The first month of the year for tends to see slow progress towards my goal. January is almost a full month of school holidays and I take the opportunity to take time off from work, slow the pace of life down and spend time with the kids.
So you will note in my monthly review in the table below I didn’t really even work on the first three habits, but this was a conscious decision and I will get cracking on them in February!
I did however work on two habits to help me achieve my goal for this year which is to simplify daily life to spend more time with family and friends:
- Declutter one item a day (can be averaged over a week / fortnight)
- Spend an hour outside each day
These are two very simple habits, but they had a tremendous positive impact on my mood and they can help you too! Here is just a little bit of the science behind why decluttering and getting some sunshine can improve your mood.
Clutter and your mood
A recent study highlighted the way people describe their homes may reflect whether their time at home feels restorative or stressful. Researchers used linguistic analysis software to analyse 60 dual-income spouses’ who gave self-guided home tours. They looked at the frequency of words women used to describe their home through out the tour – words that referenced clutter or a sense of the home as unfinished and words which were restful or related to nature.
Words around clutter, a sense of the home as unfinished, were combined into the variable stressful home and restful and nature words were combined into the variable restorative home.
Over 3 weekdays following the home tours, wives with higher stressful home scores had flatter diurnal slopes of cortisol, a profile associated with adverse health outcomes, whereas women with higher restorative home scores had steeper cortisol slopes. These results held after controlling for marital satisfaction and neuroticism. Women with higher stressful home scores had increased depressed mood over the course of the day, whereas women with higher restorative home scores had decreased depressed mood over the day.Source
I know for myself personally there is a level of tidiness and order at home that I can cope with. If the house dips below this line, I definitely notice a negative change in my mood.
Sunshine and your mood
Serotonin is manufactured by the body’s nerve cells. It is formed during a chemical reaction involving a protein called tryptophan. Serotonin is found throughout the body, but mainly in the intestines, brain and blood. Serotonin is associated with boosting mood and helping you to feel calm and focused.
Serotonin levels are affected by our exposure to outdoor sunlight and by the foods we eat. If serotonin levels are low it has been found to contribute to a lowered mood state.
Getting more sunlight is an easy way we can increase our serotonin levels and therefore our mood. We have known for some time that our eyes play a part in this process as sunlight cues special areas in the retina, which triggers the release of serotonin, but it looks like our skin plays a role too:
While the photostimulation of serotonin may be mediated in a number of ways, including the retinoraphe tract (i.e., via the retina), one intriguing possibility is that sunshine may directly stimulate the production of serotonin through the skin. Research indicates that the skin has the serotonergic machinery to perform this task. This may explain the popular appeal of sunbathing, traveling during the summer months, and being outdoors in the sunshine.Source
So if you feel your mood needs a bit of a boost, it might be time to do some decluttering and get some sunshine!
How has the first month of the year been for you?
January monthly review
|Habit||Connection to goal - Simplify daily life to spend more time with family and friends||Quote - “A simple lifestyle is good for us, helping us to better share with those in need.” ~ Pope Francis||January Review|
|Simplify our evening meals (make one meal a week meat free)||With five kids, two being older teenagers and one being an adult I need to cook a lot of food. These three also have who casual or part time jobs, so having family meals with everyone eating at the same time is becoming increasingly more difficult.|
The types of meals I cook now need to cater more for different sittings of meal times and also larger volumes so they can eat left overs for other meals as needed. This can be time consuming and I want it to take up the minimal amount of time, giving me the greatest chance of eating a family meal with as many kids as possible.
I need to simplify some of the meals I make to make this happen and I also want to reduce meat intake in the house, so want one meal a week to be meat free as well.
|"If you want to change the world, go home and love your family." ~ Mother Teresa||I haven't started on this habit yet and will commence in Feb when three of the kids go back to school.|
|Simplify our home cleaning routine||We have the kids involved in doing work around the house across the week, but it isn't as streamlined and as simple as I would like it to be. We also have a different system of contributing to the housework once kids leave school, so I need to work on simplifying how we all contribute to keeping the house clean and tidy.||"The objective of cleaning is not just to clean, but to feel happiness living within that environment." ~ Marie Kondo||As above!|
|Simplify my exercise routine||Running will be my focus for 2020 but I would still like to keep up strength training and do some yoga. I need to work out a way to fit this into my life without taking up too much time or feeling like I have too much to do.|
Both the strength training and the yoga help my running, so I need to find a way to simplify how I can blend them into a routine.
|“An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day." ~ Henry David Thoreau||In January I kept things very simple, running to feel and fitting it in around family over the holiday period, then slotting in some strength work when I could.
I will formalise my exercise routine in Feb as I start a new phase in my training and add in the elements I want to around this base.
|Declutter one item a day (can be averaged over a week / fortnight)||There are cupboards that are too full, bedrooms that look a little messy because they have too much stuff in them. I find I am spending too much time on managing the stuff of the house.|
I want to work slowly over the year to really pare back the belongings we have in the house. I feel much calmer with clear surfaces and minimal mess.
|“Three Rules of Work:|
Out of clutter find simplicity.
From discord find harmony.
In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” ~ Albert Einstein
|I decluttered loads during January. January is always a great month for me and decluttering.
After the influx of items at Christmas and birthdays at this time of year, I am always motivated to clear out old items to make room for the new.
Even though I go through decluttering phases regularly, I am still buoyed and overjoyed by the overall feeling of lightness and freedom I receive from minimising the "things" we have in the home.
|Spend an hour outside each day||Being outside is so good for me in so many ways and good for the kids too. I find the pace of things slows down when I am outdoors. |
With my running I do spend time outside everyday, but often in winter this is when it is still dark. I want to spend time outside in daylight hours and also use this time to be with the kids where I can too - who also benefit from more outdoor time.
|"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” ~Lao Tzu||January is also a great month for me in terms of just naturally spending lots of time outside.
I would have spent much more than an hour outside each day and it has such a huge positive impact on my mood.
The challenge won't really come for this habit until the weather gets colder, but hopefully by then my time outside will be so patterned and habitual, that I will just learn to dress for the weather and still love my time outside 🙂 .