Your 5 Simple Steps for a Healthier, Happier Year
Many people think Yoga is just about the poses that you see on Instagram. But there are many ethical, mental, and physical practices in this ancient philosophy, that can help us be less anxious and stressed.
January is often a difficult month due to the come down of the Christmas holiday, having to anticipate what work and life is going to be like, and the cold, grey weather tends to reflect in our mood.
When you’re suffering from anxiety or stress, the moment you wake up can be one of the hardest in your day. It is at that point when you often start to think of everything you have to deal with, or don’t have full control over. Thoughts of the worst case scenario and being overwhelmed tend to crop up, so it is important that you start your day with positivity, strength and calm.
1. New year, new morning routine
Many minor injuries, occur from the sudden movements of switching off the alarm or jumping straight out of bed. While still lying down, take 1 minute to breathe deeply and check in with your body. Oxygen is the most important fuel your body needs to function properly and helps regulate the release of stress hormones and relaxes muscle tension. Our brains, which use about 20% of our oxygen intake, not only controls what’s going on in the body, but also our emotions and thoughts. Taking 5 or 6 long deep breaths takes about 1 minute and also gives you the time to recognise where you may be feeling stiff or tense. Breathing deeply allows the body and the mind to relax, helping you put any anxious thoughts into perspective. Try not to start thinking about the rest of your day, and just spend 1 minute bringing your focus back to your inhales and exhales, and the sensations in your body.
Breathe in and out through the nose and as you inhale feel your belly and chest expand like a balloon. Hold the breath for a second and then exhale drawing your belly towards your spine to expel all the stale air from the lungs. Make your breaths as slow and deep as possible.
2. Listen to your body
Having noticed where you’re feeling particularly stiff first thing in the morning in bed, then take 1 – 3 minutes to stretch when you stand up. Take it very gently, stretching in all the range of directions that joint, or part of the body, is able to move in. Start with moving the neck and shoulders, followed by the back, hips and knees. Spend a bit more time on the parts of the body that feel like they need more of a stretch.
3. Be kind to yourself
Spend a bit of time each day doing something nice for yourself, and make sure you schedule it in. Do something that brings you happiness, positivity or comfort. Whether it be taking a long bath, reading on the sofa, going for a walk, or perhaps indulging in your favourite TV show. In times of grey weather or mood, it’s important to do, and think about, positive and comforting things. Planning this activity for before you go to bed can help you fall asleep easier. Your mind and your body need to be relaxed and calm in order to get the rest needed, so that they are at optimal function the following day.
You can also have a list in your mind or written down, of positive aspects of your life, and anything you have to look forward to in the months to come. January is a good time to schedule a fun or relaxing weekend with your best friend, and to focus on all the positive things this year may bring.
4. Karma Yoga
As well as being kind to yourself, every day you should make an effort to be kind to others. It has been shown that doing something nice for someone else has a positive effect on our mood and feelings of self-worth. Karma Yoga is about selfless acts. It reminds us that we are not alone in the world, and that many have much worse problems than us. Whether it’s helping someone in some way, paying for another person’s coffee, or simply not getting angry with someone when you usually would, make an effort to do at least one kind thing for someone else each day.
5. Be mindful during the day
It’s not enough to only take some time for yourself first thing in the morning or last thing at night. It’s important to keep taking care of yourself mentally and physically during the day. In times of stress, anxiety or whenever you remember, take 3 long, deep mindful breaths. You’d be surprised how often our breath turns short and shallow during our daily activities, so take the time to replenish the oxygen needed and to check in with your body. Every now and again, stretch out stiffness where you feel it pop up. Better still if you can, go for a walk or do some exercise to help lift your mood and keep you healthy.