How To Be A Better You In 2019
Over the Christmas period, I decided that I wanted to be a better man in 2019. Last year was a challenging year for me but with the changing of the calendar come new beginnings, new possibilities and new opportunities. With a little push from a very dear friend, I've set some achievable goals (not resolutions) for 2019.
It's easy to think that becoming a better person is all about making things bigger. Bigger arms, bigger house, bigger car, bigger bank balance.... and yes, I would certainly welcome all of those things but I think it's important to realize that bigger doesn't always mean better. Better means better and when it comes to creating a better you in 2019, it's the little things that count. Here are some small but powerful tips that will hopefully help you to become a better and (most importantly) happier you in 2019.
I must admit that for years I rejected the idea of mindfulness as too "tree-huggery" and dismissed it as something that couldn't connect with. But then I found a way to make mindfulness work for me. For those who might not be familiar with it, mindfulness is a form of meditation in which you focus on external phenomena – usually your breathing. For me, whenever I'm feeling anxious or experiencing "thought overload" I touch something near me. It can be literally anything (although try to avoid touching strangers without their permission) but in this example, I'll use a chair. I will feel the grooves in the wood with my fingers. I will feel how soft the cushion is. I will try to see the shape of the chair without looking. This might sound silly and for years I thought it was too but in these moments where I am focusing on the world around me – the chair I'm sitting on – I am no longer focusing on the things that were heightening my anxiety and my mind is no longer racing. If you want to give it a go, try downloading the Headspace app and listening to it for 10 minutes in the morning. You can be mindful in lots of other areas of your life too. Eating mindfully (not in front of the TV or laptop) can help you consume less and digest your food better. Lifting mindfully, by concentrating on the muscle contraction, will increase your gains and walking mindfully will show you the beauty of nature and stop your thoughts from racing.
Books that is, not social media posts. At the start of his career, Warren Buffet (the third richest man in the world) read between 600 and 1000 pages per day. He's since cut back to a more manageable 500, which still amounts to around 80% of his working day. Like many of Warren Buffets investments (he's worth $88 billion), reading pays dividends in the form of knowledge, stimulation, stress reduction, improved memory and higher concentration levels. So trade Netflix and Instagram for educational and self-help books or autobiographies of successful and inspirational people (e.g. Warren). If you're a very busy person or you're on the road a lot then give audiobooks a try.
Again, much like mindfulness, I had to be won over by the idea of doing yoga. I got into yoga when I was recovering from a very severe sporting injury (broken tibia and fibula). I wouldn't entertain the idea of going to a class so I purchased a set of DVD and got my stretch on at home in the living room without the eyes of the world on me. There are many benefits to yoga. If you play a sport it will increase your balance and flexibility and reduce your likelihood of picking up muscle injuries. It also increases your range of movement and improves your core strength. Physical and flexible benefits aside, yoga's mindful focus on breathing can reduce stress and can even stop you from getting sick by increasing your production of lymphocytes – white blood cells that fight illness and disease. These days I'd have no problem walking into a yoga class but if you feel the way I used to feel about the idea then download the DDPY app on your phone and get your downward dog on in the privacy of your own home.
Get Out More
By that, I mean to nature and not pubs and clubs. Sunlight is vital for vitamin D, which is important for testosterone production, cancer prevention and cardiovascular health. Studies have shown that office workers who sit next to a window sleep better, exercise more and have a better quality of life than their bullpen inhabiting colleagues. If you can't go out then bring the outside world to you by surrounding yourself with plants – it's been shown to increase productivity and reduce stress. Go for walks on your lunch break and remember to be mindful and take in your surroundings.
Skipping sleep is not a sign of a busy person and is definitely not some kind of badge of honour. Sleep is where your mind and body repair themselves. Sleep deficiency will hamper your memory, your immune system and even your gym gains. The key to good sleep is consistency – go to bed and get up at a consistent time. Even at the weekends. If getting a good nights sleep is problematic for you then give some of the other tips on this list a go first. You should find that they add up to a better nights sleep.
Put The Phone Away
I know it might sound crazy but try going off the grid. Turn off as many notifications as possible. Bring in a no phones rule after a certain time in the evening so you can get some real life face-time with your friends and family. Charge your phone in another room overnight instead of having it beside your bed, so that the blue light screen and temptation to scroll doesn't interfere with your sleep. You might have to buy an alarm clock (mad, I know) but you'll be glad you did.
Look After Your Mental Health
Probably the most important one on the list. Occasionally feeling blue is normal and part of life, but if negative or anxious thoughts persist and interfere with your day-to-day life, it might be time to talk to your GP or counsellor. It might be nothing and if it is then at worst you'll lose a half an hour listening to people cough and splutter in the doctor's waiting room. But, at best it could be the start of improving your thinking patterns and getting in a good head space for the journey ahead. Recognising the signs and being open about your experience will also help you become a better friend to people around you that might be going through the same.