For the last twenty years I have struggled with the winter months. Some years the darkness has started in November and not ended until March. I feel like it has become a self full-filling prophecy. I will feel tired, emotional, unsocial for months on end and I don’t know why I feel like this. There were sessions with a psychotherapist when I was 30 and she diagnosed me with seasonal affective disorder.
Maybe its not living near the sea, maybe its the death of my parents as a teenager, maybe its becoming a mum. Or maybe its just the lack of vitamin D and daylight hours.
Try Something Different
I can’t carry on like this, so this year I’ve tried something different. And it has genuinely worked. The catalyst for change and a happier mind was to set myself a simple daily goal. To do at least 15k steps every day. I really think this was the start of many changes that have led to a much happier start to the year. The happiest ever. 15k steps for me is 11km of walking or 13km if I add in a run. It’s a two hour commitment if I walk it, quicker with running and I try to do long runs.
Every day I have spent significant time outside in the winter sunshine, wind or rain, listening to life enriching podcasts such as Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place, or the Rest is Politics with Alistair Campbell and Rory Stewart. I focus on the nature and the beauty surrounding my village, the colours on a crisp winters day, the snow drops that appear in late January, the huge variety of birds, the constant flow of dog-walkers who never fail to say hello, the leaves dropping from the trees, conkers, squirrels everywhere and the twinkling Christmas lights.
Often you’ll find me pacing around my garden in the evening to get my last few steps in, leaving voice notes to my besties or listening to them. my favourite way to get in a few k of steps. A voice note exchange with bestie Becky will easily be 3000 steps!
Increase Fitness and Activity
The 15k steps commitment means that I am already burning an extra 800 calories a day. And I have committed to significant extra exercise on top of this. I go the gym at least three times a week and do a variety of classes, from spin to circuit training to yoga to weights. And I’ll always start with a run to help with my steps target for the day. I’ll often reach 1500 calories burnt in one day.
A key part of the fitness has been having an accountability buddy, Eve and I message every day with our exercise updates, cheering each other on when we have had a good day, encouraging each other when we don’t feel like doing any exercise. We do talk about other stuff!! We also met in real life and did a huge 9 mile walk around Grafham Water.
Tracking my Food
Another part of my strategy was to eat more fruit and vegetables, more protein, but less red meat, carbs, dairy, booze and caffeine. And I tracked my calories for the month of January using my Samsung health App. I was aiming to have at least 1000 calorie deficit every day. Absolutely not a sustainable diet, but a great way to kick start healthy living and drop a significant amount of weight. The biggest difference I noticed was the impact of not drinking alcohol, as the next day after drinking always seems to result in a huge increase in calories with the need for comfort food, sugar and fat. The alcohol itself is calorific, even those gin and slimline tonics, each double is 104 calories. Go one, add up a night out on Gin and Slims.
All of the above increased exercise and mostly putting good food into my body gave my mental health a huge lift. I felt positive and motivated, especially after exercise. And I lost weight. The maths are pretty simple, work to a calorie deficit, exercise more and eat less and the weight will drop. I lost 7kg in fat during January. Another motivational factor for me. I’ve written recently about my body image thoughts and its something I’ve struggled with my entire life.
I am over weight, and for my own mental and physical health I need to weigh less. I don’t need to lose loads more after my initial January loss, I am targeting my weight to be 70 something kgs. As I write I’m not far off target. A comfortable size 12/14 will be lovely.
Time with Friends
Reflecting back I think that my positive mindset started at Christmas. I’ll fully admit I’m not a huge Christmas fan, made more challenging with my recent divorce and splitting of children between parents. But this year I decided to make a big deal of it, I had my boys are a whole week from Christmas Eve until New Years Eve so we had a few days at home in Cornwall. We had the best time with my sister, niece and nephew. Christmas day was a delight with amazing food cooked by my sister, and an afternoon and evening of games and drinks. We then spent two more days walking for miles by the sea and time with my family. It was delightful.
I’ve spent January catching up with friends or arranging meet ups. So far I’ve been to a gorgeous day spa, met my old boss for coffee, met my fellow money experts Timi and Jordon for lunch. And I type I’m sat on a train travelling to Edinburgh for the weekend to see one of my besties Neil who has recently moved there.
I have booked in a spa weekend with my university besties for our birthdays in March, and have lots of drinks/dinners to look forward to over February and March. And I have booked my summer holidays with the boys and again with my friend Kate and her boys, third year in a row now, a friend whom I met on holiday!
Time Away from Dating Apps
I deleted the dating apps just before Christmas, a little Christmas gift to myself. I wrote about the damaging impact of dating apps in this recent article. It was an addiction that needed to be removed from my life.
But I will tell you that I did download Bumble after an encouraging conversation (Is it me or them? Of course it’s them) with my aforementioned friend Eve. Matched to man, who is amazing, and the app was very quickly deleted again.
It’s true, when you stop looking and you surround yourself with positivity, good things come your way.
I am often dogged with concerns about my business, how much longer can I keep the Mrs Mummypenny wheel turning, am I still relevant, do brands want to work with me? My positive mindset in January has, of course, flowed into new work projects and commitments. Only this week I have agreed three new big projects. I can’t wait to share the new content with you, collabs with brands that I love and personally use to save me money.
What I recognise and need to remind myself is that I will always be relevant, because we will always need to learn new ways to simply and quickly save a few or a lot of pounds. We will always have life events that happen that mean we lose out financially or gain financially. And I’ll always be here with my real life experience and information to make things easier for you.