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Use your voiceThe number one thing that people can do, says Libby Peake, senior policy adviser at the Green Alliance, â€œis to press your representatives to hold politicians to account over their environmental promisesâ€. Also, consider switching your pension and bank accounts to companies that donâ€™t invest in fossil fuels. â€œIf done on a collective basis,â€ Peake says, â€œthis will send a clear message to businesses and governments that this is important to people.â€
Avoid anything single use
Think beyond plastic, says Peake. â€œIn a lot of instances, people are switching from single-use plastic to unnecessary single-use wooden cutlery, paper straws or aluminium cans,â€ she says. â€œBut those materials will also have an impact on the environment.â€
Let bugs live
â€œIf everybody started doing insect-friendly things, it could have a real impact on insect populations,â€ says Peake.
Cutting out pesticide use, growing insect-friendly plants and refraining from lawn mowing are encouraged.
Shop vintage more often than not
â€œThe clothing industry creates more emissions than aviation and shipping combined,â€ says Peake. â€œIf you buy secondhand clothing, or at least invest in better-quality items, you will make a real impact on the climate crisis and pollution.â€ No vintage stores or bountiful charity shops nearby? Shop online from Oxfam, Rokit, Beyond Retro and Brag, among a host of others.
Explore flight-free holiday options
â€œBy not flying anywhere,â€ says Peake, â€œyou can drastically reduce your CO2 emissions and still have a great time.â€ She points out that the UK has 15 stunning national parks. Research rail travel to European destinations, consider Interrailing and house-swapping schemes at destinations reachable by rail or road.
Fear not the used electric car market
If you need a car, the Green Alliance has gathered reassuring data on the used electric vehicle (EV) market; because of lower running and maintenance costs, used EVs work out cheaper over five years of ownership. If you own a high-emissions car like an SUV, even exchanging it for one with a conventional petrol engine, five rungs down the car-tax brackets, would cut your driving emissions by more than a third, while halving your road tax. But, says Green Alliance policy director Dustin Benton, â€œthe smarter thing to do is to buy a second- or thirdhand EV, and lower your carbon footprint by two thirds.â€
Buy refurbished or remanufactured electronicsA little like refurbishing, â€œremanufacturing is a factory-based process where electronics are returned to as-new quality, and resold with a warranty,â€ Peake says. Look out for remanufactured goods becoming more commonplace over the coming year, and in the meantime, buy more refurbished and reconditioned electronics. Most come with decent warranties; chances are youâ€™ll get something as good as new, a lot cheaper. â€œEvery new electronic item that makes it to market,â€ says Peake, â€œcreates vast amounts of waste.â€ Smartphones, for example, contain 100g of minerals, but miners must dig through 30kg of rock to find it, according to a Greenpeace report. And Friends of the Earth, she says, â€œestimates that each smartphone requires 12,760 litres of water (160 baths).â€
Plan your meals
â€œMinimising food waste is a good way to reduce carbon impacts,â€ says Myles McCarthy, director of implementation at the Carbon Trust. â€œBuy only what you will eat and home compost your food waste.â€ If it ends up in landfill, it can produce the greenhouse gas methane. Meal planning and shopping lists are key, says Peake, and will make your life a lot easier. Look for batch-cooking ideas online to save time and energy.
Make meat a treat
While going vegan is ideal, even reducing your meat and dairy consumption can have a big impact, McCarthy says. Beef and lamb are the biggest offenders, â€œand most dairy products are likely to have substantially higher carbon footprints than vegetablesâ€. Analysis from the Green Alliance shows that the UK could get on track for zero carbon from land use if we ate 30% less red meat by 2030, combined with other measures. In his book We Are The Weather, Jonathan Safran Foer suggests cutting out meat and dairy until dinnertime, but any reduction is worthwhile, says Peake. Donâ€™t let feeling guilty for not going fully vegan stop you.
Adopt a jumper-first policy
Itâ€™s an oldie but a goodie, says Peake: â€œPut on a jumper before you reach for the heating thermostat. Households are much warmer now than they were in the 1970s. People used to manage in colder rooms.â€
Go to bed on time
Respect your circadian rhythm by going to bed and getting up at regular times, says Guy Meadows, managing partner at the Sleep School. By doing this, â€œyouâ€™re more likely to wake up at the right time in your sleep cycle, which means youâ€™re more likely to feel refreshedâ€. Wherever your daily sleep requirements sit in the ideal range of between seven and nine hours for adults, keeping a regular sleep-wake cycle impacts everything from â€œappetite hormones to your heart rate and your blood pressureâ€.
