RED January: Active Everyday To Beat The Blues Away

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If you’re on Instagram it’s quite likely you will have seen some people going on about RED January. Maybe you think it sounds like another new year resolution fad like: Veganuary (please don’t shoot me, I’m an animal too) or Dry January, for those pretending that quitting alcohol is hard for them after an indulgent Christmas. Dietary cleanses and detoxes are once again circulating although I’m not in on the scoop of which one is most trendy this year. Are we still on the Whole 30, alkaline and keto “lifestyle change” tips? Either way it seems that whatever direction we turn you can’t help but be faced with lifestyle challenges promising to transform you into a new you and make you feel miraculously better about your shitty life. RED January could fall into this trap if you frame it in such a way, but it needn’t do.

Run Every Day January is a campaign to encourage people to be active on a daily basis throughout January in an attempt to buffer against the blues. Unlike the title suggests, you don’t have to run every day, I think RED January is just easier to market and brand than MED (Move Every Day) January. A lot of people do interpret RED January as another punitive challenge and as such, that you have to run every single day. It isn’t and this defeats the purpose of the campaign. Instead you just move, whether that’s a kick about in the park with your kids, walking to the shops instead of driving, running a Park Run or doing some yoga. You’re not supposed to break yourself over it, it is quite the opposite; it is about prioritising and taking the head space to move your body, connect with your body and in the meantime reap the benefits of moving for your mood.

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There are heaps and heaps of evidence for the positive effects of exercise on our mental and emotional well-being. It is now common knowledge that we can’t avoid to the point of GPs prescribing Park Run for mild depression in patients. Don’t be fooled, it isn’t a cure-all but it is a good place to start in terms of looking after yourself. Despite the accessibility of moving, 1 in 3 adults and children in the UK do not get enough physical activity. Let me repeat this. 1 in 3 adults and children in the UK do not get enough physical activity. This is quite shocking and with the benefits of exercising being so vast and varied, it really is an under tapped resource that most of us have.

I don’t mean that in a “no excuses” kind of way. It’s not easy starting to get active from being inactive for a period of time. It’s daunting, it’s hard work and sometimes it hurts but bear with me. Bear with yourself because in the long run you’ll be glad you got up and did it (pun entirely intended).

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There are numerous ideas and theories as to why achieving adequate physical activity is so difficult. Sometimes how we frame the idea of physical activity in our minds can really affect our perception of movement (Mental Health Foundation, 2013). Is it an extra and particularly painful chore to fit into our already busy schedules? Or is it a part of your self-care regime? Admittedly, with January being one of the coldest and darkest months of the year often curling up somewhere cosy with a book or a film feels immediately much more appealing. The greater benefits of movement may not be such an immediate gratification, but doing a steady amount will usually provide some hard-earned gratification immediately after exercise. So perhaps, the delay of immediate gratification by 30 minutes isn’t the worst after all.

The health benefits of movement are numerous, particularly for our mental well-being: from providing a protective factor to developing depression and anxiety (Fox, 1999) to increasing our work productivity and performance (Wiese, Kuykendall and Tay, 2017). The best news? You don’t have to go hard or go home; no matter how small or unimpressive you may perceive the achievement and effort to have been, any activity is better than doing none at all: what have you got to lose other than 30 minutes to try and see? (Mental Health Foundation, 2013).

The results from last year’s RED January participants speak for themselves. Last year in a survey of 3000, 87% of REDers felt significantly better physically and mentally after January 2018 from partaking in the challenge. Aside from the RED January challenge and their partnership with the mental health charity, Mind there’s oodles and oodles of evidence, scientific and anecdotal, about the benefits of moving your body.

This isn’t a weight loss message, but a 100% emotional wellness message. Regardless of your size, you DO NOT NEED TO LOSE WEIGHT before you can get active. There is no prescribed aesthetic or requirement in order to move. If you are concerned about your health impacting your ability to exercise I have added a link to a PAR-Q (Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire) here.

