● Say thank you more often. Being grateful makes me feel more positive, from counting my blessings on a blue-mood morning to sitting down and writing thank-you cards (be inspired with beautiful stationery at meticulousink.com). Receiving thanks can be a mood shifter, too, as I found recently when I was invited to a thank-you party given by Heads Together, the young royals’ mental health campaign. The experience propelled me into making peace with someone I had long resented by thanking them unconditionally for the good things they had brought me.
● Defrazzle with flowers. Flowers lift our spirits, according to research at Harvard University. I’ll be buying bunches for myself and friends from Bloomon (bloomon.co.uk), planting seeds and bulbs in my garden and window boxes, and foraging for seed heads on common land.
Expanding our horizons beyond our daily tasks supports mental and physical health
● Go nuts! Nibbling a daily handful of nuts – particularly walnuts, almonds and brazil nuts – has long been linked to health benefits, including a lower risk of heart disease. New research shows that walnuts may help people feel full and so control the urge to eat fattening foods. So it’s off to californiawalnuts.uk for recipe inspiration.
● Make lists. As serial entrepreneur Marcia Kilgore told me in 2016 (I’m a slow learner…): ‘Lists are the ultimate do-able tool for maintaining mental wellbeing.’ Every night Marcia writes down the three most important things she has to achieve the next day in bold capitals, then adds on all the others. ‘In the morning, I work from the top down without wavering. Crossing things off gives me a sense of order, satisfaction and control.’ I really want what she’s got.
Flowers lift our spirits, according to research at Harvard University
● Take simple measures to de-stress. I’m prone to running on empty, so just as I resolve to fill the car with fuel before it gets into the danger zone, I’ll make sure to have a hot meal and rest before I run out of steam. Faffing over clothes on a weekday makes me fretful so I’ll plan some work uniforms, then I don’t have to worry about what to wear. And because I’m always losing my keys, I’m going to attach fluffy key rings and ribbons and designate a safe place to store them.
● Stop and listen. We all have so much to do that it’s easy to not focus properly on what people say to us. Listening and responding underpins good relationships of all kinds, at home and at work. Practising mindfulness works for this, as for many other things. My 2018 mantra is: Stop. Breathe. Make eye contact. Wait… (I recommend reading Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman, Piatkus, £14.99.)
I’m much nicer and more energetic and efficient after a good night’s sleep
● Do something new. Whether it’s learning the piano or a new language, taking up painting, joining a knitting circle, starting a book or theatre group or volunteering to build dry stone walls, expanding our horizons beyond our daily tasks supports mental and physical health. I plan to learn about the stars and, with my husband, research and plant ancient varieties of fruit trees in our field.
● Look after the basics. As age creeps on, I’ll make sure that I book hearing as well as sight tests. Another essential is taking care of the good bacteria in my formerly dodgy gut with probiotic supplements. After reading The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat by Professor Tim Spector, I aim to eat more good bug-promoting extra virgin olive oil, high-fat unpasteurised cheese and natural full-fat organic yoghurt as part of a Mediterranean-style diet.
● Take sleep seriously. I’m much nicer and more energetic and efficient after a good night’s sleep. I’ve resolved to eat supper early if possible, turn off computers by 8pm and – my favourite soother – have a warm bath with Westlab Epsom Bathing Salt (£4.99, superdrug.com). For a fragrant treat, I love Kiss the Moon Dream Bedtime Bath Salts (£5, kissthemoon.com).
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I wish you the happiest possible year
As my friend Annee de Mamiel always says as she bids goodbye, ‘Be good to you.’
Have a great year!