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It is a little early to start talking about new year’s resolutions, I know, but I think everyone agrees that this year in particular has called for a reset more so than any others we can recall. It is difficult to imagine how quickly everything was swept up by the sludge which 2020 brought with it- from the New Year to December was a paltry period of time, not even a complete year- and yet we have seen old norms eviscerated, conventional wisdom turned over, and have been subject to a constant barrage of internal anxiety caused by the external chaos. From polarising elections to economic uncertainty all under the looming and ever-present spectre of the global pandemic, 2020 has cemented its place in the 21st century as the year of surprises. So let's look to the future (or rather, the near future) and ensure that 2021 will be the year of more pleasant surprises and will bring with it more stability than chaos - and if there is to be chaos then let’s at least endure it whilst starting and maintaining good and fun habits in the new year. 

1. Learn a language

This is perhaps the one thing that dominates most people’s bucket lists for the longest amount of time. At times, it is painstaking and tremendously long (as someone who studies a language ab initio- I understand the pain thoroughly!). However, I believe that it is one of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself- not like the immediate rush of a bungee jump or a vague resolution along the lines of “be healthier” - the gratification of learning a language does not come immediately or soon, it takes blood, sweat and oh so many tears, yet the investment always pays off; you open yourself up to a new culture and soon fall in love with its art, its heritage, its history, its people - just through words! Of course the payoff can be material too; top employers do emphasise language skills as an important tool in your arsenal in order to give yourself an edge - we are living in an increasingly globalised world, after all. 

2. Read more!

As an early resolution, I challenged myself to the ‘52 books in 52 weeks’ challenge. Yes, on top of an endless stream of academic readings and essays - I have decided to give myself an excuse to procrastinate even more than I usually do by choosing a book and committing to completing it by the end of the week. Why am I imposing this on myself and why do I think you should too? Firstly, it will give you an excuse to dust off the unread books sitting on your bookshelf - untouched and unloved- and purge yourself of the guilt you feel in buying yet more books which you'll keep adding to the lonely bookshelf. Secondly, you could form a book club with your partner or a close friend - at the very least, it’ll give you something to discuss at the end of the week that isn’t about the constant rigermole of juggling university work and pandemic anxiety. And thirdly, I swear by the ‘forcing yourself to read’ method as a way of clawing back your declining attention span by the constant barrage of screens and our collective dependency on views, likes, and retweets. 

3. Self-care habits

Gua sha is an ancient Chinese holistic healing method which usually involves gliding a smooth, angled quartz stone on your face or body in order to increase lymphatic drainage, improve blood circulation and relieve muscle tension. Lately, the most relaxing part of my day involves applying some face oil and doing gua sha on my face and neck for 5 to 10 minutes every night. The results are manifold - preventing droopiness and puffiness in the face. But that is not why I do it every night; it is because the 5-10 minutes I spend in front of the bathroom mirror in the evening focusing solely on myself, without any distractions or any sense of urgency, are the most calming part of my day. The difference in my mood has confirmed the conventional wisdom of influencers; self-care really does work! Pick up and maintain good self-care habits in the new year, and keep to them like you’d keep to deadline - you are your most important investment. 

4. Regular exercise

Out of everything on this list perhaps this resolution is the biggest cliche! A fact which often comes up that best encapsulates the fleeting motivation which people tend to have after Christmas to get fit is that January is the month with the highest number of new gym memberships- the ‘fleeting’ aspect comes in when you consider that 80% of these now memberships are cancelled by the second week of February! Why not challenge yourself to beat that statistic in 2021? Apart from making you fitter, bettering your time management and increasing your productivity, exercising regularly will ensure a flurry of endorphins rushing through you after every workout, and if ever there was a year where endorphins were in dire need - it was this one!

5. Try to keep your head above water!

Although developing and keeping to good habits through the year is vitally important for our physical and mental health, we have to realise that the pressure we put ourselves under causes some undue stress and anxiety. For a year that was, at times, as calamitous as this one - we deserve to pat ourselves on the back for simply managing to keep our heads above the water! So treat yourself through the festive season; spend a whole day (or week) in bed with the aim to watch every good film in the Netflix library, make yourself an indulgent hot chocolate every night, and congratulate yourself for making it this far. Good habits can only be developed if you are in the right frame of mind to start developing them - so relax, and enjoy, let’s hope 2021 will be a quiet one!

Zemal Sheerani

UC London '22

I am a second year student at University College London, and the Events Director for Her Magazine UCL.
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