After two years of lockdown, many of us have found ourselves pursuing a more holistic lifestyle. One in which mental health, work, socialising, family and physical health can be more in balance. At Valenson, we are strong believers in a holistic approach to wellbeing but we know it’s not always easy in our busy lifestyles to keep the scales aligned. That’s why we bring you a holistic wellbeing plan with monthly practises to try and tasks to complete over the course of 2022.
Each month we’ll ask you to focus on something different in the hope that you’ll be introduced to some practices which may enrich your life. Not all will be easy and some may not be right for you. You may also find that you want to play with the order of activities depending on what you feel drawn to each month. Some changes that work for you, or start to work for you, you should continue through the following months, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself. This is a wellbeing plan which should be executed with plenty of self-love, care and optimism. Take what works and embrace that and, whilst I ask that you approach each suggestion with an open mind, don’t struggle through practices that aren’t working for you.
We aim to show you some of the relatively small ways in which my life has been enriched, both physically and spiritually, through twelve methods that help you connect with yourself and the world around you.
Ready? Let’s begin.
JANUARY - What Do You Want To Achieve?
As a brand that produced a Holistic Wellbeing Journal, it’s safe to assume we believe in the power of planning.
What we’d like you to do in January is begin to imagine your life looking and feeling a little better. What would that look like? How would it feel? And, most importantly, what is different? Perhaps it’s a big change like a new job or relationship. Perhaps it is about being able to spend more time with family or to write that book you've been penning in your mind.
We don’t want you to write down these goals. That’s too much like setting New Years Resolutions and we all know what happens to them. Instead, we want you to write down at least three barriers preventing you from making these changes.
Let’s look at an example. Let’s say your goal is:
To be healthier
Then your barriers might be:
No time to cook healthy food
Not doing enough exercise
Not knowing how to be healthier
Now, we want you to dig one stage deeper and explore what you could do to break down those barriers. Continuing with our above example, these might be:
Get home from work earlier
Get some 20-minute meal cookbooks
Try more sports/forms of exercise
Read more about nutrition
Try meditation or mindfulness
Now, you no longer have one big goal hanging over your head. Instead, you have a few small changes and options to explore which may lead to achieving this goal. What’s more, even if you don’t end up achieving your goal, you’ve now built a list of smaller more manageable tasks which you can get to work on and which may enrich your life by themselves. Bite-sized tasks are far easier to focus on and being able to work on a few smaller changes can feel better and be more rewarding. Moreover, it’s far more constructive to tackle the ‘how’ as opposed to the ‘what’.
One last thing we’d like you to write down though is the ‘why’. Think back to that goal you believe will make this year better and ask yourself, why will it? If you achieve this goal, what is it going to improve in your life and in how you see yourself?
Contemplating the why might change your mind about your goal. If it does, that’s ok. Have a rethink. Often, our goals and aspirations are set in line with what we believe others might expect of us. Or they might relate to what we’re told will make us happy. However, we’re all different and what we’re told will make us happy isn’t always true for us as individuals. Advertisements wouldn’t continue to work on us if the last perfume, watch, car or gadget we bought had brought us fulfilment. So don’t set your goal too quickly. Question, contemplate, imagine the result and reflect until you land on a goal that you truly believe will make life better when achieved. Then, forget it. Focus instead on the breakdown of the smaller steps you’ve uncovered that might get you closer to your overall aspiration.
This year we’re going to focus on achieving those and practicing some other techniques that we strongly believe will help you also.
FEBRUARY - Reading
We are so bombarded with advice and reminders about how to look after our physical health and, more recently, look after our mental health. However, we’re rarely reminded to exercise our minds or imaginations. The pursuit of knowledge doesn’t have to end when our formal education is complete. One of the most amazing aspects of life is that there is always more to learn, new ways to see things and more to discover. Being open to this keeps us eager, optimistic and youthful.
