What I have learnt from Christmas past

It’s the same every year. Drinking on an empty stomach. Buying the tree too early. And yet, as Christmas comes to a close, we need to be reminded of the lessons to be learnt for next year.

1. If you put the tree by the radiator it looks like roasted rosemary by Boxing Day.

2. If you buy the tree too early all the needles will be in a needle mountain on the floor by the 25th.

3. The dog will get the low lying chocolates on the tree. And the ones near the bottom if they can stand, or use a fellow dog for an assist.

4. Velvet is far too hot if you are cooking Christmas lunch. You might as well be wearing a hazmat suit.

5. Go with cheap wrapping paper and the presents will be clearly visible through the holes by the time it comes to unwrapping them. It rips if you look at it, and the metallic stuff shrugs off the Sellotape: they basically unwrap themselves.

6. Always go with the bigger size. Always! You can’t really go too big where the male YAs are concerned and you might easily go too small. Also, once you’ve gone to the trouble of changing it they won’t want it, because that’s the nature of swapped presents; they lose their lustre.

7. Never countenance new ways with sprouts or other suggested deviations. Of course you don’t want to say to the YA’s girlfriend: ‘To hell with your fancy idea. Forget it! Not in This House! Not on My Watch!’ Of course you feel like a controlling Grinch, especially when everyone insists they’ll take full responsibility and it will be FINE.

But you know how it goes: give an inch and they are toasting the almonds and braising the chestnuts and taking up one third of the cooker surface when everything has been ready for 45 minutes, that is if they haven’t lost interest and drifted away. Do not change the formula is the unbreakable rule, closely followed by don’t relax until the gravy has been poured.

8. To have a starter is madness brought on by someone watching some late night Jamie Oliver holiday special.

9. Three slugs of champagne before the ‘everything coming together moment’ is the difference between calmly cruising into Christmas lunch like a swan drifting into dock and red-faced, gravy stained meltdown. It’s like alcohol taken in aeroplanes at high altitude, with anxiety medication: roughly five times more intoxicating.

10. Not bothering with an apon is like not bothering with an oven glove when you’re taking out the turkey. The gravy accident happened (again) partly because the turkey was very heavy and you were using your knee to assist and partly because of the slugs of cava that might as well be neat vodka.

11. Definitely better to have a blow dry than try and look OK under your own steam when the hot water keeps running out.

12. Avoid conversation flashpoints, at all costs. Don’t think ‘Oh why not, we’re all grown ups and everyone’s getting on like a house on fire’. No. That’s because you’ve not mentioned politics.

13. Did not need the extra midi ham. Didn’t need the bigger Christmas pudding. Didn’t need the last minute panic dash (every year) for extra potatoes and cranberries and cheese. Once again we have enough food left over to do it all again. The gallons of cream!

14. Drunk man washing up is worse than no washing up at all, and the sight of it sitting there on the draining board semi-clean but not clean, is infuriating.

15. Other things that drove us to the brink yesterday even though we should know better by now. People who ask ‘Can I help?’ while pouring themselves a drink and slowly exiting the kitchen area. The table plan that takes half an hour and then doesn’t include your mother. Spilt red wine that the spiller watches sink in with curiosity. People rubbing the cook’s back in passing, as if for good luck. The decent fizz running out before you got any because you were cooking.

Better luck next year.

Give me sunshine!

As the clocks go back and evenings are doused in darkness, we all become wistful for long summer days, before settling into hunkering down for winter. But for around 3 per cent of the population who suffer from depressive moods triggered by seasonal affective disorder or SAD, the approaching months are filled with real despair.

There is a difference between feeling down because of the weather and experiencing SAD, says Stephen Buckley, from mental health charity Mind. “Many people feel more cheerful and energetic when the sun is shining and the days are longer, but if you have SAD the change in seasons has a much greater effect on mood and energy levels, leading to symptoms of depression that have a significant impact on day-to-day life.”

