If you’re like the rest of the world population, we imagine that 2020 was a year that you would prefer to forget… The pandemic shook up all of our lives in varying degrees, preventing us from seeing loved ones and doing the things that we enjoy most. Remote working and zoom parties have become part of our regular vernacular, and as the pandemic still hasn’t crossed the final hurdle, it can feel hard to motivate yourself to keep going as normal.
Starting a new year means new horizons and a fresh start to use to your advantage. 2020 may have been a write off, but that doesn’t mean we need to think pessimistically about the new year too. We are more powerful than we realise, making it through one of the toughest years yet has shown us what we are capable of. We’ve compiled our top ten steps to making 2021 your best year yet, becoming fitter, healthier, and happier no matter what life throws your way.
1. Get outside to enjoy the fresh air
If restrictions permit wherever you are in the world, make getting at least 30 minutes of outdoor walking or exercise in per day an essential part of your routine. Although by no means a miracle cure for all problems, studies have shown that getting fresh air contributes to healthy brain function by increasing oxygen levels as well as improving concentration by providing a change of natural scenery. Being out in sunlight enables the body to soak up vitamin D, which is an essential nutrient for healthy brain function, reducing inflammation.
What does that all mean for your happiness though? It means you’ll be feeling better both mentally and physically, reducing stress levels that can be caused by working from home or being stuck in all day. Even if you’re living in a major city like Barcelona, there are always ample green spaces to visit and it is important to go into nature instead of staying on busy streets, as there is less air pollution in the greener spaces. This step is the building block to all the other positive steps you can take to make your 2021 a happy and healthy year, so don’t skip it!
2. Take up a new hobby
By week 2000 (exaggeration but it truly does feel that long) of working or studying from home, you start regretting every plan you turned down pre-covid. Chess with your grandparents? Yes please! Spotting your boyfriend while he lifts a far too heavy weight in the gym? Sign me up! But not to fear, it’s not too late to start a hobby that perhaps previously you may not have considered, but now with more time inside you have the opportunity to give it a go.
Painting; learning to apply makeup; learning to code; taking care of your plants; practising blogging; learning a new language, the list is endless! Looking at this period of needing to stay inside in a positive light, that you now have more time than ever to try activities that you have previously put off, is key to changing your mindset.
3. Set a routine
One of the easiest and most detrimental traps to fall into when you don’t have work to leave the house for, or plans with friends to meet up, is letting yourself fall out of a routine. Experts say that by keeping a healthy routine, you help to bring a sense of normalcy and prevent the days from blending together, which can negatively affect your mental wellbeing. This isn’t to say you need to stick to a military style sleep schedule and do the same monotonous routine of tasks in the same order, but that you should create a checklist of things you want to achieve that day, and to always factor in downtime to your list.
Setting a routine and rituals are important in strange and unsettling times like a global pandemic, as they enable us to feel more in control and centred. It’s important to include things such as working outside of your bedroom, to help your brain to distinguish between work and off time, and to get dressed as though you are physically heading into work to cue to your brain that it is time to focus.
4. Start planning your post-covid fun
There is no better motivation to keep going than by organising and planning all the fun things you want to do once the pandemic is under control. Start thinking about where in the world you’d love to jet off to, and all the places you’ve been dreaming of visiting now that the furthest you can travel is the Costa del Lounge.
This year could even be the year of the road trip, if international travel still isn’t the best move once summer comes round. Spend time getting to know your own surroundings and planning a ‘staycation’ has become the trend of this year, and you may even discover your favourite new destination is actually one that is right upon your doorstep.
As you have most likely been sat slumped in your chair working, with what we imagine is a posture similar to that of Quasimodo, it’s important that you start to stretch your body out to prevent any injuries or strains. Stretching keeps the muscles flexible and strong, and without it they can become tight and weak for activity.
If you currently don’t do any stretching at all, the idea of daily stretching your whole body can seem a bit overwhelming. However, you don’t need to start off as though you’re preparing to become the next greatest circus contortionist, just starting off with one area of the body, such as the legs, will be the perfect start to greater flexibility. Treat it as an essential part of your daily routine, and you will feel an enormous different over time if you remain committed to the process.
6. Aim to eat a balanced diet
Food has gotten most of us through the pandemic, whether through enjoying learning to cook new things (who can forget the banana bread craze?), or by simply just eating your favourite foods and ordering takeaway. The goal isn’t to cut out what you love, but simply to make sure there’s more good stuff that will make you feel better both physically and mentally in there.
Aim to try cooking a new recipe per week or try out initiatives such as ‘meat free Mondays’ and see how you go! Incorporating more home cooked meals, full of delicious fruits and vegetables, will give you the energy and mental clarity you need to get through the day. Building your immune system up to be strong and healthy will enable you to better fight illnesses and disease, something so crucial currently during the Coronavirus pandemic.
7. Invest in your appearance
Put simply, looking good = feeling good. Invest in a good daily skincare routine and spend time working out what’s right for you to make your skin look glowy and gorgeous. Treat yourself to some new wardrobe staples to update your look, because we can safely assume you’ve been rotating the same 3 pairs of sweatpants since the pandemic began… There are lots of January sales on at the moment too, for if Santa didn’t drop off those new shoes you’ve had your eye on for a while!
Even if there’s still times where you need to isolate inside in 2021, dressing up as though you’re out on the town will mentally take you there. Plus, there’s no harm in getting those outfits sorted for when we can be out in bars and clubs normally again, it’ll get you excited and ready for the moment you can.
8. Have a social media cleanse
Take a break from social media and unfollow anything or anyone that doesn’t make you feel great. Comparison of other people and their lives against your own rarely results in a positive outcome, particularly if some lucky people managed to be quarantining in a hot country far away!
Try staying off your phone once you wake up in the morning, take the time to have breakfast and your morning coffee without checking your phone. Another good thing to do if you have an iPhone, is to utilise the ‘screen time’ monitor to check if you’re spending hours upon hours scrolling mindlessly through Instagram…
9. Establish a work-life balance
This has been harder to do than ever with remote working, as your home has quite literally also become your workplace too. As we have hinted in previous tips, a great idea is to make your relaxing space, and your office space, into separate areas of your home. This way, mentally you will be able to switch off when you have finished working. Similarly, sticking to your normal start and finishing times of working will mean that you aren’t tempted to work for too long hours, and miss out on valuable down-time.
Another positive step to take in establishing a work-life balance is to plan and prioritise your time wisely. Write absolutely everything down that you want to achieve and list the tasks into categories of urgency and the deadlines you would like to finish them by. This means that you won’t be overwhelmed mentally by trying to remember everything you want to get done.
10. Set goals for the year
Make these goals things that would make you feel like a better version of yourself. Reflect on 2020 without dwelling too hard on the things you feel you have missed out on and set goals that will make you feel accomplished and happy in the new year to come. This can be anything personal to you, from big goals like getting a new job, or making the best sourdough bread that your family has ever tried.
What is important when setting these goals is how you break down the goal into manageable steps. If you want a promotion, steps like committing to spending an hour per week networking on Linkedin, getting your CV updated, and applying to 2 new jobs per week, are good steps to head in the right direction for your goal becoming a reality.