There’s lots of debate around whether new year’s resolutions are a waste of time or the best way to revolutionise the coming year. But I have to admit, they’re not for me. The inevitable failure, the guilt, the compulsion to just say ‘screw it!’ and go completely the other way – maybe it’s that I’ve never found the right balance, or maybe my internal struggle with authority (even when it’s myself) means that I’m always doomed to fail at something as rigid as the infamous NY resolution.
But new years is still a good time to make some changes – for me it’s about identifying small things that you can develop to become better habits for the long term, instead of short term or vague targets like ‘lose weight’ or ‘make more money’.
I’ve put together some specific ideas that will be good for your mental and physical health that don’t feel like an impossible resolution that you’re daydreaming about quitting by the second week of January.
Making a resolution to change up your entire diet is probably doomed to fail. So avoid the all-in approach, and try one or two days a week instead. Why not try veg-only days? I started doing them this year and really enjoyed it – they’re easier than you think and have some added benefits.
You can still make a hearty curry, or delicious chilli – no need to compromise your usual meals, or takeaway favourites. But cooking meat-free gives you the extra challenge of expanding your cooking know-how and having fun experimenting, not to mention that you can usually eat larger portions, because the more veg the better! Or maybe I’m just greedy. And by reducing your meat intake, you’re also doing your bit for the environment.
If you’re already vegetarian, try a vegan day instead.
This can be anything you like, but I’d suggest staying away from anything super exercise-related to avoid that new year, new me gym bunny resolution trap.
Crochet or knitting has rapidly increased in popularity because of its widely reported positive effect on mental health; painting, sketching or crafts could provide a much-needed creative outlet in a technology-driven world; pursuing photography or geocaching could offer you a new way to see the world around you… the options are endless, depending on what element of your life you’re looking to expand or find balance within.
Making more money is a really common new year’s resolution, but the reality is that securing a pay rise, a new higher-paid job – (or winning the lottery!) – is mostly out of your control. And focusing on money as being your driving force, in employment or as a personal goal, can be bad for your mental health and lead you to make poor, single-track choices.
A better approach is looking at how you can be savvier with money and make savings with what you already have – then any extra that comes your way is a bonus. Obviously I’m aware that, as a student, having savings is near enough an impossibility, so a spare change jar is a great place to start. Sometimes you might have to choose between food or books, and so it’ll be 4 pence you found under the sofa that goes into the money jar.
But if you’re honest, I’m sure there’ll have been times when you probably could’ve turned down that Tuesday night out and saved a few pounds. So you might be able to stick a cheeky tenner in the money jar. At the end of semester, or if you’re really strict, end of the year, you could’ve saved yourself a really nice little chunk. Then it’s up to you how you spend it!!
You’ve probably heard about journaling a lot this year as it’s been heavily linked to self-care, mindfulness and good mental health practices. But don’t be put off – it’s not just writing a diary like a teenage girl. Don’t get me wrong, it can be if that’s what you need! It can be a great way to just get out all of your problems and emotions. But if you’re not comfortable with pouring all your inner secrets onto the page, or if you’re not confident with writing, it can be used for pretty much anything you like. Reflection, on yourself or your day; future plans; to ask and answer questions; dreams; doodles; brainstorming; recipes…. Whatever is you and flows freely.
Volunteering is one of the best ways you can do something good for the community and for yourself in one fell swoop. It’s great to start the year by doing something for others and not just with a selfish, internalised focus.
Ask your student union if they have any opportunities, whether it’s a marshal at an event, or handing out late night hot chocolates outside the onsite club. Or contact your local volunteering service – they will recognise your challenges with time and scheduling and offer suitable opportunities. My best friend volunteered, taking local vulnerable children for days out, throughout most of our time at Uni. (You may have your costs covered but may need to take certain police and safety checks).
What do you plan to start in the new year?