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Welcome to the first post of 2021, a shiny new year beckons. Hurrah! So, it must be time for our – almost traditional (!) – different perspective to start the New Year. Well, more accurately, on how to avoid starting it with a series of over optimistic / completely unrealistic / alcohol fuelled (!) resolutions. Which are equally quickly followed by them being broken or not having the desired results. Not forgetting all the guilt and other negative emotions that entails. Deep calming breaths all round… 
Instead, let’s focus on three simple things, the importance of which we were reminded about during the rollercoaster that was 2020. They require no financial investment. No complicated or expensive equipment. Only as much time as you want to give them. Despite this, they can all be seen as investments, in the broadest sense of the word. 
The first is one it’s all too easy to take for granted. The importance of relationships, both friends and family. While we don’t tend to think of relationships as an investment, that’s exactly what they are, although not in a financial sense. Despite this, good relationships retain their value, regardless of what’s going on around us and pay steady dividends. This is particularly the case when life gets tough, as we’ve all experienced in the last year. 
As with all investments, the best results come from making a regular investment in them. Even if it’s only a small amount, it quickly adds up as time goes on. Even better, it benefits all concerned providing support, meaning and a feeling of being valued. After all, however much we don’t like to think about it, our time is finite. How we use it is important and of great value… 
The only real question is how, as there are so many different options these days. It all depends on those concerned and what they would appreciate. In person – even if you’re standing on the doorstep (!) – or an online chat. Or, perhaps, the more traditional phone call, text, e mail or card in the post. 
And, don’t forget we’re making new friendships all the time. We just don’t realise that’s what we’re doing. The kind words in passing, offers of help, exchange of recipes or news. Before we realise it, a passing acquaintance has become a new friend. 
The second is equally easy to take for granted. Well, that is until we find we can’t do all the things we usually do – or would like to do. There are lots of different words for it, many of which – thanks to school time experiences and the fitness industry – have less than positive connotations... 
Here are a few. Physical fitness, energy, stamina, “get up and go” or “oomph”. And, if you can think of a better word, please let us know! 
Whatever you decide to call it, we’re talking about your body’s functionality. Being physically able to do what you want, when you want. And most definitely NOT its appearance or other cosmetic issues (!). 
Regardless of how athletic – or not (!) – you consider yourself, everyone has some level of functionality / fitness. The good news is that, wherever you’re starting from, you can always improve it. Seen in this light, physical functionality / fitness is pure wealth, affecting every part of your life. Without it, life every other part of life is a struggle… 
And there are two very simple ways to make this investment, to improve your body’s functionality. The first is easy and just involves being more active as you go about your day. If you spend most of your day sitting down – for whatever reason – remembering to get up every so often. Having a stretch, pottering / walking around. Getting things for yourself, rather than relying on someone else to do it for you. Climbing the stairs rather than taking the escalator or lift. Parking a little further away from your destination and walking a little further. While it may sound like very small things, they quickly add up and you’ll feel the difference. 
The second, potentially, can sound a little more demanding / scary (!) but isn’t. Simply find a physical activity that you enjoy doing, then doing it more regularly or more often. And the key here is finding one that you enjoy. Not one that someone else enjoys or tells you you’ll enjoy. Coercion in any form never works… 
Perhaps it’s a traditional sport, whether team or individual. Or, something else, like walking, Yoga, Pilates or dancing. And what about things not really thought of as strenuous but can be, such as gardening or walking your four legged friend. 
Regularly doing a more strenuous physical activity will make you feel better AND your body work more efficiently. It boosts your confidence – “I did it!” – and improves your sleep. 
And, as you become fitter, just going about your day feels better – and easier too. Then there’s the added bonus that as you overall fitness – and health – improves, your body will malfunction less. Seen in this light, any associated cosmetic changes suddenly seem much less important… 
Which takes us onto the third thing we’d like to talk about today. As with fitness, there are lots of different words for it, many of which have less than positive connotations. Although, in this case, it’s more down to their perceived “fluffy” quality rather than anything else. “Peace, love and panpipes, man.” Mindset, meditation, mindfulness. This is why we prefer to describe it as the “Little Monster in your head.” 
Having just looked at the functionality of your body, what we’re talking about here is the functionality of your mind. Or, put another way, the ability to calm it down and then keep it that way. Keeping your attention where you want it to be, in the here and now; rather than being distracted by what’s happened in the past or may do so in the future. Put another way, it’s really about concentration; the ability to keep your attention where you want it to be, for as long as you want to. 
The benefits are obvious. You become much more focussed and efficient, as whatever you’re doing has 100% of your attention. Your thinking becomes clearer and the lack of mental chatter allows you to tap into your intuition, or gut instinct, if you prefer. You feel calmer and more in control of your life. The unexpected becomes easier to handle, knee jerk reactions a thing of the past. Even better, being focussed means you fully experience every part of your life. 
So, the million dollar question is how to achieve this without a herculean effort? Well, the answers are all here in this blog. All that’s needed is to start becoming aware of the mental chatter going on in your head all the time. In other words, what the Little Monster is saying. His ongoing commentary on everything that happens in your life. Stopping every so often as you go about your day and noticing what’s going on in your head. And, as you do so, not only will you suddenly understand yourself so much better but, more importantly, the chatter will slowly decrease. 
If you want to speed the process along, a few minutes meditation or cloud watching out of the window, are really easy ways to calm your mind. Then, when you’ve finished, take a few deep breaths and carry on with your day. This technique is also a great way to give yourself a quick break after you’ve finished one task before you move on to the next one. It’s stops you rushing from one thing straight on to the next one throughout the day. 
So, it’s now over to you. The antidote to the traditional guilt ridden start to the year which will pay dividends for the entire year and beyond. For you and everyone around you too. 
As always, the choice is yours. 
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