GRACE’S MUSINGS: Here's to a year of small miracles
Happy new year! We’re now four days into 2023 and, if you’re anything like me, some of the booze-fuelled resolutions you made on Saturday night will already have fallen by the wayside. Did you really need to renew that gym membership you haven’t used since March? Didn’t think so.
For me, new year is less about setting (frankly unattainable) goals and more about reflecting on what I can achieve with small, manageable changes. Our priorities might shift in midlife, but that doesn’t mean we should be any less adventurous than before – we just need to be more mindful about our choices. My top 10 tips for 2023? Here they are.
1. Be kind – to yourself and to others
Cut yourself some slack. We all make mistakes. The important thing is that we learn from them and move on. Don’t beat yourself up – negative self-talk doesn’t help anyone. And you never know when someone else is having a rubbish day. Be kind. Always. It has a positive impact on your health.
2. Communicate better
Call someone: texting is convenient for a quick check-in, but what about talking to someone you love, or who makes you laugh? Make time for meaningful conversations this year. And don’t forget stories: if you’re lucky enough still to have parents, ask them to tell you about their lives. Record what they say – legacy is so important.
3. Get outside
Resolve to walk outside – in the light – for at least 15 minutes a day. Exercising in nature will not only get the blood flowing but also has huge benefits for your mental health. It might even mean you can stop worrying about that gym membership. Small choices can make for a big impact.
4. Wear sunscreen – every day
It’s never too late to protect your skin and prevent further sun damage. I wish someone had told me this years ago when I was roasting myself on the beach like a rotisserie chicken. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your neck and the back of your hands, too.
5. Act with intention
Set your intention for the day when you wake each morning. What do you want to achieve today? This might be the time to make a gratitude list, too – just thinking of three things you’re grateful for each day can make a huge difference to your outlook.
6. Learn something new
I know you’re busy. But I don’t believe you don’t have a spare five minutes in the day to tantalise your brain and learn something new. Read that piece in the paper that piqued your interest. Learn a new word. Try a new recipe. Knowledge is (brain) power. And we all need more of that in midlife.
7. Stop wasting time
Limit your exposure to time-killing apps. Do you know how much time you spend on social media or simply doom-scrolling? And you know how good that makes you feel. Read something uplifting instead. Seriously.
8. Keep hydrated
The older we get, the more important it is that we drink enough water. Research from Harvard Health Publishing suggests that staying hydrated is essential for many of our bodily functions: water is used to carry nutrients and oxygen to cells, aids digestion, flushes bacteria from the bladder, cushions joints and helps to regulate body temperature.
9. Go somewhere else
Seeing new places is invigorating. Where would you really like to go? It could be the adventure of a lifetime, or somewhere you’ve always meant to visit in your own city. Make a list – then plot in time on the calendar.
10. Count your blessings
We are so fortunate, in so many ways – it’s worth remembering, particularly on the days we feel less than perfect, or resentful about ageing. After all, what’s the alternative?
Those are my top 10 tips. But I’m not suggesting you do all of them. I’m not even suggesting you do half. That would require you to be even more of a superhero than you already are. What about, instead, resolving to make just one important change this year? That’s about as much as I can manage.
Midlife coach Suzy Rosenstein suggests that the best resolution you can make is to do just one thing today that your future self will thank you for. I love this idea. It’s about being more mindful at a moment when you might be struggling with the idea of ageing, feeling stuck, or worry that you’re running out of time.
So what’s the one thing you really want to focus on? And what are the reasons you haven’t done so before now? Rosenstein suggests you think about why you’ve been so resistant. Then ask yourself: what would my future self think 10 years from now, with the result in place? For instance, perhaps you’ve learnt to be kinder to yourself and others. I think my future self would be grateful I’d learnt to put her first. She’d see the effects on her mental health from that increased compassion. And she’d see how it had allowed her to grow.
It’s illuminating to try and think in this way. All it takes is one small step towards living intentionally. But it’s a giant step towards a happier future. Most of us live unconsciously from one day to the next – it’s like we’re on autopilot. But what if you allowed yourself to think about your future and decided to be OK with what you wanted? How exciting would that be?
So rather than beating yourself up this year when you fall off the resolutions wagon, resolve, at that point, to make one tiny change instead. Imagine where it could get you. I guarantee we’ll all have a happier new year that way.