Although it is not known exactly what causes SAD, don’t panic as some simple steps can be taken to alleviate its symptoms. Read on to find out some top tips from the experts!

Go for a walk in nature

While the causes of SAD aren’t always clear, we know that a lack of daylight can have a big impact on mood, especially during the autumn and winter months. When light hits the back of the eye, messages are passed to the part of the brain responsible for sleep, appetite, sex drive, temperature, mood and activity.

If there’s not enough light these functions are likely to slow down and gradually stop. The lack of daylight hours may also slow your body clock, making you feel more tired, and increase production of the hormone melatonin, which helps you get to sleep – both things may therefore link to depression.

Going for walks, particularly around midday or on bright days, even if it’s just taking a short stroll, can be effective in reducing symptoms.

Spending time in parks or gardens, or simply sitting near a window can also help.

A light box that creates a bright white or blue light is also helpful to some. However, the evidence for them isn’t reliable and they can be quite expensive, which means they aren’t an option for everyone, so spending more time in natural light is recommended.

While you may not feel like it during the winter, physical activity can be very effective in lifting your mood and increasing your energy levels. It doesn’t have to be anything particularly strenuous – doing housework, gardening or going for a gentle walk can all help. Research shows that outdoor exercise, such as cycling or jogging, can be as effective as antidepressants in treating mild to moderate depression.

Bringing nature into your home can also help, and watering plants can create a feeling of accomplishment that may lift your mood.

Eat a healthy, well-rounded diet

In winter, you might crave comfort foods such as sweets, chocolate, cakes and biscuits. But this way of eating will actually make the symptoms worse. Instead, eat lots of healthy fats, good quality protein, green leafy vegetables, fibre and complex carbohydrates. Try more wholegrain carbohydrates such as brown rice and brown pasta, which include more fibre and nutrients than the white varieties. Try making hearty meals such as a homemade bolognese with a sweet potato or brown rice instead of white pasta, or turkey ratatouille with mixed vegetables, or lean turkey, pure chopped tomatoes served with a mixed salad, or baked salmon with stir-fry broccoli, onion and cabbage.

Holly Zoccolan, holistic lifestyle and nutrition coach 

Load up on vitamins and minerals

Oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel, eaten three times a week, provide good levels of the essential fatty acids EPA/DHA required for a healthy brain. Others with these fats – walnuts, dark green leafy vegetables and flaxseeds – have too little to have a therapeutic effect.

Protein foods that provide a good supply of tryptophan (that converts to serotonin in the brain) are poultry, shrimps, tofu and eggs. But all protein foods supply some tryptophan, so eat a varied diet of meat and fish.

Vitamin D3 must be supplemented by people living in the northern hemisphere, because we do not obtain sufficient UVB rays on our skin in winter convert to vitamin D. Butter, egg yolks and oily fish contain very small amounts, but not the 1000iu D3 that you need daily. Magnesium citrate is a useful supplement. Potential symptoms of low magnesium levels are cramps, constipation and headaches, although there could be other reasons for these symptoms, too.

To know which foods and ways of eating work for you, listen to your body. If you feel sluggish, tired, and not firing all cylinders, then something in your diet is often not right. You may well be missing vital nutrients, your blood sugar levels might not be not balanced or you are consuming too many pro-inflammatory foods.

Caroline Peyton of Peyton Principles, nutritional therapist and naturopath 

Work on a positive mindset

Your brain doesn’t know the difference between the narrative you tell it, and reality. If you focus on being miserable and trapped inside, your subconscious mind will focus on that.

Try to spend five minutes at the start of every day writing down or speaking about everything you are grateful for, however big or small. You can’t feel negative feelings when you’re in a state of being grateful, even if it’s just a cup of great coffee or cosy sweater. Repeating positive affirmations will also help to reframe the way you think about yourself and stop negative self-talk.

