How reviewing my past successes allows me to get the year off to a flying start - for my health and in my writing
The week started with "Blue Monday", supposedly the saddest day of the year. In the northern hemisphere, the twinkling Christmas lights have been put away, and we tramp to & from work in the freezing dark, longing for snuggly blankets, boxsets and carbs. Typically, this is the point when the majority of New Year resolutions to be a "New You", an "Improved You" are ditched on this day.
The thing is, now is the perfect time to embrace the "Old You". This method has worked well for me over the years - from feeling fitter and brighter as we head to spring to putting in productive writing hours, these next few months are for laying in the groundwork for summer growth.
Reflection is a powerful tool to boost yourself out of the January slump. The aim of this is to sift the gold from the dirt to identify what works for you. "Old You" is a wonderful human with a great deal of success under their belt. No need to ditch the "Old You". There's a reason folk tend to go through their highlights of the previous year just before New Year - but all too often, this turns into another job, a tick box exercise. Instead, use it as a door to understanding yourself.
Now all the New Year reflection and resolution is a few weeks behind us, sit with yourself - or in my case take my dog for a long walk! - and think about what really works for you and how it makes you feel. It is all to easy to slump into a swamp of self-reproach, so make sure you return to the positive. I set out my notebook for when I get back from the walk and write down the things that made a personal difference.
I did a lot of fun stuff last year, but what truly made me feel good daily? I've realised that if I set my alarm just 10mins earlier and take time to stretch properly when I wake up, a moment to myself, I feel less cranky. In turn, this means that getting the children to school goes more smoothly, so that when I get back from dropping them off, I don't start my work and writing day dealing with the emotional fall out. This does not make for a good Instagram post, it certainly does boost my writing practice. Likewise, a sensible breakfast most days. The simple things to set me up right (to write!).
"Old" me has figured out a few things over the years.
What do you want to achieve this year? It is certainly useful to tune in to the fact most people looking ahead to their year in order to focus on your own goals. Three priorities are all you really need. Focus on the big stuff, and the small ones will fall into place. My top 3 priorities for 2023 are:
- Quality family time
- Personal health
- Writing: Novel 2 + a poetry pamphlet
"When you have too many priorities, you have no priorities."
# How this looks for me
- Quality family time: and yes, holidays are wonderful but time-off days full of adventures will happen. On a weekly basis, quality family time in practice for me means being mindful of seizing the moments - putting down my phone to snuggle and read a book, cranking up the volume for a one song kitchen disco, pausing on the way to school to watch the sunrise. For this I need to be in a good frame of mind - and "Old Me" has learnt through trial and error that I need to feel good about myself, which leads to...
- Personal health: I'm in my mid-40s. I'm not going to suddenly develop the exercise or eating habits of a world class athlete. That's ok. I leave the house every day to take the kids to & from school and walk my dog at lunch time. It's fresh air (very fresh and sometimes wet in Scotland!), it's light and it's movement. I like to add to the mix a proper walk, being outside for over an hour long, once a week at least. It does me the world of good. In the spring, I want to bump up to some more energetic fitness building work-outs. No crash diets either: hearty bowfuls for me, and maybe a biscuit or two with a cuppa. It's about reining back in from the Feasting of the Twelve Days of Christmas. The salad days can wait for spring!
- Writing: In terms of writing, a 7 minute free write after my lunch time dog walk is achievable, enjoyable and keeps me ticking over. At the moment, I need to find ways of generating income, so I can't focus on a big project every day. I've been back to it for a week and a half now and I find the inspiration is coming back, I'm writing faster again - and moments to do so seem to present themselves more readily. Like right now, I felt ready to write this blog. I know that if I keep up the daily practice, I am more likely to find opportunities for longer writing sprints and be ready for them.
# Look ahead
Over the years I have learnt that as the spring starts in March - which used to be when we marked the New Year until only a couple of hundred years ago! - I will feel far more ready for a personal fitness challenge or to start a new writing project.
In the past, I have tried to start in January, only to find myself wasting half the spring on feeling bad for not succeeding. I have learnt that I don't need a "New Me" to succeed. I just need to work with myself - and for me, centring on the habits that worked before is key.
# Let's go - gently
Rather than launch myself into an intense exercise plan, lycra rolling off my muffin top or staring at a blank document for hours, I am getting back to my gentle routine. It is far more effective at this time of year in getting me going than any crash diet, intense HIIT programme, or brand new writing project.
# Your turn
Instead of a call to action, I want to end with a call to inaction. Sit, breathe. Take a moment. Congratulate "Old You" on the great stuff you achieved last year. Now, what knowledge can "Old You" gift you to take forward.
Please do share your thoughts, priorities, what works for you in comments.
Thanks for reading!