Reading is a great way to broaden the mind. It needn’t be high brow. You could work your way through the classics or Harry Potter, read non-fiction or so-called trashy magazines. Whatever holds your interest is going to be beneficial to you because reading can allow us to disappear into another world for a while. As much as wellbeing is about connecting with yourself and the world, it’s also about letting yourself check out now and then. What better way than to sink into a good book and let your imagination take over?
This month try to make time for reading, even if it’s just 20 minutes before bed. Don't have the time? Try turning your phone off half an hour before you go to bed.
MARCH - Get Outside
In March, hopefully, the weather will be warming up so let’s try to get outside more. Regular walking is brilliant for the body and soul. The fresh air is good for our skin, for awakening the mind, and we breathe better outdoors. This one is especially important for those of us working in offices or from home where the air can get stuffy and stale, making us sleepy and our eyes weary.
We’re going to challenge you to walk, or run (if you’re a runner or aspiring runner), for at least 20 minutes every day. This may sound like a lot if you’re not used to it but a 20-minute walk can be achieved by doing the school run on foot or walking to the shops instead of driving.
APRIL - Food Is Fuel
We are not putting a diet plan in place. What we are going to do is make a list of all the foods we know we should be eating more of. Fruit and vegetables should be on your list, as well as an array of grains, seeds and pulses. We’re going to leave the contents of the list up to you because you know what your body needs. What we will ask you to do is focus on eating a wide range of foods and selecting these based on nutritional qualities.
In the past few years, science has really started to focus on the complexity of our gut. In fact, the gut has a direct line to our brain through the vagus nerve and, since signals are passed back and forth, not only do our emotions have an effect on our digestion but what goes on in our gut has a direct effect on our emotions. So, the food we feed our body is so much more than just calories.
This isn’t about limiting or eliminating anything in your diet. It’s about making sure you get enough of what it is your body needs, to function at its best. Refer to your list daily and check that you’re getting enough variety of these foods in your diet.
MAY - Meditation
Meditation is something that has gone through a rebrand in the past few years. No longer considered only for dedicated yogis and spiritual practitioners, meditation is becoming a common way for modern human beings to manage and enhance their modern lives.
Meditation is said to help with managing stress, improving focus, reducing negative emotions, enhancing self-awareness and even increasing tolerance and empathy. Since you only need to meditate for anything from 10 minutes per day, we believe meditation can be one of the simplest ways to process, recharge and enhance your enjoyment of life. That's not to say that the practice is easy. Many find it hard to focus and to dismiss the never-ending interruptions of our thoughts as we attempt to clear our minds. There's no doubt that meditation is called a practice for a reason. If there is one monthly method to persist with, even if it doesn't come easy, then this will be it. Sometimes it takes some time to feel the benefits of meditation.
Remember that goal you thought about back in January? It may not seem like it but meditation could help you get there. After all, looking after the mind and our mental health gets us match-fit to take on those larger aspirations we'd like to achieve in our lives.
There are also many different ways to meditate. You may be meditating to reduce anxiety, to reconnect. with yourself or even to assist you in overcoming past trauma. The good news is there are a wide variety of free resources to help you explore the range of meditation methods and find one that works for you.
Refer to this guide for some recommendations.
JUNE - Friends and Family
As people age, what they usually cite as the most influential factor in their lives is their relationships. The one most important ingredient that life would have been tasteless without. Yet, how much time do we dedicate to nurturing and deepening these connections? Especially with friends and family outside of our immediate circle.
In June, we’d like you to not only try to see friends and family more but to stay in the present when you do. Put your phone away, practise active listening and ensure you really engage. Often we anticipate what someone means and so don’t follow up with questions. We respond to ‘how are you?’ with ‘fine,’ and we cover the same topics whenever we meet one another.
Starting in June, we want you to be conscious of the importance of your friendships and relationships and give them, perhaps not more time, but more of your attention. Make the time you spend with friends and family count. Don't be afraid to open up and delve deeper, but also, don't forget to have fun. After all, every time we meet with our loved ones we could be making the kind of memories that will accompany us throughout our lives and see us through both the good times and the bad. So never miss an opportunity to create moments worth remembering.