As the clock strikes midnight at the end of every year you're probably thinking new year, new me. Or maybe you're not right at that moment because you are on the dance floor passionately kissing your partner or clanging champagne glasses with friends — not that I'm talking from experience or anything (wink)! But if you're anything like me, you can bet your bottom dollar, come January one, the guilts set in and it's at that moment when I am lying on my couch eating Christmas leftovers that I decide I want to improve on myself, seeing the new year as a clean slate.

Most years, this lasts for a few weeks at best and my good intentions seem to wane. However, in January 2018, I decided enough was enough, I was going to take this self-improvement journey seriously. After suffering a miscarriage in 2017, I was in an extremely bad place, so I needed to take drastic action to work on my mental health.

Here's what I did:

1. I took on Dry January. I went teetotal. No cheeky sips of wine on a glorious afternoon. No champers at a celebratory dinner with friends. No night caps. Ok so I'm not some alcoholic but stopping booze completely made me realise how much it creeps into our lives. My entire friendship group also participated so we also were able to support each other in this endeavour. We set up a Whatsapp group and sent each other our pictures of drinking water! Made for some pretty good banter!

The benefits: I slept better, I noticed a freshness in my mind and body, I lost a bit of weight and it didn't limit me socially at all. I totally understand why my Queen JLo doesn't drink! Neither does Bradley Cooper. They're onto something! People stopped asking why I wasn't drinking and there was only a handful of times I felt FOMO.

Beyond January: I decided to minimise alcohol in general and found myself not that keen drink, especially not just because it was offered to me. Free booze at events? Thank you, next!

2. I started doing gym classes on the regular. Ok don't judge, but I've often been living the "skinny fat" life. I.e. no muscle whatsoever, but slim enough for people not to notice in clothes. I had toyed with memberships, classes, going for runs and what not, but never truly committed to anything in particular. That's when I joined the F45 cult! I became obsessed with Functional Forty-Five minutes — and found myself happy to sweat it out in HIIT workouts to old skool beats. It was also the best thing I could do to prepare my body for pregnancy.

The benefits: My batwing arms tightened, my quads were strong and my booty had less cellulite — hurrah! I had more energy and felt extremely motivated. But the most surprising thing was that I felt much more in control mentally. I think I was more addicted to the release of those feel good endorphins than my little stomach abs that were starting to form!

Beyond January: Not only could I do full push ups - keeping in mind when I started I couldn't even lift my body up with my knees on the ground, I found myself committed to something. I had no excuses to skip classes or if I had to miss one, I would make it up the next day, A minimum of four days a week belonged to my fitness. I felt more confident on the outside, but surprisingly on the inside too.

3. I started reading again. Like most people, I would find myself glaring at my phone screen before bed, when I woke up and generally when I was bored. Just mindless scrolling and clicking with nothing to show for it. I decided that if I was going to self-improve, why not read about people who actually did it? I decided to read at least two self-help books a month. Every time I hit the airport, I bought a new book ready to go when the last one ended.

The benefits: Boy, did I learn a lot! Some points made in these books were so obvious but sometimes we just need it to be spelled out. Occasionally we need a reminder about what's important in life. I totally get why Oprah has a book club. Not surprised that the likes of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett dedicate time to read and learn despite their busy AF schedules - Bill apparently reads 50 books a year!

Beyond January: Sure I cut down the amount I was reading over time, but I found myself re-reading helpful pages or quotes I had earmarked when I felt in doubt and they eased my mind. Here's my recommended list: 

  • You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
  • What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey
  • Don't Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson
  • The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
  • The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

Overall, self-improvement takes work — like anything rewarding worth having in life. But by taking on these three steps, I was able to get my mental health back on track and having less cellulite on my butt? That's a great benefit too.

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