22 hours ago
Did we stick to our New Year's Resolutions?
April 22nd 2014 / 0 comment
Over three months down the line, find out if anyone in the team stuck to their guns and stayed saintly beyond January
Given that my ‘resolutions’ weren’t hinged on giving anything up so much as making small, manageable shifts, it’s hard to mark my progress in terms of success or failure. So if you’re waiting for a hands-in-the-air confessional about how I slipped and landed on my bum - which, frankly, is the whole point of this feature - then I’m afraid you’re out of luck.
There is good news. Lots of it. I’ve been a lot more spontaneous and, though I didn’t realise it at the end of 2013, spontaneity has been the lynchpin for all my other intentions. Being more spontaneous has made me more visible, more authentic, more present and more trusting of my intuition. And, most importantly, it’s actually been a lot of fun ad-libbing life.
Last weekend, on nothing more than whim, I decided to book a flight to Bali where I’ll be doing my yoga training for a month later this year. This was not planned for 2014 but, intuitively, it felt like it was the right time to take my practice to the next level. I’ve said yes to pretty much every social invitation and business opportunity that has come my way and, as a result, I have 10 new people in my social circle. All of them are awesome.
Prince, one of my musical heroes, was in London throughout February and did a string of impromptu gigs around town, as was covered extensively in the press. This ‘hit and run’ tour schedule required me to drop whatever I was doing and just make a spur of the moment decision as to whether or not I should go (I always went - natch). That may sound like a silly example, but it is precisely that kind of spontaneity that landed me smack-bang in the present moment. The gigs were fantastic not just because of his musical genius but because everyone in the room was incredibly present. For me, someone whose entire life was run by their iPhone calendar, this is a pretty big leap.
The first draft of my book is complete and I’m starting to host meditation workshops for beginners. Life is good. And as for my tendency to react to difficult people? Well that’s just none of your damn business.
I knew I had to be focused when 2014 rolled around. A house move, tax return and work commitments all required my full attention so even thinking about the first few months of the year felt like a case of spinning plates - and hoping nothing would wobble and crash. My technique of setting a stopwatch for 15-20 minutes and applying a tunnel vision to tasks was hugely successful in the first instance.
The disruption of a house move meant that my routine and structure were thrown into flux. While the system had elicited a huge spike in my productivity when I started using it, being able to apply it became harder and harder and my ‘to do’ list became longer and longer. Eventually, I was just flitting from one task to the next with no organisation or reason. My productivity dropped, I was clearly less efficient and my stress levels were rising.
A month after moving I still had a pile of admin; you know the stuff, household bills, change of address, closing accounts etc… I called on the system when it felt like the mountain of paperwork would never disappear and after all that procrastination I had it sorted in two 15 minute bursts.
I knew it before, but it was a reminder that actually, this works for me. I’ve stopped starting the day feeling overwhelmed and realise, once again, how breaking things down, not only into a list, but into timed sessions, creates efficiency and also relieves my stress levels no end.
To be fair, we started this challenge the week after my birthday, when my house was chockablock with, well, chocolate... and cake and treats which obviously it would be rude to waste. So I got those out of the way - I'm so efficient! - and then began my challenge.
I have to say, I did really well, for the first week or so. I limited myself to a biscuit with my afternoon cup of tea instead of five; I started to do my weekly shop post-gym, still in my gym kit, and this had the incredible effect of making me avoid all naughty aisles and leave instead with quinoa, grapes and oatcakes. Yes, this led to a few 'Who am I?' moments via Twitter but actually, I was quite proud of myself and enjoying the new me. It was so much easier to eat treats in moderation when I had a workout behind me, and I really started to enjoy what I did have, rather than blindly eating the lot.
I then fell spectacularly off the wagon with a bang and a sharer pack of Maltesers at the weekend, and though I didn't get the same kick from the sugar rush (I felt weird and wired rather than wonderful) it all went downhill from there. Aside from Mondays, which became my official gym day with no excuses, I failed with real flair for the rest of the, er, three months. An influx of stressful situations meant I went to the gym less and to the chocolate cupboard more; I drank more tea to stay awake and needed more sugary snacks to enjoy it with. I had six busy weekends of going away or visiting family where food was out of my control (or so I told myself) and my trainers didn't fit in my bag. Very quickly, I descended back into the same sugar addict ways.
But the difference, I suppose, is this: I do miss the gym. Me and my rowing machine were starting to bond, and with that came the responsibility of feeding my body with something that was more than just sweet - I genuinely wanted to eat that quinoa and stock up on oily fish instead of hitting the carbs and then the cookies.
The stress is passing, the new season is making me want to get out more instead of curling up under a blanket with a bar of Galaxy, cheesy-advert-style, and I have hope that I can try to kick the habit again. Just let me make sure every trace of sweet stuff is removed from my flat first…
It’s three months later and while you may not have seen me setting any records at The London Marathon, (I still remain an embarrassment to running), I have made some positive strides in reaching some of my fitness goals.
After spending time as a member of the ‘HIIT Squad’ earlier this year, I believe that I can say that I’ve finally found a formula for sticking to exercise. Fast, fun yet effective and challenging at the same time, high intensity interval training has really been a revelation for me, (I’ve even started to miss my workouts on my days off. What’s happened to me?!)
However, now that six weeks of HIIT have come and gone, the real challenge has been motivating myself to stay fit after my features went live. I’ll be honest, my attendance could do with some improvement, (the couch and a glass of Pimms won over the treadmill last night for instance). However, after seeing what regular exercise can do for both body and mind, I’m finally seeing trips to the gym in a new light.
