planning success.

green apple fruit beside black tablet computer on brown wooden table
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

And when we’re considering bigger goals like “start a business” or “write a book”, it really helps to break them down into smaller, more actionable steps (which we’ll call goals here.) For example, ‘research local XYZ industry’ and ‘define main message of story’ are much smaller goals to get moving towards those big ones. Even a smaller step like ‘brainstorm ideas’ can help you get moving forward, and the goal with that could be to fill one sheet of paper with ideas and interconnected thoughts that will help you define your larger goal.

Ask for what you want

When we feel heard, we can confidently move ahead in our lives. This ideal is specifically aimed at women because men seem to have the market cornered when asking for what they want.

Throughout our entire lives, we’re exposed to a patriarchal society where women are considered secondary to men. Learning to speak up and ask for what we want in life can feel like going against every fiber of our being.

But, speaking up, being assertive, and simply asking for what you want will set you up on the path to success. From asking for a raise, to speaking up and being heard at home, women need to embrace their voice and bring all their amazing ideas to the table – all the time!

Of course, this can open the door to negative responses, but it can also lead to positive changes in your life. Those around you are not mind readers – if you don’t speak up for what you want (or need), how will people know how best to support you?

Fortunately, I have another lovely acquaintance who supports women and non-binary individuals in their journey to find that confidence and ability to speak up when situations demand it. Megan at www.ubuskills.com works with anyone who needs a confidence boost or wishes to dig in to why they struggle to speak up in any circumstance.

Be unapologetically yourself

I think this is the most fun ideal or tip I can share with you today. When we’re kids, we do what we want. We don’t care what other people think. Our goals are to have fun and be with people we enjoy.

Why aren’t those still our goals as grownups? I know I struggle to return to the fun, carefree self I was many, many years ago. Especially after children (and this crazy pandemic, but I don’t want to get into that here), many adults leave their past interests and hobbies behind.

Don’t do that! Get back to doing whatever you loved before life got busy. Find your well-loved old music, read your favourite genre of book, and talk about the weird things that float around in your mind. Introduce your children to those old video games or teach them about your favourite hobby. And while you’re at it, consider connecting with others who share your quirky interests.

In my house we watch a lot of Star Trek and Marvel, play old card and board games (and new ones too), and occasionally take nature walks and hikes – all things my husband and I enjoyed pre-kids. I’ve returned to reading more – I was a total bookworm before marriage and kids – and I still enjoy dancing, which is something I picked up thanks to my kids. (I haven’t taken a class in over two years, but I will run through warm-ups and stretches some days.)

What is the point of living our lives without the things we love? Never apologize for being yourself, and keep being authentic.

Practice sustainable living

Modern convenience can make this difficult. But, if you’re open to making small changes over time, you can move toward creating a more sustainable household. And with that comes the feeling of “doing something” about climate change and supporting the environment.

Obvious things to try here are buying secondhand clothes and household items, also sometimes referred to as ‘thrifting’, using reusable cloth shopping bags, composting and simply trying to consume less. I’m not good at secondhand clothing shopping, mainly because I don’t like browsing through 1,000s of items to find ‘the one.’ I’m working on this though – it’s one of my goals this year.

Some fashion merchants also offer clothing made through sustainable practices. Last year I spoke with local retailers on this topic for my article How to move into Sustainable Fashion, with tips from local retailers.

Another sustainable and zero-waste option/idea I’ve been watching is refilling. Here in Kingston, there has been an upswing in stores that offer household and personal care products without the plastic packaging. Customers bring in a container and fill it with product, paying only for the quantity of product they need. These zero waste stores even send their empty containers back to the manufacturers for refilling, creating a closed-loop system. I have an article coming out for Kingstonist that delves further into the refillery movement. I’ll add the link here when it’s published.

As consumers, we have the ability to affect change with our purchasing behaviour. By making smart, informed choices, we can feel good knowing we’re making a small difference in the world.

Some of the above ideas could create a ‘new you’, but that was not the goal of this article. Instead, I hope this got you thinking about ways to embrace and understand the current you, and allows you the space, and grace, to accept yourself as you are.

A little change is great, as long as you want to make that change, and don’t have unrealistic expectations. I am always working towards improving every one of these points, and some days I’m better at it than others. The thing to always remember is to be patient with yourself, and practice mindfulness in every part of your life.

Join the conversation: Do you make resolutions, or, like me, do you simply resolve to “do better” at any point in the year? Leave a comment and share your views.

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