I’m not a fan of New Year. I was in bed by 11pm on 31st December 2015, grumbling when fireworks woke up the baby and me at midnight. I’d rather have a good night’s sleep than a long evening of forced fun.
My lack of enthusiasm for New Year celebrations extends to New Year resolutions too. It’s all too easy to trot out a list of meaningless resolutions at this time of year. If you ask me, New Year resolution making has become rather trite. Every January, the Twittersphere explodes with #motivation, #inspiration and #resolutions.
#GiveMeABreak. Come the end of January, I bet the vast majority of resolutions are tossed into to the #fail pile.
And yet, I can’t help being infected by something positive in the deluge of New Year, New You nonsense that inundates the papers, magazines and social media at this time of year. An admirable sense of determination and renewal that I could learn from rather than cynically consign to the recycling bin. Because if there’s something I really want to do, rather than a list of stuff I think I should do, why not do it when there’s an abundance of fellow resolution makers to support me?
“New Year could be the new school year for grown-ups. A clean diary, a fresh start. I feel myself getting swept away in it all.”
There are some other reasons, not linked to the troublesome 1st January deadline, for resolving to do something different.
1. Improve your health
I won’t bore you with talk of exercise and losing weight here. There are already hundreds, thousands of fitness fads and fanatics doing just that. Brain health, on the other hand, is worth sparing a few minutes of our day for.
Learning a new word, or even better, a new language
, paying more attention to all of your sensory experiences (tastes, smells, sounds) and doing more physical activities all help to keep your brain active and beat stress. Apparently, walking 4 miles per week cuts down on the chances of later developing dementia by 50%.
2. Improve your confidence
Stretching yourself to do something different will help prove to you that you can do far more than you ever allowed yourself credit for. Yes, you can figure out Cyrillic script. You can make friends with strangers in a new place. And you can get on that plane and visit a country you’ve never been to before. And you can do it damn well.
3. A better social life
Dare to take yourself out of your usual routine and you could find yourself with a full diary, whether that’s due to weekly drinks with people you meet on that Portuguese language course, or Skype chats with friends you met travelling. And you’ll be better company at dinner parties too; would you rather discuss the latest grunts from Phil Mitchell or hear about someone’s experience of free diving? Even better, relate one of those embarrassing moments from your travels (we all have them) and you’ll have the table in stitches.
Image by Venus Adventures
4. Think more clearly
It’s a fact that putting some distance between you and a problem can help you think more clearly and creatively. At it’s simplest, it’s the difference between working at home or going to a café; I find I get much more work done in a café. It’s about casting off the shackles of the familiar.
5. Better memories
When we’re on our deathbeds, it’s not the humdrum routine days that we’ll look back on. It’s the days that were different, the variety of people who walked through our lives, the pleasures we took in making something with our own hands.
“For me, the best way to get these benefits is to travel. ”
We’ve all heard the saying that travel broadens the mind. It does, but it can do far more than that too. It can improve your brain. When you travel, you’re naturally more alert to all your sense. Chances are you’re walking more. And if you go somewhere sunny, you’ve upped your vitamin D intake too.
Travel also makes you mindful of cultural differences, and to become aware of these is to become aware of infinite possibilities. Travellers are constantly reminded of everything they don’t know (which is the vast majority of everything), and the many different approaches there are to life.
And what could give you better memories than days spent travelling, exposing your senses to new sights, sounds and smells, meeting new people and discovering new places? The sound of howler monkeys ululating echoing across the mountains as the sun rises above the ancient ruins of Tikal in Guatemala, the adrenaline rush as you canter along an empty sandy beach in Costa Rica, climbing to the top of a volcano in Mongolia
with a young Mongolian girl wearing electric blue nail varnish as your guide: these are memories that will occupy a treasured spot in my brain for as long as I have control over it (see point 1, above).