Oh dear. Has ANYONE kept to their resolutions? (our sainted editor, I bet, but that is it). Although perhaps I am hard on myself. If I am not drinking 2.5 litres a day then I’m certainly nearing two. Its the first thing I do every single morning before I get out of bed before I do anything, chug a sports bottle so at least I know I’m a part of the way there. TIP: Never try to carry around a two litre bottle, it’s far too daunting a prospect. Small increments work best on the water front. Alexandra Soveral, my favourite facialist in the world? Well sadly, because other people have caught on, it’s become a case of form an orderly queue and I’m no good at queuing, so no, to my skin’s detriment I have big time defaulted on that (and it shows) . The carb thing? And eating a crisp here and there, well, I mean, yes, of course I can do it, but it’s like the little boy pulling his finger out of the dyke, once I start…..
But hope springs eternal. I think it was Aristotle who said "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."
Four months into the new year, and my plan to make 2014 The Year of Good Hair has fallen flat – as has my fine, straight hair, a stranger to the hairdryer for well over a week.
The first few months actually went quite well. I managed to fit in a blow-dry every other day by making it a bit of a game with the baby. Nothing fancy -I didn’t even get it quite dry most days - but enough to add a bit of bounce at the roots and a bit of curl at the ends. Enough to make a big difference to the way I look, even the way I feel. With a blow-dry, I felt in control: groomed, prepared. Perhaps I’d even start getting regular manicures, I thought. Perhaps I’d make time for salon waxes again.
But in early March I took on a load of new work and became once more the flat-haired, perennially late person who is lucky if she’s remembered her keys in the morning. If it’s breakfast or a blow-dry, I still choose breakfast. Still, there’s some good news. That brief period of heat-styling seems to have left me with a load of split ends, which is probably my hair’s only decent chance of added volume.
Writing this feels a lot like going to confessional; forgive me glossys for I have sinned. I feel compelled to attempt to redeem myself, so lets start proceedings with the need-to-know facts; I have a very all or nothing approach to most aspects of life. This attitude of opting for extremities as opposed to a more balanced approach can lead to remarkable results but it can also be downright disastrous. Case in point being, my goal of drinking one green smoothie a day.
The first six weeks were glorious. I had a green smoothie every day and not only was it a delicious addition to my diet that I thoroughly enjoyed, I genuinely felt as though I had energy in spades. Now a normal person would opt for one green smoothie a day. I, on the other hand, decided to up the ante from the get go and have just over a litre of the green stuff EVERY DAY. Idiotic I know. It didn't take long for me to learn that, when it comes to eating extremely detoxing fruits and veggies, going from zero to sixty in seconds is generally doomed. For me, trouble came in the form of the mother of all breakouts. I sought professional help (a nutritionist, but yes spending time with a shrink wouldn't be the worst idea ever) who told me that my body was in a state of revolt and my skin was in the firing line. I simply had no choice but to ditch the Popeye routine and start guzzling water instead.
At present, I'm drinking about two litres of water a day (I started with four - old dog new tricks and all that - naturally it didn't feel great so I reverted to two) and my skin looks as though its deeply and sincerely grateful. The moral of the story? No good can come from making new year's resolutions. Or, you should have a balanced approach to all facets of life. Yes, probably the balance thing is better.
I hate the phrase ‘sleep hygiene’, but my goal was to improve mine. A technology ban from bedrooms, chamomile tea and lavender pillow spray were all on the agenda, as were early nights. At first, dark nights, warm baths and a dodgy internet connection made going to bed at a decent time reasonably achievable. When iPlayer is down and the windows are icing up on the inside, retreating to bed is a delight. When evenings got busy and Sky sorted their act out however, bedding down took a back seat. To get back into the slumber swing I took myself along to a tailored ‘Yoga Sleep’ session. While I learned a lot about the benefits of deep breathing, chakras and meditation, a three-hour session on a Monday night ironically stressed me out more than it soothed me. When I got home I gobbled up my dinner, logged into my email and tossed and turned for a good half an hour before I settled down.
Something that’s stuck however has been the wind down routine of tea, bath, bed. The Sanctuary Spa sent along some comforting sleep products and I swear that there are sedative drugs in This Works Deep Sleep Bath Oil. The TLC side of things is becoming second nature.
My resolution was to drink less lattes and to go to bed earlier, and I actually did give up lattes. I started eating Paleo in January (and I still do to some extent), and with the Paleo diet comes no dairy. Although don’t put me down as a saint just yet - instead of cutting out coffee altogether I decided to drink cappuccinos instead (less milk and more froth you see, must be ok right?). I am still drinking cappuccinos and trying to limit them to one a day although I reckon many coffee shops put as much milk in a large cappuccino as they do a latte so I may not be cutting out much dairy at all. Plus all that caffeine is just not good. I know I know, I’m kidding myself and this is not a win, it is a fail. A major benefit I have seen though from drinking less milk though is much clearer, smoother skin. Hoorah!
When it comes to sleep - let’s just say the intention was there, and is still there. I have categorically failed at getting more sleep, and its something that I need to address. I am still faffing about on Twitter, Instagram or Face-ache as I like to call it at midnight most nights and my husband is still telling me off and shouting down the stairs for me to come to bed. Am I tired? Yes, exhausted. Do I need more zzzz’s? Hell yes. Is it good for me to have little sleep? No No No. I know what I have to do, I just need to do it. As we have proved here, though, that’s easier said than done.