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Updated 02 July 2013

12 New Year's promises to yourself

What are the basics you should promise yourself in the new year?

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New Year. New Year's resolutions. New Year's Disillusions. Early year depression. Do you recognise the pattern? What are the basics you should promise yourself in the new year? And let's be realistic here. No one's going to manage to kick all their bad habits at once.

Spend time with important people. Friends, family, anyone you really like. We get a lot of energy and support from people we enjoy being with. Make an effort to see them often. By the same token, certain people just drain us – avoid them as far as you can.

Learn to say no. It takes a lot of courage to tell someone you can't do something for them. If you can't, don't agree and then resent yourself. Say no – people will not dislike you for being honest. If they do, they do not have your best interests at heart.

Reduce or stop smoking. Quitting smoking is immensely difficult. But you have to try. For your own sake and for the sake of those around you. Just think, no more wheezing, no more smelly breath and stinking clothes. And all that money you'll save. And you'll no longer feel like a leper in public places. Give it a go.

Sleep more. If you are always exhausted when the alarm clock goes, it may be because you're not sleeping enough. I know the day is short and there's lots to do, but careful planning can get you an extra hour of sleep every night. Do you really need to watch the mediocre late-night movie? Why can't you unplug your phone at 10 p.m.?

See at least one movie a month. Movies take you out of your world and make you forget your immediate worries. There is a reason why certain medical aids encourage regular movie-going by giving members cut-price movie tickets. Get a regular babysitter once a month and get to the cinema.

Plan a decent holiday. Once a year you should go somewhere interesting, far away and above all, relaxing. Plan this at least six months in advance, so that you have something to look forward to.

Reduce debts. Getting rid of debt requires effort and attention. If you have no debt, your finances are just so much more healthy and under control. Get the whole family involved in putting together a new budget – and stick to it. Start by paying off and closing accounts. Build up an emergency fund, at least equivalent to two months' salary, so if there's a crisis, you can dip into this rather than making debt.

Limit junk food. Now and then everyone eats junk food. It is sometimes almost unavoidable. But do not fall into a daily habit of buying fast food in the canteen at work, or off the trolley that comes round to the office.

Make time to relax. Plan for this, otherwise your existing tasks will simply consume relaxation time. Diarise time you want to take off – and stick to it. Take a nap. Read a book, phone a friend – whatever it is that relaxes you.

Go walking three times a week. Your body needs exercise to stay healthy. Most people today do reasonably sedentary jobs – and our bodies were actually not made to sit quietly for eight hours a day. Get your circulation going – even if it means walking round the block a few times per week.

Let go of the past. Nothing drains our energy quite as much as agonising about the past. Especially if we are agonising about things which others did to us, over which we had very little control. Take back your power and let go of hurtful things, which happened in the past. Learn to enjoy the present.

Make dates with your spouse. In the normal hustle and bustle of life – between kids, supermarkets, home maintenance, in-laws – we so often forget that it is important to spend quality time with our spouse. Slow down, make a date, go out somewhere quiet for supper – or even better, parcel out the kids and go away for a weekend. You do need to talk about other things than electricity accounts, the kids and home repairs.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated December 2011)

 
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