Stay sociable and connected  It can be tempting to hunker down and hide when the weather outside is bad and it’s dark by 4.30pm, but does that actually suit you?

If seeing friends and family, going to the cinema, sporting events, the theatre and exhibitions or even just heading out for a meal once a week brings you joy, don’t stop in winter.

Pull on warm boots and a good coat and plan a normal social life. Even if you don’t stay out late, having events in your diary will give your days and weeks structure and help you deal with winter.

Lean into longer evenings

When you do have an evening at home, is there anything you can do with that time that will give you a feeling of accomplishment? It’s been shown that having something new and interesting to focus on wards off symptoms of SAD.

Create photo albums of your summer holidays, redecorate a room in your house or clear out the cupboard that’s become a dumping ground. An hour or two working towards a goal of ticking off jobs from a list will help you to relax and feel like you deserve to spend an evening on the sofa.

Tara Best, neuro-linguistic programming coach and practitioner 

Lighten your workspace

Being exposed to natural daylight is important – especially as many of us continue to work from home or adjust to a hybrid way of working. If possible, try making your working environment lighter and airier by opening more curtains and blinds. Like many people, I have brought a SAD lamp, because the bright light it produces positively affects my mood by lifting levels of hormones and neurochemicals.

Practise yoga

Illustration by Mark Long
Yoga has a positive impact on our nervous system, because controlled breathing and moving boosts oxygen flow through the body. (Illustration: Mark Long)

Our bodies are designed to respond to changes in our environment. Research shows that yoga has a positive impact on our nervous system, because controlled breathing and moving boosts oxygen flow through the body. It also decreases your cortisol (the stress hormone), decreasing your anxiety and worry levels.  Yoga is something that can be done for as little as 10 minutes. There are so many styles to choose from. Whether you go for vinyasa or restorative, breathing is at the centre of every practice. It can help to cultivate presence, awareness and alignment.

The most powerful thing you can do is to focus on hip and heart openers, and really release the heart and sacral chakra. Our hips absorb physical and mental stress 24/7, which makes sense as they are located on our second chakra, the sacral, which is the centre of emotion, feeling, and connection. Therefore it is vital that we constantly give them the attention they deserve, the opportunity to release tension, tightness and any blockages.

Think pigeon pose and crescent lunges that enable you to let go of what is no longer serving you, and welcome what does. This helps to remove and release negative energy, worries and fears, so that you can go about the rest of your day feeling rejuvenated, energised and aligned.

Alexandra Baldi, yoga teacher and founder of Compass Chelsea

Listen to music

Music is a powerful tool that can be used to change your mood. Putting on some uplifting music can be an effective way to boost your mood if you are feeling down, particularly when paired with dancing and singing.

Sarita Robinson, deputy head for the school of psychology and computer science at the University of Central Lancashire

Yoga off the mat

I was about 8 years old when I first stepped into a yoga class, run by a green leotard clad primary school teacher. From that time, I’ve observed my practice shift and evolve with the seasons of life. When I first started attending regular classes, I had time and youth on my side. Now, I have insight and self-compassion. There have been times when I’ve gone for years without much asana (physical postures) at all. And at others, I’ve been completely immersed in all things yoga — visiting my mat multiple times a day while teaching and working full time in the industry.

If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us will go through periods in life where we just don’t feel we have the time or space to commit to a regular, physical yoga practice. So how can we infuse yoga into other aspects of our lives, and see where it exists already?

We can learn so much from the physical practice of yoga, and it’s certainly an important element. But once you’ve created that foundation, those philosophical lessons will always be with you — whether you have a dedicated asana practice or not.

Eight ways to practise yoga off the mat

Be kind

Honour the yogic philosophy of ahimsa by practising kindness towards others and your Self.

Be real

You are perfect in your imperfection. You don’t need to pretend to be anything other than what you are in this moment.


Life sometimes has plans that are beyond your control. It’s okay to let go.

