New Year, Strongest You
Simple wellness tips for building a happier, stronger you in 2023. By Hannah Barrett
Can we rewrite the ‘New Year, New You’ narrative? Let’s ditch the typical things we are bombarded with at this time of year — diets, ‘detoxes’ and personality/ body transformations — and instead let’s celebrate who we are and commit to looking after and nourishing ourselves over the next 12 months. Commit to building our strength and resilience and finding contentment with this life we are living right here and now.
I want to share a handful of ways that this can be done using the power of yoga. In reality, there are many more, and so tweak as necessary to suit your life and your body. Have the intention of creating as many happy habits into your 2023 routine that will bring you strength, connection and happiness.
Find joy in the ordinary
The Covid-19 pandemic and the lack of being able to see or hug our loved ones was a big reminder of the truth in the phrase ‘enjoy the small things in life for one day you will realise that they were the big things’. There is a lot we take for granted without realising it.
Live every day with gratitude, whether it's appreciating a beautiful sunrise, being grateful for the roof over your head, or even a favourite song on the radio. A gratitude practice is acknowledging the goodness in your life and being thankful for what you have, not searching for what you don’t.
Research has consistently shown how a gratitude practice is linked to greater happiness, improved health and stronger relationships. So, over 2023, every morning write down or say out loud five things you are grateful for. Be as detailed as you can and try to avoid too much repetition on a day to day basis. Involve your whole family — I’m sure they will surprise you with some insightful answers!
Do you ever find yourself constantly rushing to the next ‘thing'? Filling your days to bursting, not giving yourself time to breathe and not allowing yourself time to bring balance back to your body and mind?
Rest and self-care are not selfish, they are necessary. Please know that busyness doesn’t need to be worn like a badge of honour as society may have us believe. We don’t need to take our phones to the toilet with us, we don’t need to answer emails on a walk and we are worthy of a lunch free from technology. We function better and are happier when we are rested.
This year, take more pauses. Rest more! And if you feel guilty for doing so, remember you are resting not only for you, but for everyone else. Think of it like a ripple effect. We are showing our children, family and everyone around us that we are worthy. It isn’t being lazy, it’s essential to you feeling your strongest and best self.
Live a mindful life
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention and it can occur in every aspect of our lives. It involves cultivating a present moment awareness that has no judgement.
I read a beautiful book by Thich Nhat Hanh called The Miracle of Mindfulness. The book discusses the idea of bringing mindfulness into every aspect of life. It goes on to say that to do so in one go isn’t realistic and would feel overwhelming. Instead start with a ‘mindfulness day’. On that day can you try to do every single thing mindfully: drinking your morning tea, having a mindful shower, connecting fully with family and friends. Over time it becomes easier and over time that ‘mindfulness day’ will spread into your whole week.
So over the next year, could you choose one or two tasks daily that you want to be fully connected with? During those tasks, notice when your mind starts to wander and, compassionately, with no judgement, bring it back to the now. Immerse yourself in the task fully, connecting to sensations, smells, colours and textures, notice it all.
So many people believe that meditation isn’t for them. They try it once and say “my mind is too busy”. I always give the example of learning to handstand. You would never expect to place you hands down and float up into a handstand on day one. You would expect to practice! Meditation is exactly the same. We are human and our minds wander (a lot!); mine still does now after many years of daily practice.
Research has consistently shown the powerful positive impact meditation can have, including changing the structure of the brain, increasing awareness, concentration, and decision making. It can also reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep quality, improve immunity and enhance self-awareness. This is incredible and it’s something you can do anywhere!
Make it a priority to include at least five to 10 minutes of meditation each day in January. Maybe even keep a journal of how each practice makes you feel. You can find many meditation resources online (including on my app Yoga Happy) or alternatively, set a timer, sit down quietly and simply observe your breath without trying to change it. When your mind wanders, which it will, gently bring it back. At the end of the month, you are going to see such a positive impact that it will become part of your everyday routine.
One of the best tips I was ever given relating to meditation is to practice everywhere. Don’t just get used to a quiet room where any noise or disturbance can completely put you off. If you mix it up and meditate at the park, on a train or whilst the kids watch a movie, you are teaching yourself how to stay centred and keep inner peace in all situations.
Move your body with love
The beauty of the physical practice of yoga is that there are so many different teachers, styles and class lengths. I truly believe that every single person can find a class that is accessible for them. The best part is that once you find classes that you love, it makes creating a habit a lot easier. Meaning that getting stronger becomes something to look forward to.
Commit this year to rolling out your mat regularly and staying curious in the classes you do. Try something new as the body loves to be challenged in different ways. But also stay curious in the way you listen to your body. Practice self-study (svadhyaya) and ask yourself: what do I need today? For example, sometimes our brain pushes us towards the Power Yoga classes it thinks we should be doing, when in fact what we really need in that moment is a restorative Yin session.
If you are looking for inspiration, Hannah Barrett’s app Yoga Happy has over 300 classes and 20+ challenges with options for all levels and different class lengths and styles to suit your needs. Her aim is to help you fall in love with yoga, experience the power of a regular practice, find your strength and start a lifelong habit that you will want to stick to throughout the year. Download on Apple and Android with a two-week free trial. For more information visit: hannahbarrettyoga.com