Christmas is over (boo!) and we’re approaching the end of the year. I’ve been taking the time to think about what the last 12 months have taught me. Here are my own top 4 learnings of 2018:
Periods are natural, plastics are not
This year, we’ve been warned that it’s now or never when it comes to tackling our plastic pollution – and simply recycling is no longer enough. Some plastics never go away, and unnecessary single-use plastics are everywhere. The last 12 months have felt like a step in the right direction. Some large coffee chains now reward those who opt for a reusable coffee cup, bars are ditching plastic straws and zero-waste supermarkets are popping up in town centres. But we’re hardly scratching the surface.
Every year, 13-billion plastic tampon applicators go into landfill in the UK – that’s 25 million each week! How can something as natural as menstruation be so damaging to our planet? When I got my first period, I was 13 and jumped straight into using the mainstream brands that everyone else was using, without question. Now I’m older, taking the time to learn about eco-friendly alternatives that I can incorporate into my period care regime, like cardboard applicators and menstrual cups, has meant I can play my part in ending the plastic period crisis.
There’s more than one way to workout
I used to be an all-or-nothing person when it came to exercise. There were some weeks when I’d plan my workout the night before, prep a healthy breakfast and wake up pumped for a 6 am workout at the gym. I’d keep this up for a while, then my motivation would start to slip, and I’d burn out. I’d snooze my alarm, the gym became my enemy and I’d opt for convenience over nourishment when it came to what I ate. Self-loathing and guilt would pile up and I’d feel crushed by the idea of ever facing the gym again because, surely, I’d just undone all my hard work…
This year, I’ve stopped thinking of my routine as on or off and I’ve started doing whatever feels good at the time. If I don’t want to get up for a pre-work workout, I don’t, but I’ll try to find something else that will benefit my body and mind. This year, I’ve had stints of stand-up paddle boarding, borrowed dogs for weekend walks and thrown in some Hot Pod yoga sessions. Looking for the benefits in whatever activity I feel up for doing has stopped me feeling as though I’m ever starting from scratch and saved me from those crashes of workout guilt.
It’s OK to say NO
Before this year, I struggled with the word “no”. Whether it was down to FOMO or not wanting to disappoint people, I would find myself saying yes to whatever came my way – favours, nights out, unpaid work, holidays, more nights out… I would work to other’s schedules, go out of my way to please too many people and end up spreading myself too thin. I learned that I can burn through my time and energy just as quickly as I can my bank balance.
With social media, WhatsApp, emails and all the rest of it, you can let yourself get bombarded with incoming requests all day, every day. It’s not uncommon to get to lunchtime and see 182 new messages because another WhatsApp group has blown up with friends all trying to align their own crazy schedules. These days, I’m learning not to fear those blue WhatsApp ticks. Even if I have read something, I’m not obliged to respond straight away, and I’m certainly not obliged to respond with a yes. Yes, I want to see my friends. Yes, I want to experience new things. Yes, I want to help people out. But you can’t pour from an empty cup. By being more selective about what I do or take on based on how I’m feeling at the time has helped me make myself more of a priority and put my best self forward for the things I do say yes to – which works out better for everyone involved.
I can control my Instagram feed
At the start of the year, I was following over 2,500 accounts on Instagram. I would waste hours mindlessly scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, letting those candid shots of perfect people chip away at my own self-confidence and perceived flaws. Social media has done incredible things, but this constant comparison to unachievable extremes is not one of them.
For the past 12 months, I’ve been on a slow but steady social media cull. With every post that ends up in my feed, I ask myself, what am I getting from this? Is it making me feel good? Is it educating me? If the answer is no, it’s time to say goodbye, and every unfollow feels great. If we’re going to spend over two hours a day looking through social media, isn’t it better to spend that time building ourselves up? I’m trying to curate an Instagram feed that’s inspiring and uplifting with more honesty, transparency, and authenticity. I’ve swapped Photoshop for photography and illustrations. I’ve ditched unattainable clean living for true body positivity – and I can’t recommend it enough. Try accounts like Jameela Jamils’ i_weigh or recipesforselflove to get yourself started.
What’s been your biggest learning this year? We’d love to hear what 2018 has meant to you.