Turning Over a New Leaf for the New Year

Most New Year’s resolutions are, quite frankly, rather boring. It may be good to lose weight, get fit or give up smoking, but for most of us the good intentions will have faded by the 31st of January, if not before! Rather than abandon the idea of making a fresh start with the dawn of the new year, why not try to make a resolution that is enjoyable and more likely to last longer than the usual pledges? Here are a few ideas to get you thinking, and most are free or inexpensive.

Sing! It may be in the bath or in the car but singing along with your favourite band, pop star, show tunes or opera will lift your spirits on the gloomiest day. Log into iTunes for your own karaoke session. There you will find almost every song, along with the words, so that it is easy to join in.

Belonging to a choir has been proven to benefit our health and wellbeing and although some require a proven level of competence via an audition, most community choirs are open to all.

Consider a weekly singing lesson as it will be worth every penny in an increased sense of wellbeing. One friend of mine had always longed to sing but a teacher’s horrified instruction, sixty years before, to always mime in school assembly, had given her quite a phobia about the quality of her voice. A birthday gift to herself was a session with a sympathetic singing teacher who suggested music hall songs would suit her bubbly personality, honed performance skills and less than musical voice, and she was soon performing in charity concerts. (She ended up marrying the teacher too, but that is another story!)

Perhaps a dance class, ballroom, tap, ballet, contemporary could be your new challenge for 2020? I know someone who had not done ballet since she was a child but now, with children of her own, she is the oldest in the class, towering above the other young dancers, but loving every moment of her regular escape from day to day work and family life.

Forget gym membership and any ambitions to run a marathon, make your New Year's Pledge to walk each day. Get off the bus a stop or two earlier than is usual, park the car further from the front door of the shop, offer to walk a dog, go for a weekly stroll on the seafront, head for a park or, if the weather is foul, go up and downstairs a few times! In countries that are either very hot or very cold, many people take their daily exercise in the nearest indoor shopping mall.

Is there a rusting bicycle in your shed? Winter could be the best time to get it checked over and invest in new tyres and a cycle helmet. With an increasing number of cycle lanes on Suffolk and Norfolk roads, a gentle pedal on a sunny winter day may get you in the mood for something more strenuous when the weather improves.

Walking or cycling in the winter and spring months could be the inspiration to join in a charity event such as the Norfolk or Suffolk Historic Churches Ride and Stride Day in September.

With thousands of charities doing vital work across our two counties, why not “adopt” a favourite good cause for 2020 and find some way to support their work, either as a volunteer or by fundraising.

Change your routine. If you always have one particular newspaper, try another one occasionally. It is common for people invited to do newspaper reviews on their local radio station, to be shocked at how the news is reported differently according to which paper they read. It is rare for anyone, other than a journalist of politician, to read a selection of newspapers rather than just one.

Lots of people don’t go to the museums, art galleries and tourist attractions in their own area. Don’t wait for a visitor to come and stay with you, plan a monthly or weekly visit to a local exhibition. Get hold of a local tourist brochure or check their websites for ideas.

Do something extra to help the environment. Join in with a litter walk, buy something that isn’t made of single use plastic, and buy a pretty shopping bag - and use it!

Join a campaign. What do you feel strongly about? It may be a big international issue of political or environmental concern or a worry about a local project. Whether attending a march of thousands in London or joining a handful of protestors demonstrating about the lack of public toilets, don’t just talk about it - get involved. Even writing a letter will make you feel that you have engaged with an issue.

Go to the theatre. One year, as part of a challenge, I went to every theatre in Suffolk, small and large. I saw stand-up comedians, musicals, thrillers, dance, brass bands, plays, opera…. the theatres were all different, as were the performances. I had few disappointments and have returned to some of the theatres many times since.

Book to watch a radio or television programme being made. Seeing what happens behind the scenes will give you an insight into the work that goes into producing a panel game or entertainment show. Check https://www.itv.com/beontv/ticketsforitvshows or http://www.bbc.co.uk/showsandtours/tours/ for tickets, many of which are free. Also your local radio station will announce on air if they have an outside broadcast that is open to the public to attend. Go along!

Teach yourself a new skill via a YouTube video. I know of people who have taught themselves to play an instrument, learnt to knit and how to wallpaper their sitting room, all from watching someone else demonstrate online.

When reading your local paper or Suffolk Norfolk Life, if anything or anywhere appeals, plan a visit or book it immediately. It is too easy to procrastinate only to find the concert tickets are all sold or that appealing shop has closed down through lack of customers.

Go over the border! I know this may be a radical suggestion for residents of Suffolk and Norfolk, but we don’t need a passport to have a day out in the less familiar surroundings of our neighbours! Take a bus or train, or get in the car, and explore!

Finally, make a monthly plan, like a mini bucket list. Twelve months and twelve ideas (such as the ones above), write them into your 2020 diary and tick them off as the year progresses.

By December you will hopefully find that, physically and mentally, you are in better shape but, even if not, 2020 won’t be a boring year!

(This article was first published in Suffolk Norfolk Life magazine in January 2020)

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