The important focus is just to get moving, preferably in a way that’s enjoyable to you. Exercise does not have to be punitive, and in fact, to get the most from working out a healthy push of your limits is encouraged but don’t put yourself off forever. Start small and keep it real. Punishing yourself for eating something, or to look a certain way is not going to harvest the positive results that make you feel good, empowered and emotionally sound. It will only serve to do the opposite.

In this respect, the virgin active ad recently is a good message: Enough.


Sources:

Fox, K.R. (1999) The influence of physical activity on mental well-being. Public Health Nutrition. 2(3a) pp.411-418.

Mental Health Foundation (2013) Lets Get Physical. London: Mental Health Foundation.

Wiese, C.W., Kuykendall, L. & Tay, L. (2017) Get active? A meta-analysis of leisure-time physical activity and subjective well-being. The Journal of Positive Psychology. 13(1) pp.57-66.

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How To Get Rich and Thin in 2019

Endings and new beginnings can be emotional times, whether it’s excitement for the future or sadness for the end of a really good chapter. There’s no time of year when we communally experience this sensation as a planet more than the turn of a new year. Cue the dieting, resolution-ing and lists of life vows that make wedding vows look like a pinky promise in the playground.

For as easy as it is to be over ambitious the key to success is to be realistic; instead of loading up the 1st of January like a mountain mule to only be disappointed when the mule collapses from exhaustion, go small, regular and achievable. The very edge of your comfort zone is ideal, not the oceanic depths beyond the void.

For the money minded there’s big business to be done, where capitalising on insecurities, steroid jacked hopes for huge lifestyle changes and pipe dreams are a cash flow wonder. Weight loss warriors and life coaching gurus start popping up all over the shop, trying to sell to us an intangible and unrealistic expectations for in which the failure of realisation and execution keeps the profits turning. They’re business counts on you failing. You are a cash cow, who can be guided via raw diets and zen retreats to a whole new sparkling version of you at a price. The price isn’t always monetary though, often times the price paid is sanity, happiness and self worth. The irony is astounding.

Those trying to capitalise and gain from your outlandish goals and their subsequent failure “make 2019 your year”, they’ll say, as if every other year in your life up until this point has been of much less value. Of course next year 2020 can be your year and then 2021 too. You are not limited to having and making the most of any one year over another. Some years are good and some are not so good, we have control over how we perceive these experiences but very little in the way of controlling what happens around us. Some years will just be a series of unfortunate events and a life coach or diet won’t and can’t fix that.

My point here? Don’t let your failure become someone else’s profit to exploit. Especially if your failure is of attaining the unrealistic standards that are sold to us via our subconscious. Shut that shit right down right now; ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat!

Giving up on setting goals though is the least likely avenue to reap any results or success, but a good ~40-something % of us make resolutions at new year and of those roughly 40% see results and effort beyond 12th of January. When we shift the focus from January the 1st as being a deal breaker, and from setting enormous unachievable goals, we can move towards the idea of gentle progression and change with consistency.

This can save ourselves from the emotional rollercoaster that comes with getting our hopes up about exciting new changes and results we are going to see very soon, and then the disappointment of failure softened by the comfort eating everything in sight, which is even more counterintuitive to any dieting and health goals if that’s what you’re after. However, when you skip the restrictive dieting practices and make small sustainable lifestyle changes in any area of your life, the rewards you will get won’t be as drastic but they’ll also not be as temporary.

Push yourself and learn to respect your limit, be kind and comfortable with being uncomfortable. As Alex Honnold says about his feat of conquering a first in climbing history, “No one ever achieved great things being cosy in their comfort zone”.

He is the first person to free solo El Capitan, the biggest and most epic centre of the climbing universe. It was first ascended in the 50s, and when they ascended it they pulleyed up instead of climbing all the way because they just couldn’t do it. We live in an incredible world with a lot of people doing incredible things. We can’t all be Alex Honnold, but we can all push ourselves slightly beyond comfort and apply our energy to reaching our goals.

A good starting point would be to dare to make goals that go beyond attempts to control your body size or appearance. Go climb a mountain, start a project, try a new sport or apply for that promotion. You don’t need to diet, transform your body or only eat “clean” to do this.