Move your body

Asana is about exploring your physical body so that you are able to find comfort in stillness. Move your body however you like to create the space for being receptive and still.

Take time to be still

Life can be busy, but there’s always time for stillness. It doesn’t have to be a formal, seated meditation, but just a moment at the start or end of your day to simply be.


Be open to new lessons and understandings. There are gurus all around you.


Take a deep breath into your belly.

Then another. And another.

Be here now

Whatever you’re doing, practise being fully present with the experience. Tune into your senses, notice what’s distracting you from the moment and be open to whatever arises right now.

Time for an upgrade?

How many pictures on social media, articles in magazines or adverts have you seen in the past week that have made you feel less than good about yourself? Or question your self-worth because of comparisons?

Society constantly makes us feel as though we need to “reinvent” ourselves. Evolving and changing are natural things for humans to want to do, and they are healthy.  But they are only healthy if they are done in the spirit of “I want to change but I am also OK as I am” rather than from a sense of deficiency or feeling that there is something to “fix”.

I think of these kind of healthy changes as being different “versions” of ourselves. Think of it like a computer software upgrade. The previous version still works well, but the newer version just slightly has the edge on functionality.

Big life events can prompt these updates – a divorce or bereavement, say, or we start a new job or move to a different location. Or we might reach a point where we have a greater insight as to what is important to us.

Yet, even if we work hard to understand what we want to change and feel like we are on a new path, we can get dragged back into the old version of us. So before we start on this journey, let’s look at the sort of obstacles we can come up against – and how we can manage them so we can be the version of ourselves that we want to be.

Other people

Those we have relationships with inevitably hold a certain version of us in their heads based on previous experience – maybe how we have responded to them before, what we have accepted from them and what our likes and dislikes are. When we try to present Version 2.0 to them, they can get confused, angry, feel threatened, or even refuse to accept it. Because we have changed the rules, they are now unsure of how to be with us. They are stepping into the unknown.

Instead of us feeling hard done by, or getting cross with them, it is more useful to understand why they are reacting like that, and to have more self-awareness about the story underlying their responses. Be consistent and firm in your approach and remind yourself of who you are now and why you wanted to make these changes in the first place.

You may well experience a sense of trepidation and anxiety about presenting this new version of yourself to others. Just as a band or singer goes away to reinvent themselves for a new studio album, and present a different persona to their fans, so you are doing the same. Not every fan will like that new album. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be made.

You may have fears around being accepted by others, you may feel anxious about doing things differently, and these fears can stop you in your tracks. This is fine if it is temporary, but don’t let fear rule you. Think about all the hard work you have done to change things up and to get out there being that new version of you. Notice your fears, but don’t listen to them. Remember your why.


As with any new “software”, you have to give yourself the time and space to learn about this new version of yourself. No change comes easily. Be patient with yourself. If you find yourself slipping back into old ways, don’t criticise yourself, don’t be unkind and don’t think there is no point in persisting.

Once you decide to change some aspect of yourself and you are clear about why you are doing it, it will happen – so just be patient and time will show you that all your hard work and efforts were worth it.

You look tired

You know when you have a bit on your plate at work, even more on your plate at home and you didn’t sleep particularly well the night before? You’re about to head to dinner with your friends or the family  and to be honest, you’re kind of dreading it. Not because you don’t like your family… (hey, mum – love you)… But because without fail you know some well meaning relative is going to sigh, stare at you a moment and say…

“Gosh, You look tired”

Normally you’d launch back with, “Oh really Aunt Margaret? Tired?

“As tired as that weird pineapple casserole recipe you’ve been inflicting on us since 1987?” But you’re too tired. So you grimace politely and say “Oh, just got a lot on, you know how it is. Pass the carrots?”

The thing is, these check-ins from people we only see every so often can be really useful. Why?

