3 Steps to a Happier New Year

Plus, a Knock-out Masala Soup

At this time of year there is so much focus on resolutions, giving things up and drying ourselves out. What about celebrating what went before, getting excited about what’s to come and making genuine plans for a truly tremendous and memorable year?

I’m posting a beautiful new year soup, but firstly want to share some extremely practical and liberating techniques that can allow you to go about things a bit differently this January.

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  1. Firstly, take a moment to REFLECT on 2015

I don’t think we should live life looking backwards. We need to embrace today and whatever happens we need to keep moving forwards. However, I think we sometimes move so fast that we fail to pause, to reflect on what has gone before. Reflection gives the opportunity to smile at the wonderful and sometimes bonkers moments, see the changes in our lives and appreciate the times where things went wrong. If we’re doing a really great job at this, reflection can allow us to see where we should make changes so we don’t make the same daft mistakes all over again.

I make a family album every December, I start with some words on what happened in the year. ‘2015 was the year that Tobias lost his first two teeth, Martha was a star in the Christmas play, we moved house to number 30, we holidayed in the mountains and Alex finally joined me in the Tough Mudder challenge…’ Then I follow with some favourite pictures from each month. It’s a simple and pretty old fashioned exercise but it gives me time to indulge in both my memories and my whacking great love for the brood. Ultimately it always charges me with a powerful appreciation that time is precious and it’s racing by so fast.

If an album seems a bit like overkill, consider putting aside an afternoon to go through all your digital materials from 2015, pulling down things from all phones and cameras. Create a file for the year gone by and if time allows pull out your best shots and videos into a folder called ‘favourites from 2015’. Then create a back-up, or like me, find someone with some degree of technical competence to do that for you!

After that cathartic task you will almost certainly feel charged with some sort of drive to look ahead and make 2016 a great year.

  1. The stop, do, start challenge

Forget the resolutions and your promises to give things up. It’s depressing to start the year, already feeling pudgy, tired and run down with a list of things you now need to quit. With a moments peace, get yourself a cup of tea or a glass of wine, grab a large piece of paper or 3 pieces of white A4 and a nice fresh sharpie pen. Write the 3 separate headings:

  • STOP

Then without caution, throw yourself into the task. Think about what you want to get from 2016, how you want your life to change, the emotions you want to feel about yourself, your experiences and your relationships. You’ll be surprised how easy this is once you get into it.

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What do I want to stop?

These can be as literal or emotive as you want them to be. You may have ‘Stop smoking’ in the same list as ‘Stop beating myself up’ or ‘Stop spreading myself too thinly’. There is no wrong or right, just dig deep to the things that don’t actually make you happy, not the things other people want from you. This is your exercise so make yourself the centre of the task. You won’t find it easy to stop things for other people, but will be able to make changes if you address what will make you a happier person this year.

What do I want to carry on and do more of?

Acknowledging what you like and things that make you feel great is a remarkably positive thing to do. We spend far too much time beating ourselves up. What about saying ‘I am brilliant at that and I am glad that’s a part of my life’.

For each carry on, there is usually a do more of such as:

Carry on…

Making amazing suppers, seeing and loving my friends, running

Do more of…

Trying new recipes, make a regular date with friends, enter more races

Enthuse about the opportunity you have to do more of these things you enjoy.

What do I want to start doing?

Go for it. End this year having tried something new. Life is so short that we need to grab hold of any opportunity to experience new things.

The reason this is so rewarding is that there are no rules to it and there is certainly no contract at the end of the exercise. You just get a good insight in to where you’re actually at and what you truly and practically need to do to make this a happier year.

The key to making the exercise have impact is to move from planning things to acting upon them. The most rewarding and the easiest place to start is with the things you want to start and do more of. Follow up on at least one thing the next day. Research your first Spanish lesson, finally get the dog into a training class, or book a table for a date night next week.

  1. De-clutter

The third and most important thing you should do right now, or as soon as humanly possible… clear some crap! I firmly believe that the things we surround ourselves with affects and reflects our sanity. It sounds dramatic, but if we’re holding onto things we don’t need, surrounding ourselves with items that add no value to our day to day existence, then we are surrounding ourselves with clutter, which can get in the way emotionally.

Holding on to clothes, toys or broken possessions, is like holding on to the past. Whereas creating some space helps us better enjoy things we use and love in our lives today. Space is a great thing, important for clarity and clearer decision making.

Go one room at a time and ask yourself

  • Do we use this?
  • Does someone wear this?
  • Does this bring someone joy to look at?

When the answer is no – move to the clear out pile! Once you start you’re immediately on the way to a more ordered, calmer home and a clutter free mind.

And now for the soup!

As we get back into the routine of life including work, school and fitness, soulful soup like this provides a perfect refuel half way through the day.

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You will need:

  • A tablespoon of coconut oil
  • A large (or two small) butternut squash
  • A white onion
  • 3 leeks
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 3 generous teaspoons of masala curry powder
  • Enough vegetable stock to cover the vegetables (probably around 750ml)
  • Seasoning
  • Seeds to sprinkle on top

It is easy to make:

  1. Heat the oil, add the onions and garlic and fry on a medium heat till soft.
  2. Add the leeks for another 2 – 3 minutes until they also soften.
  3. Add the chopped butternut squash, the stock and the curry powder.
  4. Put a pan lid on and give the soup a good 20 minutes or so on a gentle heat.
  5. Once the vegetables are soft the soup is almost ready. Leave to cool for 10 minutes.
  6. Blend with a hand processor or pop into a stand up blender.

Enjoy this gorgeous nourishing feed and good luck with your new year start.