“We could die any day so why not spend the time we do have here doing something we love, even if the potential consequence could be death” – Alex Honnold

P.S- I have no useful advice for getting rich and thin in 2019.

New Year, Same Person

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We are fast approaching 2018. We currently reside in the week between Christmas and New Year, a period of time that I call “limbo week”, when you’re not quite sure what day it is; some people are back in work, some aren’t and there seems to be no real logic as to who is and who isn’t. It’s a time for recovering from the family antics, the overeating and the forced fun. For myself, it’s a time for squeezing in those books on my ever-growing reading list, binge watching a series I’ve wanted to and spend some time resettling myself for the new term at uni.

Culturally we put a lot of emphasis on the 1st of January, as if this one day is the most important first day of the month each year. As if the 1st of January holds the power of being a life changing 24 hours. It’s not really though is it? If we take a step back and look at the bigger picture it is just the first of another month, just like the 1st of November was, and the 1st of June, and the 1st of March.

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This isn’t to say I’m against goal setting and lifestyle changes for better health and contentment. I am a massive advocate of goal setting and a massive advocate of continuous goal setting. I believe in aiming for what we want in life regardless of which particular month it is. The world never stops and the universe puts no extra speciality on any other months. It is just another 24 hours that the Earth continues orbiting and spinning.

With any goal setting though, swearing you’ll stick to a massive overnight change of lifestyle is never going to be effective. You will not suddenly eat a restricted diet any better than the previously failed diets just because it’s January. You won’t miraculously start going to the gym 5 times a week and get a six-pack just like that last gym membership you swore would change everything didn’t. Even if you do lose weight, say if it’s medically viable for you to need to in the first place, life won’t be any less stressful or more care free at a certain size. If you don’t need to lose weight, medically speaking, then being a size 10 won’t change your life in the ways that diet culture promises.

If your lifestyle isn’t particularly healthy then small steps may be beneficial and you might notice being able to run for the bus with ease after some commitment. Maybe you have smashing a goal like running or swimming a specific distance in mind. That’s cool. Go for it. I’m all for healthy endeavours and challenging yourself.

Shrinking to a size 8 or “the perfect 10” however, won’t make life any better than it is now, not really. People might tell you that you look better but for those putting extra emphasis on your looks, on you being slim and meeting beauty ideals well, fuck ’em. You don’t need that shit any more than you need a detox diet, or a juice cleanse or a faeces face mask. (I made that up. I don’t if they exist but wouldn’t be surprised).

Make some goals that are realistic and be weary of the new year resolution trap that will only set you up for failure and perpetuate an annual system of Monday morning mentality if you don’t meet your transformation goals overnight.

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If you want to make changes it doesn’t matter which day you start. Plan ahead, be realistic and practice self compassionate. So here’s the cliché cocktail: Rome wasn’t built in a day, lives don’t change overnight (except for lottery winners), and as a heads up healthy sustainable lifestyle isn’t associated with any of the following words, phrases or promises:

  • Fad
  • Fasting
  • Cleanse
  • Detox
  • Toxins
  • Colonic irrigation
  • Weight loss surgery
  • Liposuction
  • Plastic surgery
  • Fillers
  • Botox
  • Diet
  • Restriction
  • Challenge
  • Blitz
  • Transform
  • Lose 3 st. in a month
  • Breathing fire when you reach a size 8 because you’ll be so smoking hot
  • Everyone you hated will suddenly love you
  • The universe will totally change
  • The world is gonna flip on its axis
  • Prince Harry will ditch Meghan Markle for you

What will I be changing in the new year? What am I aiming for? All the same things I’ve been working towards for a while now. I got a climbing pass for Christmas, so that’s more climbing on the agenda. I want to keep trying my best to fuel my body well. I want to keep working on my degree. I want to keep training for the London marathon and raise some dollar for my cause – link at the top of the page *wink nudge wink nudge*

I want to keep reaching goals. I want to practice consistency because that seems to be the on.

Keep writing.
Keep reading.
Keep on keeping on.

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So here’s to the same shit, different year, for growth and progress, just like yesterday. I’m starting to quite like consistency. I think it’s pretty neat.