Because when you’re in the thick of ongoing stress; you’re not always the best judge of how you’re tracking. You feel ok, until suddenly you don’t… to borrow a nature analogy, when you’re getting close to burnout, it can be hard to see the forest from the trees.

So next time Aunt Margaret winds you up about those bags under your eyes, maybe take it as a sign to check in with yourself and lock in some time to switch off and reset. So, if you’re planing to take some time off over the summer, remember that work can wait; that it’s not just your phone you need to recharge regularly and, practice being really present.

Back to nature

We’ve seen a lot of chat about the end of WFH recently. Big firms and corporates are calling staff back to the office five days a week left, right and centre, and certain billionaires who will remain nameless have gone so far as to call it morally dubious and suggest people ‘get off their high-horse’.

Well…chuck us on a unicorn riding through the clouds because I think that’s nonsense!

Working flexibly isn’t just about those not-showering-until-3pm-wearing-partner’s-jumper-of-dubious-cleanliness-standards-all-day-might-be-Tuesday’s-spaghetti-on-the-front-ah-well kinda vibes. It’s actually about mental flexibility too.

Creativity comes in all shapes and forms, whether you’re developing a strategy, designing a new concept or just thinking up some copy to write in a Friday newsletter that’s already late to go out and you’re sitting in bed trying to come up with ideas. And, more often than not, it’s not sitting under harsh fluorescent light in a large, open yet crowded space in the city that’ll help the process.

Where’s one of the best places to free your mind and boost your creative / strategic thinking? Well, it’s nature. Studies have shown that exposure to nature is associated with improved attention, capacity to switch from one task to another, memory and focus skills, and can boost creative problem solving by up to 50%. There’s a reason folks like Bill Gates gets there once a year to think, Steve Jobs went for a hike before every big decision, and countless artists, writers and musicians head off the grid as part of their creative process.

How about having scheduling regular “Thinking Time” – a couple of hours, in a calming green space, to think, plan, work and stroll around with nothing but the birds and the wind for company.

And, if you’re in a creative rut (it happens to the best of us!) here are some tips to get your groove back


Or, try one of these books to help you re-connect with the world around you



A zest for life

Could having hope, zest and self-regulation help you lead a healthier and more fulfilling life? A new scientific study says yes.

Researchers analysed over 60,000 respondents from 159 countries and found that character strengths and personality traits are favourably associated with positive health-related quality of life outcomes, health behaviors, purpose, and lead to lower disease risk. These traits included curiosity, perspective, spirituality, humility and appreciation of beauty.

Over 24 personality traits were studied, and the authors found that forgiveness, gratitude, honesty, hope, love, perseverance, prudence, emotional self-regulation, and zest were favourably associated with healthier outcomes, such as living a longer and more fulfilled life. Humour was associated with an increased probability of insufficient rest or sleep and teamwork, with a decreased risk of feeling sad, blue, and depressed.

Above all, researchers noted that zest was the character strength that emerged most often in relation to positive health outcomes. Described as “an enthusiasm and energy toward life”, and past studies have linked this trait to a reduced risk of depression and to positive health habits like healthy eating.

“Our findings suggested that maintaining a well-rounded health lifestyle coincides with energy and enthusiasm for life and health (zest), an attitude of discipline and resistance to temptations (self-regulation), feeling and expressing a sense of thankfulness in life and to others (gratitude), and optimistic thinking and confidence that goals can be reached (hope),” author Dorota Weziak-Bialowolska said of the findings. “These might be viewed as primary character strengths for health outcomes and behaviors.”

If there was a reason to be cheerful, that’s certainly it.

The importance of weak ties

While our bonds with friends and family are integral to our wellbeing, these little interactions between strangers are important too, it turns out.  A recent US study suggests that a diversity of social interactions, including more “weak ties”, can result in better life satisfaction. Harvard researchers found that people can discuss important topics with “lower stakes” connections that are not close friends or family members.

