New Year, old me: ways to look after yourself in 2019

“I’m not where I thought I’d be this year…”

“Am I doing what I want to be doing for the rest of my life?”

“Their life looks way better than mine”

“New Year, new me”

Sound familiar? The start of the year always seems to see people dole out the classics…

But have you ever heard the phrase ‘start as you mean to go on’? Put simply – don’t start the year putting yourself down like this. It shouldn’t be about reinventing yourself, it should be about doing more of what you love and being kind to yourself.

Improving your own mental health and wellbeing should be top of the agenda for 2019. One thing that we at STA Travel HQ think helps improve wellbeing? Travel. Duh. But we also know that not everyone has the money to go flying off to a new country every time they feel a bit of stress creeping in (if only), so we’ve come up with some ideas of how to look after yourself this year. Travel or no travel.

THE MIND

What’s the one thing that we all can’t seem to live without nowadays? You might even be reading this blog on one of them… the blessing and the curse of the smartphone. From going to bed scanning your feeds, to waking up and checking the news, comparing yourself to others on Instagram and deciding their life looks waaaay better than yours, to literally just picking it up because you’re bored or have 30-seconds of your day unaccounted for while waiting for a bus or queuing for a coffee. It’s like we’ve forgotten how to do, well, nothing!

We’re just as glued to our phones as the next guy, so we get it if you can’t hack doing a total digital detox. If that’s you, try and give yourself a phone curfew instead – no looking at it for an hour before bedtime. Guaranteed you’ll sleep a little better… and that’s always good for the mind.

If you’re not quite ready to throw yourself down the no technology route (it feels like losing a limb, we know), then just try something as simple as scheduling some time out for yourself, be it a lazy day on the sofa on a Sunday or making sure you actually take your lunch break at work.

Mindfulness isn’t an easy task – noticing the present moment instead of getting caught up in your thoughts – so try focusing on the taste of your lunch and what you’re eating instead of doing something else at the same time (working/being on your phone/Googling your latest medical symptom and freaking the F out). The NHS has created a ‘Moodzone on their website – and it talks about what mindfulness is, how you practice it, and why it’s good for you. They’ve even created audio guides about mental health and wellbeing – podcasts that you can listen to on your commute, or while you’re on the plane to your next adventure. No spare time needed.

Want to be mindful on a grander scale? Take yourself to a spa for the day, go on a hike, or go and camp out in the middle of nowhere for a weekend. Travel doesn’t always mean a 5-hour journey up in the sky, or a huge dent in your bank balance that does nothing but give you anxiety.

Yoga and meditation are also ways to help you practice mindfulness – and these exercises have become super popular over the last couple of years. And a perfect way to welcome yoga and meditation into your life? Whisk yourself away to Bali, Thailand or India on a yoga retreat. Feeling the pinch? Check out your local yoga classes, or do it even cheaper: buy a mat and follow yoga/meditation tutorials on YouTube. Thriftiness: check.

Moving on from relaxing the mind, how about sharpening it… do you ever go away and feel like you’re the only person who doesn’t know a second language? It’s a scenario that some of us Brits are all too familiar with, despite how much our old French or Spanish teachers tried to drum it into us at 14 years old (we’re only taking this class for the free trip, sorry miss). Sharpen the mind, and widen your travel horizons, by brushing up on those long-forgotten language lessons and actually voluntarily learn another language. Whether that’s via a free smartphone app (we love you Duo Lingo) or by visiting and studying the language in that country. Unwinding on a vineyard in Italy can do wonders for your relaxation and wellbeing. Oh no, that’s right, that’ll be the wine.

Learning new skills in general has been shown to improve mental wellbeing – it doesn’t have to be academic like learning a new language, it can be anything from learning to dive, learning a new hobby or learning to cook. Love Thai food? Challenge yourself and learn how to make your favourite dishes for you and your friends – whether you’re self-learning at home or trying out a cooking class while you’re away.

THE BODY

We get it – January is the time for diets; no carbs on weekdays, dry January, Veganuary, sugar-free January… the list goes on. And then once January is over, we binge and jump in and out of faddy diets (baby food diet, anyone?). Instead of depriving yourself of things you love (on one of the coldest, most depressing months of the year, what ARE we thinking?) think about looking after your body in these simpler – and way less intense – ways:

It doesn’t need to be a crazy workout regime. Chances are if you don’t enjoy the exercise you’re making yourself do, you’re not going to keep it up. So, start with something easy like going on a walk twice a week (or on your lunch) or if you have an idea of the type of exercise you’ll enjoy, do that. Join the local netball or football team… it might just be exactly what you’re looking for: new friends + exercise.

For starters, make sure you’re doing the exercise for the right reasons (like sunning it up in an exotic location, for instance). We’re joking. Kind of. It’s not just yoga and meditation retreats in Asia that you can escape to – there are actually tons of health and fitness packages all over the globe. For beach lovers, you could go on a surfing break, or for those really wanting to kick-start their fitness journey, a bootcamp retreat. As long as you’re doing it because you want to feel better within yourself, it’ll be way easier to keep up the motivation.

The food you fuel your body with is just as important as exercise – doesn’t every fitness blogger and nutritionist in the world tell us this? There are some people who can survive purely on green smoothies, seeds, lentils and vegetables, but for us mere mortals, an ‘everything in moderation’ outlook works just fine (who wants to eat seeds after a few pints at the pub, anyway? Squirrels, that’s who). With this in mind, think about going meat-free for one or two days a week, treat yourself to a brekkie from a healthy café instead of a greasy spoon, take a cooking class to learn how to home-cook your fav cuisine, and follow the foodie trails of any destination you travel to. Fresh pasta in Italy, pastries in France, tacos in Mexico… we said ‘moderation’, not deprivation.

Our own bed. It’s one of the best places in the world, but often, not somewhere we spend as much time as we should. Getting a decent night sleep is key to a productive day, as well as a healthy mind and body – so try to get a good 7-8 hours a night. We promise you’ll feel better. If you struggle, unplug yourself from your phone for an hour before you go to bed, practice meditating for half an hour, or relax by reading a book tucked up under the duvet. The Mental Health Foundation released a report on how sleep can help your health and wellbeing – give it a read here if you want to be clued up on how to cuddle up.

Can’t seem to get enough sleep at home? What better excuse to swan off on a trip to paradise, where all you need to worry about is which beach to chill out on, and for how long. Beach breaks take out all the stress of planning as well – sorting you out with your accommodation and flights.

THE SOUL

Looking after your own mental health and wellbeing is all about focusing on yourself and making that your top priority. It’s also about making time for the right people – you’ll already know who these people are in your life, and you’ll know those that don’t bring anything but negativity and lowered self-esteem. Whether it’s a regular ten-minute phone call with a family member, a visit and a cuppa with a friend, or weekly date nights – if your time is spent with the right people, then you’ll only come away from it feeling uplifted.

The right people could also be further afield: volunteering is a rewarding experience that often makes you much more grateful for what you have. Help at a local soup kitchen, donate to charity shops, or even spend some time volunteering overseas – teaching children, assisting in community projects or working with animals, while also getting to explore a new country.

So, get ready 2019 – this year is all about goal-setting and kicking ass, with a fair amount of travel thrown in for good measure. If you need a jump-start on your goal-setting, try these out for size (and be realistic within them):

  • Be more mindful – put down your phone!
  • Learn something new
  • Exercise more
  • Eat a bit healthier
  • Sleep between 7-8 hours a night
  • Spend time with the right people
  • Travel more

Happy 2019 travellers!