By the beginning of January 2018, there was no "new year, new me" feeling. My voice had gone a good octave lower and I was permanently snoozing my alarm clock. I wish I could say I was just burnt-out after the festive party period, but the truth is I'd been feeling worn out for quite some time.
So, armed with my 2018 raspy voice, I decided to try some subtle changes to my usual lifestyle to get me from "blah" to "yeah!"
I started snacking smart.
I work in an office where there are a ton of snacks to give me that high—followed by that serious slump. But I'm also someone who needs to eat little and often.
According to nutritionist Nicola Selwood: "When we go periods between eating, our blood glucose levels fall, so we lack energy and we can experience mood swings." See, snacking is perfectly healthy and necessary! Personal trainer Luke Hughes just urged me to stop eating "bad snacks" which are full of refined sugars that cause significant spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels.
I started to plan ahead, stocking my work drawer full of ~*healthy but delicious*~ sweet snacks like bars made with just fruits and nuts.
I spent less time looking at screens.
I'm often glued to my phone while commuting, and as soon as I get home I turn on my laptop to watch TV. But mindful that using devices is (normally) time wasted, I took on life coach Lucy Atkinson's recommendation to spend time preparing for the next day instead: "Checking what you need, packing your bag, and deciding what you're going to wear won't only save you time (and an extra 15 minutes of sleep), but you won’t spend energy worrying about all the things you need to sort out and remember to do."
And, according to Dr. Jenna Macciochi, Doctor of Immunology, time away from screens is "beneficial for mood, cognition, and overall health."
Before this challenge, I wasn't a fitness buff by any means. My workout regimen included running for the bus, walking my dogs, and the occasional hike.
I motivated myself by the fact that activewear is really cute. Having learned from Dr. Ben Kelly, Head of Preventative Medicine at Nuffield Health, that strenuous exercise five to six hours before bed can cause a spike in adrenaline—and stop you from sleeping—I decided to try morning classes. Yes, this meant waking up at 6:30 a.m.
I tried a music video dance class, a kettlebell workout, and boxing—and the endorphins of feeling strong, coordinated, and generally able was worth the early start.
Whatever was happening in my brain made me feel happy and clearheaded after every class, a result I confirmed with personal trainer Glenn Coburn. "On top of mental health benefits, physically, you're improving your heart and lung's ability to transport oxygen around the body to remove waste products which increases your energy levels and makes day-to-day activities easier," he said.
So, am I an exercise convert? I may just be. And I may be one of those people who now wears activewear outside of the gym, too. #SorryNotSorry
I slept better.
I sleep six to seven hours every night. But according to Dr. Firas Al-Niaimi, Group Medical Director at sk:n, "A lack of sleep can lead to a buildup in the stress hormone 'cortisol.'" So I started to invest in catching more Zzzzz.
I got a relaxing vanilla body scrub to help me unwind and donned a silk sleep mask so my brain would sense darkness and produce melatonin (the chemical that helps you get to sleep). I stuck to wearing it even when I was struggling because when your body senses light when trying to sleep, it releases cortisol to help wake you up.
I cut down on my drinking.
I like my wine, so getting rid of alcohol was never going to be a reality for me. But I was happy to cut down! Medical Nutritionist Naomi Beinart, Ph.D. explained how alcohol depletes your body of vital vitamins and minerals: "Alcohol puts extra strain on your liver, one of whose tasks is to store and release glucose for energy so it drains your energy and vitality."
So, I definitely wanted to find some alternatives and thankfully, you don't need to turn to traditional soft drinks anymore. Instead of a gin and tonic, I found myself ordering non-alcoholic spirits. And I even got my wine fix with alcohol-free Chardonnay and Shiraz!
My verdict? These small changes made a big impact on my general energy levels and my mood. I'll be taking these well into 2018 and beyond.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.