We often start the new year with great intentions. We pen down our resolutions with a sense of renewed purpose, but sometimes, life inevitably gets in the way. Clearly, checking them off our list is easier said—or scribed—than done. It seems the key is to keep them simple but targeted, and this is accentuated by The Lonely Planet’s new book, 101 Ways to Live Well. We’ve taken the liberty to extract from it some easy ways to keep you inspired about life, so you have one less thing to worry about.
Lift Your Mood
The scent of jasmine oil has been proven to have an arousing effect on the body, increasing breathing rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels in the blood. To feel more alert and uplifted, mix jasmine essential oil with a carrier oil (almond works well) and use your fingertips to rub a little of the mixture on to your temples, down your nose and on to your décolletage or chest area. The natural heat of the body will help disperse the scent into the air. Alternatively, if you’re not into massage oils, choose an indoor candle scented with jasmine and light it for 20 minutes to allow the smell to permeate throughout the room.
Freshen up your water intake
One of the most common excuses for not drinking the recommended eight glasses a day is that people find plain water boring. The solution? Transform it into a fruit-infused tonic. For a refreshing drink, slice a handful of fresh strawberries, a 5cm (2in) chunk of cucumber and 2 limes. Take a large glass jug and layer the fruit, along with a small handful of fresh mint leaves, with ice cubes. Next, fill the jug with water and pop it in the fridge to infuse. Fancy something more fragrant? Fill a large jug with water and add 2 large handfuls of blueberries and a generous sprinkling of edible lavender flowers. Cover and chill until ready to drink, then strain, add ice and sup up.
Research shows that looking at cute images not only enhances mood but also improves performance for tasks that require concentration. The perfect excuse to seek out those puppy memes! Looking at baby animals triggers our biological predisposition to respond to infant features (the so-called “baby schema”), such as a large head, protruding forehead and large eyes—and indirectly improves attention skills. Change your computer desktop image to show cute animals or flick through six or seven different images on the web when you’re particularly prone to procrastination.
Take a better break
Research indicates that hitting the pause button and taking your allocated break earlier in the working day increases energy levels and enhances productivity. Try to schedule your break for mid-morning (or the equivalent if you work shifts) for just one day, and see what effect it has. Experts also suggest that to feel the most refreshed and satisfied after a break at work, an individual has to set the agenda for their free time themselves. So take that time earlier in the day to do what you want to do, whether that’s staying at your desk to finish a project that you care about, calling a friend to catch up or fitting in an exercise session.
Don’t be afraid to try something new
Fear can be a powerful motivation-crusher. This mindfulness task will help you get over the barrier. When you want to try something new—learning to kitesurf or taking an art class—sometimes fear pops up. But you can knock it back. First, recognise the fear and admit the effects it has (panic, racing heart). Next, ask yourself, what’s the worst thing that can happen? You’d look silly? You’d be out some money? It’s usually all stuff you’d get past. And if you did fail, there’s at least one good thing: you’d never have to regret not having tried. Then make a plan to start small and just do it.
Feel the beat
Music can alter brain activity. Depending on the rhythm, it may make you calmer or more alert. Studies have shown that tunes with a strong beat fire up the brain and prompt brainwaves to resonate in time with the rhythm. Slow beats cue slow brainwaves, such as those that occur in hypnotic or meditative states. Faster beats rev up faster brainwaves that result in more alert and focused thinking. So the Foo Fighters’ “No Way Back” would be good to rock out to before a test or presentation, while Adele’s “Someone Like You” might be best before bed.
This therapy technique from clinical psychologist Dr Michael Brustein (drbrustein.com) uses the analogy of knocking at someone’s door to facilitate friendly exchange with others, encouraging active listening and curiosity. First, ring the bell; show a willingness to talk. Instead of asking, “How was your day?” try, “Tell me three things that surprised you today.” Does the other person seem to want to talk or desire their own space? If they open the door, be curious about their answers and validate their feelings. If they seem to keep the door closed, follow up gently but don’t turn away altogether. After they’ve opened the door to their experience, you can then express you own experience and share the space together.
Get instant happiness
Smiling is evolutionarily contagious – and the power of this facial action to stimulate the brain’s happiness response is catching too! Whether you’re at home or work, out and about in your neighbourhood or on holiday, make an effort to smile at other people, while holding eye contact with them. Smiling has proven biological benefits for the smiler—reduced stress—hormone levels, lower blood pressure, increased mood-enhancing hormone production—and you’ll be surprised by how many people react positively. In fact, science confirms that, when smiling, we’re perceived to be more likeable, courteous and competent.
Ease tired, blistered feet
Green tea is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anti-fungal, which means sticking your feet in a tub of tea-infused water reduces puffiness, prevents infections and fights odour. It’s hard work traipsing around Paris or Buenos Aires all day, and your feet are screaming for mercy. Treat them to a green-tea footbath. Brew a strong batch using five or so tea bags, allow it to cool to a pleasing temperature and pour it into a small tub. Now plunge your bare tootsies in and soak away their sorrows for 10–15 minutes.
Harness the travel mindset wherever you are
These simple-to-do activities in your “real” life cultivate the same sense of adventure and bliss you feel while travelling. One way to globe-trek at home is to try different foods. Try a Burmese restaurant, Jamaican market or Colombian bakery. Likewise, drive to an unfamiliar part of town, walk a few blocks and see what you see. This blends into a third component of keeping the vibe alive: notice the details around you. Novel things surround you at home as well as abroad, but you forget to pay attention. Maybe keep a journal of what you experience. It’s all about getting a new viewpoint and being inspired.
Reproduced with permission from 101 Ways to Live Well, © 2016 Lonely Planet”; lonelyplanet.com