Wellness Wednesday: New Year, New Beginnings

University of Kent Occupational Health and Wellbeing Manager, Brenda Brunsdon

Did you make any New Year Resolutions? If you did, what influenced you on deciding what to do? I’d wager that it was related to making you healthier or improving your wellbeing in some way. I never make New Year Resolutions – I find it far too pressurised. Also, keeping to January as the time to do this seems to be a barrier to making changes at any time in the year.

Let’s get back to you. If you did make any resolutions, are you still managing to keep up with the new routines? There is actually a day recognised as the point where the majority of people will have given up on their New Year Resolutions: 17 January. This year it’s the day before Blue Monday. Blue Monday is so named because it is thought to be the saddest day of the year, ‘due to a combination of bad weather, long nights and the lingering aftermath of the festive glut’. In addition, it falls at the point a long way from pay day because we all get paid early in December because of Christmas.

In case you’re still wondering about whether you should consider a lifestyle change to enhance your life, I’d like to make a few less recognised suggestions.

Enhance Your Mental Strength: this will not involve you pumping iron but may require the intellectual or emotional equivalent. For help with this, I’d like to recommend an article by Nick Wignall, who is an American clinical psychologist. Put simply, Nick writes that mental strength is the ability to control your mind instead of being controlled by it. He suggests three ways to do this: be honest about how you feel emotionally; resist unnecessary mental time travel; and distinguish wants vs values. If you want to learn more, you can access his article via the link below.

Improve Your Rationality: this is the suggestion of Professor Steven Pinker of Harvard University.  He writes that in order to do this, the best approach is to avoid three basic ‘irrationality traps’. These are: ‘Future You’, when people weigh up the difference between immediate and long term gains when making a decision; the second trap is looking for patterns among random occurrences and attributing too much significance to those observations; the third is the need to be right or get something right and the pressure that brings. To learn more, follow the link to the BBC article below.

Consider the Simple, the Obvious and the Outrageous!: for this please just read the article below by The Guardian’s Saturday Magazine Team. It’s entitled ‘100 ways to slightly improve your life without really trying’. I can guarantee you will find at least one suggestion in it that appeals to you. The advice goes from the easy and banal, for example, ‘Bring fruit to work. (Bring fruit to bed!)’ and ‘Sharpen your knives’ to the life-changing, ‘Consider going down to four days a week. It’s likely a disproportionate amount of your fifth day’s work is taxed anyway, so you’ll lose way less than a fifth of your take-home pay,’ through the wise, ‘On the fence about a purchase? Wait 72 hours before you buy it,’ to the whacky, ‘Always bring ice to house parties (there’s never enough)’. And all those examples are only in the first 12 suggestions so you can imagine how interesting and entertaining they are! My favourites are ‘Keep a bird feeder by a window, ideally the kitchen. It’ll pass the time when you’re washing up,’ and ‘Read a poem every day. Keep a compendium, such as “A Poem for Every Day of the Year”, by your bed.’


‘3 Habits That Will Make You Mentally Strong’ on Nick Wignall’s blog on his website, nickwignall.com

‘Three ways to be more rational this year’ by Professor Steven Pinker, article on bbc.co.uk

‘100 ways to slightly improve your life without really trying’ by The Guardian’s Saturday Magazine Team on theguardian.com

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