Declutter your bedroom
â€œYour bed is for sleep and s** only,â€ says Renata Riha, consultant in sleep and respiratory medicine at the University of Edinburgh. â€œItâ€™s not for watching television, knitting, reading for hours on end, or eating. Your bedroom should be a space that invites sleep.â€ Declutter, she says, â€œstep by step, drawer by drawerâ€.
Switch off from work earlier
â€œDisengaging from work, email and your phone for at least an hour prior to bed can be helpful,â€ says Riha, who is also co-director of Sleep Consultancy Ltd. Meanwhile, put some thought into activities that help you wind down. She suggests a hot shower an hour before bed, because when you get out, your body will cool to an optimal sleep temperature. Or, â€œsharing your problems, if you can, with an engaged and sympathetic listenerâ€.
Dine a little earlier
â€œEating acts as another marker that tells your brain itâ€™s still time to be awake,â€ Meadows says. â€œIt helps to leave at least a couple of hours between eating and sleeping.â€ Weâ€™re designed, he adds, to do our eating within a 12-hour window each day and then fast for the following 12. But most of us actually spread our eating over 15 hours.
Take 10 deep breathsIf youâ€™re chronically stressed, you can get into a vicious cycle where stress ruins your sleep, and then tiredness exacerbates the stress. â€œTaking 10 deep breaths can be a simple way to take you out of that fight-or-flight state,â€ Meadows says. â€œSocialising is another powerful way to relieve stress.â€
Become less dependent on sleep aids
If you ask a normal sleeper what they do to sleep, says Meadows, â€œtheyâ€™ll say, â€˜nothingâ€™. Whereas if you ask an insomniac, theyâ€™ll give you a list as long as their arm.â€ He observes that for many, â€œitâ€™s their extreme efforts to try and control their insomnia that push their sleep further awayâ€; sleep aids, from ear plugs or lavender pillows to Night Nurse or diazepam, erode trust in your ability to nod off naturally. Meadows says you should start by identifying these mental crutches. He uses mindfulness to help clients view their fears of sleeping without aids as â€œjust noise in their headsâ€.
Give your overactive mind a name
Learn how to lean in to the brain chatter that keeps you awake, Meadows says, by giving your mind a name: â€œIt could be the inner critic, head of drama, the Death Star.â€ This, he says, â€œcan transform the way you relate to your own mental eventsâ€.
Dim all lights an hour before bed
â€œLight is one of the most powerful circadian synchronisers,â€ Meadows says. â€œReduce the brightness on your telly, phone or iPad. Itâ€™s about proximity as well. One of the problems with devices is that we hold them really close, directed straight into our eyeballs and their light-sensitive cells.â€
Make midday your caffeine cutoffFor optimum sleep architecture, which means getting the right amounts of light, deep and REM sleep, stopping caffeine at midday is the place to start. Caffeine has a half-life of six hours, and a quarter-life of 12 hours, so even quitting at midday leaves you a quarter caffeinated beyond bedtime (unless you keep unusual hours). â€œMany beverages and foods contain caffeine, so check the label,â€ adds Riha. Usual suspects include chocolate, or chocolate or coffee-flavoured desserts and cereals, that bedtime mug of cocoa and some headache medications.
Take your sleep disorder seriously
If you suspect that you or your bed partner (or any other cohabitee) has a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnoea, snoring, restless legs syndrome or insomnia, â€œmake a doctorâ€™s appointment,â€ says Riha.
Bringing video evidence of a sleep disorder to a health professional is, he says, â€œworth a thousand words and allows them to make the right diagnosis or referralâ€.
Check your assumptions
When weâ€™ve known someone for a long time, itâ€™s easy to make assumptions about what theyâ€™re thinking or feeling, or what they mean. Relationship coach and author Sam Owen suggests asking more questions instead, â€œespecially during argumentsâ€.
Be kindâ€œKnow what your partner likes and use that information to be kind,â€ says Ammanda Major, head of service quality and clinical practice at Relate. â€œTake time to speak and listen.â€ Being kind can simply mean showing interest, even when youâ€™re not that interested in, say, someone elseâ€™s office politics (you should expect the same in return).
