In the month of July, we are focusing on taking ACTION at Happy Futures. It’s always daunting to start a project, try something new or take on a challenge, but everything new, good and exciting always starts with a first step. So this month, get out of your comfort zone and try out these 5 ways to take action in your own life, at work and in your community.
1. Get active
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – getting active is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental wellbeing. According to the NHS, the average adult should do some type of physical activity every day. Any type of activity is good for you and of course, the more you do the better.
Adults should do strengthening activities that work all the major muscles, like your legs, hips, back, abs, chest, shoulders and arms on at least 2 days a week. You can do this by lifting weights at the gym, doing yoga or doing bodyweight exercising at home or in the garden. Adults should also do moderate aerobic activities. They include activities which will raise your heart rate and make you breathe faster, like brisk walking, dancing or riding a bike. Believe it or not, housework like hoovering or pushing a lawn mower can also count towards reaching your moderate activity goals. Remember, if you are not as mobile or new to exercising, you can easily introduce a bit of movement into your routine by breaking up long periods of not moving, such as sitting or lying down, with some stretching, taking a few steps or walking around the room.
On top of the obvious physical benefits, getting active is also great for your mental health. Exercise can improve your mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. Exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal. Over the last 12 months we have been living more secluded than ever, so joining an exercise class, gym or running club will allow you to meet more people, get social and take action to become the healthiest version of you.
2. Make a lifestyle change
Have you ever thought of going vegan? According to The Vegan Society, going vegan prevents the exploitation of animals. Specifics aside, avoiding animal products is one of the most obvious ways you can take a stand against animal cruelty and animal exploitation everywhere. It’s also great for your health, and research has linked vegan diets with lower blood pressure and cholesterol, lower rates of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.
Or what about cutting out processed sugar? We all know we eat too much sugar, and it is having a serious effect on our health and many Brits suffer from obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and tooth decay as a direct result of too much sugar. With a bit of self-control and determination, it’s not that hard to take action and cut processed sugar from your lifestyle. By eating and drinking less added sugar, you can significantly lower the chance of getting a diet-related illness, and it can also help you reach your weight goals.
Here are some action points you can try to cut out processed sugar:
- Cut back on sugar-filled drinks such as sodas and fizzy drinks, energy drinks and fruit juices, and instead opt for still, sparkling or sugar free flavoured water, herbal and fruit teas, and unsweetened tea or coffee.
- Say no to desserts filled with processed sugar, like ice cream, cakes, pies and doughnuts, and instead opt for naturally sweet treats, like fresh fruit, yogurts, dark chocolate or a handful of dates.
- Steer clear of processed cereals, as some breakfast cereals can contain up to 12 teaspoons of sugar per bowl! Instead go for eggs, Greek yogurt and fruit or hot oatmeal.
- Don’t buy it. It may sound simple, but if we buy sugary foods and treats, we are likely to eat them as it takes a lot of willpower to stop yourself reaching in the pantry of fridge.
If you need help or encouragement to cut out sugar, get a friend or family member to join you so that you can support each other. Also talk to your GP, or read the NHS’ advice on cutting out sugar here.
3. Get social
We’ve all been lonely at home for a long time, but now that restrictions are starting to lift, it’s time to take action and get outside and socialise again! And this definitely doesn’t mean you have to go to parties! Becoming more social could mean talking to your neighbour for a few minutes at the front door, calling friends on Skype or Facetime, or joining another friend for a coffee at a local café.
Another great way to become a more sociable person is to join a group, club or class. Want to get more creative with your hands? Try a pottery class or ask a local artist for lessons. Or what about joining a walking group that takes you on North Yorkshire’s most beautiful walks and hikes? When you are part of a group, you meet several others who share your goals and who can encourage you to stay motivated to reach them. Many times, the group setting can give more natural encouragement, motivation, and advice and it’s a great place to learn new skills. Learning new skills is great in a group environment, as it’s safe to practise them! The hardest part of learning a new skill is mastery; getting enough practice to truly feel confident in using it. A group is a great place to practise using those newfound skills and getting helpful feedback from your peers.
4. Help out
One of the most satisfying things to do is to help someone else. Volunteering offers you the chance to give something back to someone you know, the community or the environment. It also provides a great opportunity to develop new skills or build on existing experience and knowledge, will make you feel valued and part of a team, it will help you gain confidence and self-esteem and it’s a great chance to socialise.
Helping out can include many different things, but here are some suggestions that you can easily action:
- Volunteer in a local charity shop or community run café
- Join a beach clean or a nature clean up in your local park or woodland
- Collect non-perishable food and good quality clothes for your local homeless shelter
- Give your time at a food bank or community kitchen
- Tutor or mentor a young person and teach them your skills and knowledge
- Volunteer at a local animal shelter
- Join an organisation such as the RNLI or Coastguard.
5. Do things you have been putting off
You know that wall you have been wanting to paint for ages? Or the hoard of boxes in the garage you seriously need to clear? In this month of action, choose some tasks that you have been putting off and get them done.
Procrastination is the delay or avoidance of a task or decision against our own intentions, and we are all guilty to a certain degree of putting things off in many areas of our life, such as in our work, in our social life, and in our health. Procrastination typically includes both minor issues – such as waiting until the last minute to post a letter, and major issues – such as delaying making a decision about whether to leave your job. It may seem ok to procrastinate because putting things off helps us to avoid unpleasant tasks or decisions, at least in the short-term. It may not even seem like a major issue because eventually most things still seem to get done. However, chronic procrastination can be very costly.
Research shows that “procrastinators” often perform poorly and do not achieve their desired goals, missing out on many opportunities. They may have strained relationships because of their procrastination, and experience poor mental and physical health, and unhappiness.
Therefore, it is important to stop procrastinating and overcome the habit of delaying tasks. You can do this by:
- Forgiving yourself for procrastinating in the past
- Committing to the task you want to complete
- Promising yourself a reward
- Asking someone to check up on you
- Minimising distractions
- Aim to tick off a task every day
As an added bonus, here is our July Activity List. Use it along with our 5 Action recommendations and get motivated to take action in your own life, at work and in your community.