Stepping into spring to boost your healthy habits
The clocks have changed and with the Spring Equinox just passing, spring has well and truly started to bloom. We’ve all been waiting for this with the long-drawn-out dark days of January and February, especially with the third lockdown here in the UK.
Life has been tough and at times over the past year we have had to really look for the wins and the ways to celebrate. Did you set any new year’s resolutions this year? If you did set some but have found that you’re now in springtime and haven’t stuck to them, I’m here to say don’t beat yourself up! Research shows 80% of our new year resolutions fail, with most people losing their resolve by mid-February.
As we approach the start of spring, rather than this being the point where you take derailment as a given and write everything off as a failure for the rest of 2021, why not kindly reflect upon why you did not continue with your fitness goals or the search for a new job that went off the boil?
Some people have an all-or-nothing response to failure. I failed and that’s that. Then comes the negative self-talk loop about feeling stupid, never sticking to goals etc. We don’t pick ourselves up to try again, or we mask it with laughter and shrug it off, because, of course, we knew we would never achieve that particular goal – yet more negative self-talk!
Why does the announcement of spring make us feel much better?
Physically our senses become stimulated through what we hear, see, smell and taste. Our circadian rhythm changes with the adjustment of daylight savings – there is a scientific reason why you still struggle throughout January and February, with low energy and fatigue with the shorter days.
Being able to be outside in daylight increases vitamin D absorption and lifts our mood. We begin to feel more alive and you witness this in the world around you. You feel a different energy in the air. Stop, look up from your phone and you will notice these changes.
When we feel in a better place physically and mentally this is a great opportunity to take time out to recharge, refresh and refocus; to bring clarity to where you may want to make small changes or ‘spring clean’ to get you back to your authentic self.
Big warning announcement! This must be through a lens of self-compassion and non-judgemental thinking. Undertaking any sort of mental check-in always requires kindness because – to use my spring-cleaning metaphor – it is about brushing off the dust, pulling back the furniture and asking yourself what you need and, perhaps, discarding what is no longer serving you. This process can leave us feeling uncomfortable and often quite vulnerable.
If you have undertaken any of the My Mental Wealth™ Chapters on the Marketplace, you will know that I am a massive advocate for self-reflection. Self-reflection is difficult for many of us and it honestly takes time to build up a practice of being able to check-in to see how you are feeling and to ask what you feel you need right now — that’s the self-care part.
How to start practicing self-reflection
To get you started I’ve listed out a handful of activities you can try as tools to begin a practice of self-reflection and getting to know your authentic self.
- Journaling: Expressive writing can be a cathartic experience and a way to translate your feelings and thoughts to paper with no judgement. We are told that connecting with others helps to make sense of our thoughts and feelings, but sometimes writing things down helps to clear our mind, gain perspective and cease the rumination of negative thoughts. I prefer to write in a favourite lined notebook, but you can use journals which provide questions or prompts.
- Your mission statement: An activity to create space to think about your own values and purpose. If you have ever seen the movie Jerry McGuire you will know what I am talking about – shout “Show me the money!” It may take time to think on and write down. It does not have to be a whole manifesto; a paragraph will be enough to get you thinking.
This is an activity I have used with my coaching clients when they have felt ‘stuck’ and it gives them an opportunity to consider what they may want out of life and compare with where they are right now. Maybe the new job you were mulling over back in January is ideal if your current company does not align with your personal values and purpose.
- People you admire: This does not have to be people you know or those you are friends with, it can be people in the public eye. Take 10-15 minutes to think of three or four people you admire most.
When you have completed that, what is it about these people you most admire? This exercise often gives an insight into the qualities that you most would like to see in yourself and brings us back to knowing ourselves more deeply.
The more you build your practice of self-reflection, the more you can then provide a clear focus to small adjustments for your own personal spring clean.
As a marathon runner and someone who has worked within sports teams and brands, I prefer the idea of marginal gains when it comes to thinking about how we make successful impacts on our life. It is small wins or incremental change that leads to lasting change in our behaviours; that is often why new year’s resolutions are not sustainable, as they often are too broad and set us up for immediate failure.
How to make those small adjustments
RechargeTaking time for you is the number one self-care rule. This will change every time. Sometimes we feel the need for connection with others – which is why the lockdowns have been so tough! Sometimes we want to nest and stay at home to rest. The start of spring makes it feel easier to hold to those commitments to see friends and family, especially with the easing of restrictions but can uncomfortably push against the habits we have created from the winter months of hibernating in lockdown. Ask yourself regularly, what do I feel I need right now? Then do it. Like moving yourself to exercise; it is often the act of starting and, once we get going, we are fine. So make yourself accountable in a way that feels enough of a push, without the pressure or feelings of guilt.
RefreshIdentify the positive relationships in your life, both IRL and online. Think about how the relationships you have with others impact on your feelings, emotions and behaviours? It may feel cathartic to have a spring clean of your social media feeds, to unfollow those people who make you question or compare your own life. IRL how do toxic relationships show up in your life? Prior to the pandemic it might have been harder to stop seeing a friend, or to stop chasing after the friend who always makes excuses or cancels at the last minute. The past year may have provided you with the opportunity to reflect and evaluate your friendships. You may have taken the time to have a courageous conversation with a friend to find out what is happening within your relationship, to understand what’s changed and establish how you can move on. Remember some friendships are like seasons and they are not meant to last and be in our lives forever.
RefocusOnce you start your journey of self-reflection and understand your boundaries of giving yourself time for self-care, you can then begin those small adjustments to refocus. For example, if you find your mission statement does not align with your current job, what small things can you begin to work on? It may not be feasible to quit and retrain in a new career tomorrow, but perhaps there are opportunities to volunteer at the weekend to become more involved or to undertake a workshop in the evenings to learn. Maybe you set yourself the goal of walking a few miles a week, rather than signing back-up for a new 12-month gym membership when they reopen. Refocus is about shifting and adjusting the clarity of where you are. You can sign up for the My Mental Wealth ™ Chapters on the Marketplace here. These are short bite-sized learning interventions, I have created practical and engaging tools supporting you to make those small, yet impactful changes to invest in your mental wealth.