Give someone space
â€œRemember that people do need a little bit of separate space,â€ says Major. No one has a right to expect instant responses. â€œGive people time to reflect and donâ€™t demand instant answers.â€
Write thank you notes
Everyone likes to be appreciated, including work colleagues, says Joel Garfinkle, executive coach and author of Getting Ahead: Three Steps To Take Your Career To The Next Level. Thank people for their work, whether theyâ€™re â€œabove you, below you, or at peer level,â€ he says. As well as handwritten notes, email or voicemail thank yous will strengthen bonds between you and your colleagues, says Garfinkle.
Root out one-upmanshipWhether you are friends, colleagues or lovers, Major says, â€œitâ€™s very easy to slip into one-upmanship over who has had the worst day. The reason is usually because we feel unheard: â€˜Why do I need to keep telling you Iâ€™ve had such an awful day? Because I donâ€™t think youâ€™ve responded to me in a way that lets me know you understand.â€™â€
Use â€œIâ€ statementsIf you moan to someone about their actions, Major says, â€œyouâ€™re probably going to create a defensive situation. Whereas if you say, â€˜I felt really sad when we had that row and I would really like us to talk more about it,â€™ nobody can argue with that: itâ€™s how you feel and youâ€™re appropriately sharing it.â€
Level with new love interests
â€œBe as clear as you can about what you want from a relationship,â€ Major says. If youâ€™ve struggled with previous relationships, she suggests, â€œsometimes it can be very helpful to get some counselling, to help you reflect on whatâ€™s important to you.â€
â€œSocialising is linked to increases in happiness, and being around the good people in your life is energising,â€ Owen says. But people who knock your self-esteem can have the opposite effect. She recommends pruning these draining relationships. â€œTrust the visceral feelings that you get in your body that tell you if you feel good or bad in someoneâ€™s presence.â€
Give a little
â€œGiving has been linked to increases in resilience and happiness, even if itâ€™s costly,â€ says Owen, whose latest book is Happy Relationships: 7 Simple Rules To Create Harmony And Growth. Giving can mean many things, from â€œgiving your time to an elderly neighbour, or helping your parents more, or giving something to somebody who is homelessâ€.
Try biting your tongue
This is not to suppress expressing your feelings, but rather, learning to become more reflective than reactive. If something bothers you, Owen says, â€œwatch it over time. Do something that regulates your emotions. Go for a walk (which can help problem solve), listen to some music.â€ This gives you time to consider how to frame the issue in more productive language.
Susan Michie, professor of health psychology at University College London, says that â€œbeing your own scientist and collecting data,â€ through regular weighing or wearing a fitness monitor, is a proven route to success. â€œIf you donâ€™t collect data about yourself, itâ€™s unlikely that youâ€™re going to notice what works for you.â€
Use visual prompts
If you want to start a fitness habit, itâ€™s important to leave visual nudges for yourself. â€œEven something small like putting your running trainers by the door,â€ suggests Emma Norris, research fellow for the Human Behaviour Change Project at University College London.
Make â€œif thenâ€ plans
â€œIf Iâ€™m going to work, then Iâ€™ll pack some fruit in my bag.â€ Or, â€œIf it rains on a running day, then Iâ€™ll do a YouTube workout instead.â€ Plans like this, says Norris, â€œreduce the option for you to opt out, by programming yourself to think that this is what you would always do in that situationâ€.
Temper your goals
As tempting as it may be to try to do everything at once, setting attainable goals is key, says Margie Lachman, professor of psychology at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. â€œIt is hard to make a big change all at once. Small increments are helpful.â€ If you get a pedometer, for example, Norris recommends upping your existing step count by 10% each week.
Give up less easily
â€œThereâ€™s some evidence that the time taken to form a habit ranges from 18 days to 254 days, depending on the person and the behaviour,â€ says Norris. So if it doesnâ€™t stick quickly, be persistent and use the strategies listed here to help you.
â€œWhen you reach those little milestones,â€ Norris says, â€œthink creatively about what a healthy reward would be for you: seeing a friend, reading a book youâ€™ve been meaning to read, or whatever works for you that isnâ€™t the obvious cake.â€
Try a free workoutThe NHS website has a virtual fitness studio, says Norris, â€œwith a range of free workouts ranging from 10-45 minutes, across aerobics, strength training, pilates, dance and moreâ€. YouTube, she says, â€œis chock-a-block with free programmes and videos: Joe Wicksâ€™s The Body Coach is my personal go-to for 15-20 high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts.â€ She recommends trying a variety.
