We know, we know. It feels too soon. But why put off to next year what you can start today? Get toxic habits and thoughts in check now and your new healthier lifestyle will follow, resolutions optional…

While we get murderous over memes telling us how many Fridays are left until Christmas (won’t you just be quiet, please?), there’s something about turning to November in our calendars that gives us the jitters. While for some, the end of 2017 coming into sight signals a new year bursting with promise right there on the horizon, for others, it can be a time of reflection on failed resolutions. Cue earnest resolves to live a better, cleaner, healthier, greener life next year, and promises to yourself that, this time, you really mean it.

But this year, instead of waiting for the orchestra of fireworks (and traffic jams) to herald in your new way of living, why not cheat the system and start a couple of months early? By doing so, by the time the gyms and juice companies start rubbing their hands in gleeful expectation of January’s annual windfall, your new lifestyle – and more importantly, mindset – will already be in full swing. Now that’s what we call a life hack.

To make the process easier, we caught up with psychotherapist and life coach Anna Yates, founder of Dubai’s Mind Solutions, to find out how to make positive, long-lasting changes right now. Here are her top eight easy-to-follow tips for changing your life, minus the forceful interference of the January blues.

01. Boost your bedtime ritual

“There has been a lot of talk about the attitude of gratitude, but people can often find it too vague and too touchy feely. We can’t be thankful all the time, but what we can do is make it a daily habit. I often tell clients to make it the last thing they do before they go to sleep – simply think of three things you are grateful for, or happy about. Positive psychologist Shawn Achor – a leading expert on happiness – says that by doing this, you retrain your subconscious to be more optimistic. Check out his TedTalk, The Happiness Advantage.”

02. Share the love

“The other goal that I give clients is to do three things each day that make someone else feel happy and appreciated. It might be as simple as giving a genuine ‘thank you’ and smile to the woman at the check-out in the supermarket, or the man at the petrol station, or to the stranger who holds the door open for you. Or it could be a bigger act of appreciation – writing a note for your partner and leaving it where they will find it, or calling a friend or loved one you haven’t been in touch with for a while. It’s a proven fact that when we make other people feel happy, it makes us feel happy. So giving appreciation and happiness is a great way to boost the spirits of yourself and the people around you.”

03. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep.

“I love those memes that say ‘If you love someone, let them sleep’. Your body needs seven to eight hours of sleep per day, not just to heal and re-energise physically, but also to clear your mind and produce the hormones you need to feel healthy, happy, calm and positive. While you are asleep, your subconscious mind is sifting through all of your memories, thoughts and feelings from the previous day and filing them away in the great big filing cabinet of your mind. And seeing as you have between 40,000 and 60,000 thoughts per day, that is a lot of filing. If you don’t give your subconscious enough time to do this, you will wake up with all of those thoughts and feelings still running around your head, leaving you feeling tired, overwhelmed and unable to cope with a whole new day’s worth.”

04. Go for the goal

“I also advise people to set themselves three small goals for the following day. It could be taking the dogs for a walk, writing in your journal, flossing your teeth, calling your grandma… anything that makes you feel good, or that you feel is ticking something off your ‘to do’ list fits the bill. Clients often say they feel paralysed by the amount of things they need to do, that they don’t have time to get stuff done or to focus on themselves. But when you break it down into three little things per day, by the end of the week you will have done 21 things.”

05. Discover the power of podcasts

“I am a big believer in the power of TedTalks. They are all short and inspirational – no matter how busy you are, you can fit a couple into your week. They are positive, fun and interesting and far more beneficial to your emotional and mental wellbeing than wasting time on social media. And it gets the mind whirring with creativity and the endless possibilities out there. Also, hearing people speak about the thing they are passionate about is motivating.”

06. Learn how to breathe again

“If you watch a baby sleeping, you will notice its tummy rising and falling with each breath. As we get older, we can form the habit of breathing with our upper chest. Even if you try and take a deep breath right now wherever you are while reading this, you will probably instinctively puff your chest out. However, breathing with your upper chest triggers a stress response in your body, releasing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline into your blood stream, making your brain think that there is an impending danger. Like dominoes, these hormones kick off a series of reactions and changes in your body to deal with that danger. If you don’t actually need to run away from a lion (or swerve around a crazy driver on Sheikh Zayed Road), these hormones and physiological changes in your body can leave you feeling jittery and anxious, which in turn leads to shallow breathing, which triggers the stress response all over again. Learn how to breathe deeply and slowly, using your diaphragm, by lying on your bed and placing one hand on your tummy, and one on your chest, and breathe slowly and deeply, making sure that your tummy moves, not your chest. Once you learn this technique you can practise it anywhere and anytime. At the traffic light, while waiting for the kettle to boil, or when you are falling asleep.”

07. Learn to say ‘no’

“Let go of energy-drainers… whether they are people, social engagements, or anything else. Don’t go to a party because you feel like you should, or to please someone else. Don’t spend time with people that bring you down and make you feel negative. This is a great step on the path to decluttering your life and mind.”

08. Give a happy person a hug

“By giving someone a hug when they are happy, you anchor those positive, happy feelings in them, making the feelings last longer. Also, giving someone a hug gives you a boost of oxytocin, which will make you feel all warm and gooey inside. It’s a win-win situation for both parties. So get hugging!”

Anna Yates is a psychotherapist, clinical hypnotherapist, master NLP practitioner and life coach, and the founder of Mind Solutions in Dubai. For bookings, or for more information on the team’s sessions and therapies, visit mindsolutions.ae