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New year, new you: 10 things to kick-start 2016

Overdone the festivities and feeling slightly rough? Year after year, we make the same resolutions to get fit, eat healthily, give up smoking and dedicate more time to our families and friends, but often fail to live up to our own expectations.

This year, we say be kinder to yourself. Instead of setting unachievable goals and then berating yourself when they all fade into oblivion, just pick one or two and make small but sustainable steps towards a target. Here’s our best 10 tips for kick-starting your new year into action…

Staying on track

new year stay on rack

Sticking to resolutions is easier and more rewarding if you can track your progress towards a goal. If getting in shape is at the top of your list, try using one of the many fitness smartphone apps like MyFitnessPal, Pacer or Run 5k, which measure steps walked, distance covered, time active, and even calories consumed. You’ll be on your way to optimum health in no time.

Cut down the drinking

new year-cut down the drinking

When it comes to drinking, we’re often fed mixed messages. So while it’s true that a glass of red wine may offer certain health benefits, overloading on alcohol definitely doesn’t. In fact, it can increase your risk of heart and liver disease, stroke, hypertension and depression. But it’s easy enough to make small changes, especially on a night out: shorter measures, opting out of rounds and alternating with soft drinks will make a big difference.

Clean out clutter

new year clean up

Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up took the world by storm a couple of years ago, and continues to be a runaway success. There’s no denying the mindful removal of physical clutter from your environment can do wonders for your peace of mind, so dedicate some time to exploring what you really want or need in your workspace, handbag or home.

Ditch the cigarettes

new year-drop-the-cigarettes

Yes, we know. If you’re addicted, it’s far easier said than done. But you don’t need us to tell you this is the #1 thing you can do for your health. Begin right away. Even small steps like only smoking half your cigarette before discarding it are a start. And get some help from a smoking cessation group – they know what you’re going through and are extremely supportive. So just do it.

Say no to stress

new year say no to stress

Resolve to cut your stress levels in 2016. It’s true a little pressure won’t harm you too much, and some people thrive on it to get things done. But too much stress can result in little sleep, an unhealthy diet and no exercise – and no-one thrives on that for long. A tip for keeping your free time under control is to plan it into your life the same way you organise meetings and appointments. That means making a conscious decision to schedule slots for relaxation, sleep, socialising and holidays – and sticking to it.

Eat real food

new year eat-real-food

This isn’t about dieting. This is about eating consciously and making the time to plan meals with real, fresh ingredients. Home-cooked meals, eaten without distraction, allow you to focus on the tastes, textures and provenance of your food, and are the best way to avoid hunger pangs, snacking and energy lows during the day.

Train your brain

new year trainyourbrain

It doesn’t matter how old you are, learning a new skill can do wonders for your sense of self. In fact, going back to school or taking an online course has even been linked to a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease by some studies. The act of learning can improve your memory and verbal skills, and may even kick-start your career, help you make new friends, and give you more confidence too.

Sweet dreams

new year sweet-dreams

For many people, December is a non-stop whirl of office parties, social gatherings and family events, and by the time January rolls around they’re starting to resemble a parade of puffy-eyed zombies. A hectic social calendar can play havoc with nighttime routines, so January is the perfect time to get back on track. Appearance and mood can both be improved by a good night’s sleep – just make sure it’s a regular occurrence and not a one-off.

Give the gift of time

new year gift time

Many studies have shown that our own happiness levels increase when we give up our time to help others. If you have a spare few hours, why not visit a lonely older person in their home, become a dog walker for your local rescue centre, or help out in a nearby homeless shelter? Whatever you choose, the tremendous personal benefit works both ways.

Travel more

new year travel more

Well, we would say this, wouldn’t we? But there’s no doubt about it, holidays in the sun provide a world of rewards, from the mood-lifting burst of serotonin to the joy of abandoning the same old routines and creating new memories to last a lifetime. It’s a great way to boost the body and soul, without having to make any drastic changes.

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