Sneak activity into everyday life
â€œIf you are busy and live by your calendar,â€ Lachman says, â€œput times in the schedule when you can be active. Take extra steps rather than shortcuts; walk the stairs instead of getting the lift, park further away from the destination, take a walk during a one-on-one meeting.â€
Make exercise social
â€œAccountability helps,â€ Lachman says, â€œso let others know you are trying to be more active. Share your accomplishments on social media. Find an activity partner or walking group.â€
Stand up every 30 minutesâ€œSo many of us are chained to our desks every day,â€ says nutrition and fitness author Louise Parker. â€œIf you make getting up every 30 minutes or so a habit, not only will it keep you moving, but it can help give your brain a refresh.â€
Separate mealtimes from screen time
â€œIf youâ€™re watching TV, scrolling through Instagram or checking your emails, youâ€™re not paying much attention to what youâ€™re eating,â€ Parker says. The result: you are more likely to eat more, but will feel less full for it.
For those who struggle to eat enough vegetables, â€œa green smoothie that has at least two portions of veg and one of fruit is a great way to top up your intake,â€ Parker says.
Plan your work food
Weâ€™re more likely to choose unhealthy foods outside the home. â€œLook at your schedule at the start of the day,â€ advises Parker, â€œand plan meals and snacks, avoiding long gaps when you might feel excessively hungry.â€
Eat more protein (if you want to lose weight)
â€œThe longer something takes to digest, the farther down the gut it will go and the fuller it will make you feel,â€ says Giles Yeo, principal research associate, MRC metabolic diseases unit, Cambridge University and author of Gene Eating: The Story Of Human Appetite. Any protein â€“ whether itâ€™s from meat, beans or other plant sources â€“ takes longer to digest than fats or carbs, he says. Peanuts, almonds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds are good protein sources, along with soya products such as tofu and soy milk.
Stop blindly counting calories
The energy load from ingredients varies wildly according to how theyâ€™re prepared, plus we all metabolise foods differently, so counting calories isnâ€™t much use. â€œIf you eat 100 calories worth of sweetcorn and then you look into the loo the next day, itâ€™s painfully obvious you have absorbed nowhere close to that,â€ says Yeo. But if you eat tortillas made of dried and ground corn, he says, â€œa far greater percentage of the calories become availableâ€. Cooking releases more calories in many foods, too, which is why, says Yeo, â€œpeople lose weight on raw vegan dietsâ€.
Focus less on restrictionsâ€œTry and focus on what nutrition you can add to your diet, instead of cutting out or restricting food,â€ says Aisling Pigott, NHS and private dietitian, and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association. â€œAdd flavours with plenty of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and protein,â€ she says. â€œIf your favourite meal is spaghetti bolognese, try switching to a sensible portion of brown pasta, bulking the sauce out with vegetables and mixing in different recipes (such as a lentil bolognese).â€
Donâ€™t skip meals
â€œRegular meals are key to building a healthy relationship with food,â€ says Pigott. Stabilising our eating patterns allows us to make positive food choices, whereas â€œskipping meals, or going long periods without eating can lead to overriding our bodiesâ€™ hunger and fullness cuesâ€. The trouble with being so busy that we donâ€™t stop, she says, â€œis that it can be difficult to recognise these cues, making us more likely to overeatâ€.
Stop and enjoy every meal
â€œWhether you are eating broccoli or biscuits,â€ Pigott says, â€œtaking time to taste and enjoy what you are eating is as nourishing as the food you are putting in your body.â€
Prioritise herbs and spices over salt
Salt is not the only way to make a meal sing with flavour, and as Pigott points out, â€œmany of us are consuming too much of itâ€. Salt intake can increase the risk of raised blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Make cooking from scratch easier
As a protective measure against the added sugars in ready meals, Pigott recommends arming yourself with quick and easy recipes. â€œI love Jack Monroeâ€™s Tin Can Cook book, which has some wonderful store cupboard staples,â€ she says. Swapping recipe ideas with friends and family, she says, â€œcan be really motivatingâ€. Anything more than a small glass of juice (150ml) will slosh extra sugar into your diet, but â€œwill not provide health benefits,â€ says Pigott.
In pics: Let mindfulness be your New Year’s resolution for 2020 (Slideshow by StarsInsider)