Soothe your soul with small life changes and plenty of sleep
The cosy concept of hygge is never more necessary than during those bleak, traditionally self-denying weeks after the Christmas festivities, when we vainly pursue that elusive ‘New Year, New You’. Dr Ilona Boniwell, a leading specialist in positive psychology, says that overambitious New Year’s resolutions will almost always end in disappointment. ‘The vast majority of big changes you try to make in your life are not very successful,’ says Boniwell. ‘Being kinder to yourself means being realistic and allowing yourself to make tiny changes.’
For example, if you want to exercise more this year, setting a target of gym sessions every day is probably doomed straightaway. Instead, says Boniwell, choose an activity that is pleasurable, and tell yourself you will start doing it once a week, then increase it from there. Likewise, if you are looking to lower your alcohol consumption, having a glass or two once or twice a week is more easily adhered to than leaping head first into ‘dry January’.
‘It’s a lot less scary and a lot more realistic.
Trying to make too big changes can lead to dramatically miserable consequences – when we fail, we begin to engage in negative behaviour,’
January can also be a time of struggling with insomnia. Anxiety about returning to work is often to blame, but winter itself can be a culprit, according to Dr Guy Meadows, a sleep expert and the clinical director of the Sleep School. ‘Not so long ago, we were incredibly in tune with the seasons,’ he says. ‘It’s only since the arrival of the light bulb that we have started ignoring our natural sleeping drives. Instead of adapting our behaviour to the change in seasons, we keep it the same all year round.’
Ensuring a good night’s rest means taking a conscious decision to switch off. That means putting down the phone or tablet and getting a traditional, Wi-Fi-free alarm clock. ‘If you spend time on an iPad or tablet before bed, as opposed to reading a book, there is a reduction in melatonin and a delay in sleep onset. Gadgets emit blue light that affects the sensitive cells in our eyes, which have cleverly evolved to detect the amount of light in our environment,’ he explains. ‘Putting a phone in front of your face before bed is like putting a mini sun in front of it.’
If, conversely, you are struggling with a lack of daylight, Kodobio Sensory Therapy at Michaeljohn’s Belgravia Medispa incorporates the same light stimulation used in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder, combined with different aromas to improve mood and reduce anxiety. Professor Tim Jacob, who developed the treatment, says it is ‘like mindfulness or meditation, but without the need for technique or training’. sr
Winter Clarifying Bath and Shower Oil, £34 Lola’s Apothecary
Restore Aura Spray, £28 Roques
Pure Calm Wellness Oil, £60 Uma at
Perfect Peace scented candle, £30 Neom
Pillowcase, £62 Slip at Net-A-Porter