• Elliott

My January


New Year's Resolutions. Everyone is sick of them, with studies showing that most people give them up within the first few days of the year. The new year is a meaningless and arbitrary milestone, blah blah blah; yeah yeah yeah. Heard it all before.


To that, I say - the new year is precisely what you make of it. If your ducks are already in a row, then more power to ya. Keep on keeping on. Don't let that fresh calendar make you feel obliged to make changes or follow habits you that have absolutely no intention of keeping. And yet - at the same time - if you do feel that you need change in your life, and you are striving for improvement, the new year is a good a time as any to kick into action. With the boozy, over-indulgent (and expensive) haze of December ascended and a shiny new blank calendar ahead of me, I decided that it was time. Time for...

Operation: No Fun January.

No Fun January comprises several elements, and I shall break each down for you, below:



Dry January

Once you're into mid-December, I find that it's rather easy amidst the merry-making to say "screw it, it's Christmas!" and find yourself at the bottom of a bottle with relative ease, sometimes even on a school night. I usually commit to a month off from alcohol in January to atone for my actions in December, and this year was no different.

Result: Zero alcohol consumed. No hangovers, no expensive bar tabs and no regretful late-night kebabs. A handful of early, restful nights, and a few more pennies in my pocket. Whilst I can confirm I will be undoubtedly drinking again in February, it won't be anywhere near as severe as December's efforts. I've definitely benefited from the break, as has my wallet.


Veganuary

As a society we are far, far too reliant on meat as a staple ingredient in the bulk of our meals. As a result of this, we are overfarming poultry and cattle to absurd, unsustainable levels. Over the past year or so I have been trying to reduce my meat intake, finding alternatives where possible, and trying not to eat meals that solely revolve around meat. After some encouragement from family and friends who are full-time vegans, I decided to give Veganuary a try. I'd given up meat for Lent previously, so that was already halfway there, and for a longer period of time. I'll perhaps write on this topic in more detail in a future instalment, but I am trying to find a way to do so that doesn't come across in the trademark "holier than thou" vegan tone. Watch this space I guess.

Result: Zero meat or animal products consumed. I discovered an absolute treasure trove of excellent alternatives to my usual diet, including excellent imitation meat, dairy-free chocolate, ice cream, and cheese. Shout out to What the Cluck? and Nomo chocolate bars. Whilst I don't think I will be committing to veganism permanently, I will certainly be swapping out a lot of my meat and animal products following my experience this month. More and more restaurants are offering vegan options, supermarkets have entirely vegan-centric shelves - I'd actually say that the switch this January was pretty easy.


Budgeting

As with eating and drinking, spending tends to go a little awry in December. But, I came up with a solution that I think has worked quite well for me thus far in 2022. After working out all of my essential expenses (rent, bills, council tax etc.) and monthly subscriptions (phone contract, Netflix, etc.), I divided up the remaining lump sum by the amount of days in the month, and making a mental note not to exceed this daily average expenditure unless I had several days before or after it where I spent little or no money. I'm aware that this might not work for everyone, but it makes sense in my head and I didn't find it difficult to stick to.

Result: Over £125 in extra savings due to a close eye being kept on my outgoings. Plus I actually know how much I spent on groceries this month, which gives me a ballpark figure to aim for going forward. I shall definitely be continuing this element of the operation going forward. While I have kept a close eye on my pennies, I don't feel like I've missed out on days out or not felt able to buy what I've wanted. It's been an effective compromise that I hope I am able to maintain.


Cooking

I suppose this one goes hand in hand with Veganuary and budgeting to an extent, which is rather handy. Essentially, the crux of this one was to cut down on eating out and ordering takeaways, and to cook my own food for as much of the month as I humanly could. After a long day it's all too easy to admit defeat and order a pizza, kebab or curry, but these can soon rack up if you're not careful. So, those were out, and I was left to fend for myself in the kitchen.

Result: With the exception of a couple of pre-planned meals out, everything I have eaten this month has been prepared and cooked by yours truly. Zero takeaways or pizza deliveries. I cooked a myriad of delicious meals, and ate significantly healthier food than I had for the last couple of months of 2021. And, over the course of this month, I've lost over 8lb / 3.7kg without feeling like I have really actively been trying, which I am pretty happy with.


Social Media

In an attempt to spend my downtime more productively, I imposed a limit of 15 minutes per day allocated time on Instagram and Facebook, with 30 minutes for Messenger. I had initially debated removing these apps entirely, but I felt that this was too severe of a step to take. I finally settled on a severely constrained window of time instead as a compromise, and an attempt to be mindful of just mindlessly scrolling.

Result: I've not once exceeded the limits I set myself. To be honest I'm not entirely sure I can tell you what I have done with the extra time, though I don't actually know how much more time I was spending on social media before January. Either way, I am pleased that I'm not expending much of my day on these apps, and the time that I do spend on them is now spent more mindfully and consciously. I am training myself not to subconsciously and mindlessly open and reopen the same few apps, but at the same time I don't feel too constrained or out of reach from people.


Exercise

A downside of working mostly from home is that there isn't a whole lot of movement going on. The commute across my flat from my bed to my desk is short, and I will admit that, historically, I would very rarely get up from my desk unless it was to walk to the kitchen to grab food. This month I have vowed to change this, and have managed to go for a short walk before work most mornings as a sort of pseudo-commute. Additionally, I have tried to take more meaningful breaks away from my desk at lunchtime etc. in order to break the day up and spend some more time on my feet. I've often gone for longer evening walks, and I am back to running twice a week and using my weights in the mornings.

Result: I definitely feel a little closer to when I was at my fittest. Staircases no longer defeat me, and the extra time spent outside is refreshing. I've managed to hit at least 7500 steps for the majority of this month, and I'm enjoying throwing myself at running again. I feel like it won't be long at all until I am back to where I was in terms of the length of my running routes.


Operation: No Fun January, despite its' name, actually ended up being quite a novel and dare I say - fun, experience. And whilst I can say that I won't be committing to all of its terms indefinitely, I have certainly learned a lot from this, and shall be taking the many of the lessons from it forwards into the rest of 2022 and beyond.




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