So what have you decided on: Veganuary? Dry January? Run Every Day of January? Lordie, I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling exhausted and overwhelmed just thinking about all of this. Can someone pass me the (half-eaten) toblerone please?

There is no doubt that the start of a new year is a good opportunity to take stock of your lifestyle and make positive changes, but it might be better to start with realistic goals. Running every day of January when you’ve never run before (or have children under 5) is maybe a bit far-fetched.  Giving up meat and dairy, when you’ve eaten only turkey sandwiches with after eight chasers for the past few days might just have you camped outside your local McDonalds quicker than you can say, “Gie us a Big Mac!”

In my opinion, you need a ‘cooling off’ period at the start of January. We’re like semi-sozzled hedgehogs emerging into the light after eating nothing but cheese and wine for a fortnight.  And whether it is an eating plan, an exercise challenge, or a month off the booze, it all starts with positive thinking. Here are a few more simple, practical and positive changes that will help you stay the course and maybe your 30 day challenge will end up being part of lasting lifestyle change.

  1. Kindness: Don’t beat yourself up. Start off your challenge/lifestyle change slowly. (In my case I’m going for Monday 7th)  And don’t overload yourself with too many rules. We are fragile little hedgehogs right now. If you fall off the wagon, notice the pattern and climb back on!
  2. Practise positive thinking. This goes hand-in-hand with the first point. Notice how your internal voice speaks to itself. Turn the “I can’t do it” to “I’ll give it a try” or the “I’m rubbish at this” to “I am learning how to do this”  A good rule of thumb is to speak to yourself as you would to a child. Be kind and encouraging. And if it is a month off the booze, your internal voice will initially be more like a whining child asking for an ice-cream constantly after having had a bag of sweeties. In this case, you must be firm!
  3. Gratitude. Every night think of three things you are grateful for or that you think you did well that day. This will reinforce your positive mindset and just make you a happier hedgehog overall.
  4. Keep a diary of your progress. This can be written down or orally recorded by your phone. It can be every day or just once a week. But it will help you analyse how you are feeling and thinking about your lifestyle change. Noting accomplishments and any hurdles along the way will help you stay the course.
  5. Join a group of like-minded people: When I gave up booze for 100 days I became a member of The Alcohol Experiment. (Google it.) Another helpful group for going booze-free is Club Soda.  I am a member of the Kilmacolm Unofficial Running Club – who are just the loveliest, supportive group of folk – and they do not take themselves too seriously at all. (The Sunday ‘run’ is often a walk for those who may have overindulged the night before!) There is also a new Renfrewshire Women’s Running Club on Facebook, founded initially by a female runner who wanted to connect and run safely with other women in these darker months. It has grown massively in the first few weeks and has become something quite special, inspirational and supportive with women discussing challenges, offering runs and sharing stories. There will be a group out there for you. Have a look.

Time to put down the toblerone and climb out of that onesie. Let’s do this, 2019!

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