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Six tips for a happier, healthier new year

Aoife O'Grady | 23 December 2016 | 8 Comments

2016 was a fraught year. Dramatic international events – from ongoing crisis in Syria, terrorist attacks and climate change to unprecedented political upheaval in the USA and UK – left many of us at a loss. We felt powerless and small in the face of hate speech, conflict, fake news and division. As individuals, we can’t solve geopolitical crises, but we can carve out spaces of peace and positivity – in ourselves, our homes and our communities. Here are just a few tips for nourishing ourselves and our world in 2017.

Tackle bigotry

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Tackling bigotry is difficult, especially if you’re among friends who see it as harmless throwaway chat. But as our world becomes more divisive, we have a responsibility to be more vigilant to hate speech and more open and skilful in our discussions – bravely interjecting and respectfully engaging are the name of the game.

As Jenny Gillen, one of the participants in Concern Debates from Lucan Community School put it: “You have to appreciate that people’s ideas have been shaped by their experiences and that you are as confined by you experiences as the next person. It’s only through discussing these varying ideas and views that we can broaden out perspectives.”

Read: How to stand up against hate

Go on a digital diet

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Our screen-addicted culture drives obesity, reduces our attention spans and interferes with meaningful communication. Don’t let 2017 pass you by with your head buried in a phone.

Simple actions can make a difference. Start and end your days screen free – give yourself at least an hour buffer before and after sleep (use a good old-fashioned alarm clock instead of a phone!). Don’t be afraid to turn on ‘do not disturb’ signs when you’re out at dinner or just ‘off’ for the evening.

When you are online, be mindful of what you’re consuming – you are a product of what you ingest, so actively seek out content that inspires, not distracts, you.

Watch: Tania Mulry’s digital detox TEDX talk

Grow your own

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What better way to connect with nature – and to the food chain – than by growing your own fruit and vegetables. Spending any time in the garden has proven benefits for your mental well-being – and allows you to grow something delicious and healthy at the same time. Talk about a double whammy!

Growing your own doesn’t have to be restricted to people with their own gardens. The more ambitious of you can check out allotment opportunities or community gardens in your locality. Meanwhile, gardening novices can start the year with a single pot of herbs or salad on your windowsill or balcony. Check out these ideas for vegetable container growing from the Royal Horticultural Society or read How to Start a Garden - the Ultimate Guide by Jen Reviews. 

Read: Klaus Laitenberger's "grow your own" blog

Build a morning routine

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It may seem trivial but building a morning routine is the first step to building a better day. Try to put aside some quiet time to centre yourself – even if it’s just ten minutes. Sit in a quiet space and follow your breathing, use a meditation app or even go for a run if that’s what works for you. Take time for breakfast, and fit some fresh air and exercise into your commute if you can. And remember – there are three different phases to habit forming, so don’t get discouraged if you feel it’s not working immediately!

Watch your trolley

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The average Irish family throws out between €400 and €1000 in wasted food a year, and as a country, we waste one million tonnes of food annuarlly. And increasingly, our food arrives to us after exhausting long haul flights. These “food miles” and food waste are contributing to a changing climate. This year, let’s be more mindful of how much we buy, what we waste and where our food comes from.

Make a list of what you really need before you shop and try to freeze leftovers where possible. Better yet, become a volunteer Food Rescuer and help connect leftover food with those who need it. If you can, buy local, reduce packaging and support farmers in your area, by signing up to one of Ireland’s Community-supported agriculture initiatives.     

Visit: FoodCloud food rescuer's project 

Get involved

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Do you find yourself in frustratingly circular discussions about climate change, Syria, migration, homelessness? Instead of ending these chats with a sigh and a shrug, you can take action.

Research and inform yourself about the issues that you feel strongly about – our resources on climate change, gender equality, sustainable development and hunger are a great launching pad.

Maybe this is the year that you become an activist, fundraise or volunteer with Concern, or one of the many organisations listed on ChangeX, Volunteer Ireland and Comhlamh. If you’re a teacher or student, your school can join Concern’s Campaign Academy. Whatever you decide to do, make sure it is an issue that you care about and an organisation that you trust. Then be practical, don’t try to do too much, start small and build from there.

If you prefer to support causes financially, you could help to safeguard objective journalism by subscribing or donating to a media that you trust.  You can also support our work by donating to Concern or another trusted NGO.

Read: Concern's guide to everyday activism  

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