I don’t doubt it for a second. I’m relatively untethered when it comes to weak ties. Originally coming from the North of England where everyone talks to everyone (coupled with having a somewhat nosey disposition!) I still find the cooler, more reserved South difficult to navigate. But, I think my world is all the richer for it.

But there are moments that transcend that for me. The barista that beams at me so hard her eyes disappear as we chat about the weather while she prepares my coffee. Cooing over a cute dog while the owner basks in parental pride. Even the awkward pas-de-deux you do on the footpath – left, then right, then left – as you try to avoid colliding with someone walking in front of you, exchanging sheepish grins.

If ever we realised the value of interactions with others, it was during lockdown. The solitude weighed heavily on me, as it did with so many others. Whilst I desperately missed my friends, I also found myself yearning for those inconsequential conversations you have with shop assistants, baristas and, those random conversations you have with complete strangers you bump into – literally sometimes!  After a few weeks, I wondered whether my Deliveroo drivers were backing away from my door due to the two-metre rule or my clear desire to engage them in a conversation about the traffic as my food cooled.

“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers,” Blanche DuBois breathes at the end of A Streetcar Named Desire. Poor, tragic Blanche should have abandoned that philosophy long ago, given the dearth of kindness she had encountered. In the real world, most of us were brought up with the mantra “never talk to strangers”, a sensible warning for a child, but one that sadly sticks with many of us into adulthood. Sure, we shouldn’t tell our life stories to every person we sit next to at a bus stop, but I’m trying my best to at least flash a smile, with mixed results.

And sometimes, it’s our encounters with strangers that can be the most rewarding, or even change the course of our lives. On a recent workshop with one of my best friends (who incidentally was a weak tie but has subsequently become a very firm fixture in my life), I found myself thrown together with five other women. They were complete strangers, but we quickly found ourselves confessing and discussing things we wouldn’t with our friends and family. I suppose with some topics you don’t want to be a burden to loved ones or repeat yourself ad nauseam. The stakes are somehow lower with a “weak tie”, the judgement perhaps less, and they often offer a fresh perspective. I returned home with a newfound sense of solace and strength. And a realisation – that sometimes, weak ties may evolve into strong ones.


Spring has finally sprung!

It has felt like a very long winter. We endured the wettest March for 40 years after weeks of deep snow and frost in January and February. The gloom set in last November and has barely lifted: drawing the curtains of a morning has been to welcome another day of flat, grey skies.

And yet, the whispers of spring are upon us. Listen, and you’ll hear the brave tremor of birdsong. Our streets are filling with blossom – blackthorn first, but also the deepening hues of cherry and quince trees. The windier days scatter the petals on the wet pavements: nature’s confetti. And we celebrate longer days now the clocks have sprung forward. Head to the park before dinner and you’ll notice a shift: people out walking their dogs, or letting their children burn off energy before bathtime. How we’ve needed this blast of sunshine, how long we’ve waited for it. It feels, finally, like something new is afoot.

Spring has long been associated with a time of renewal. In Japan, where hanami, or the celebration of cherry blossom, is a national pastime, the academic year begins in April: generations of children have been photographed in box-fresh school uniform against candyfloss-like trees. From Passover to Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, many religions have built the return of spring into their calendar. Reach back into Pagan tradition and you’ll find three separate spring celebrations: Imbolc, in early February, to acknowledge the first lightening of winter; Ostara with the vernal equinox, when the length of both day and night are the same and, later, Beltane, heralding May’s abundance and that of the summer to come. The English word for Easter comes from either the Latin word for dawn (aurora), as one theory goes, or from the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility (Ostara, also known as Ēostre), according to another.

Whatever belief system you ascribe to, it’s near-impossible to avoid the sense of positivity and new life that creeps in around the edges of the everyday at this time of year. Crocuses smother verges in purple and saffron-yellow, daffodils jaunt up roadsides and the lawns of housing estates. We are caught out by the sunshine and end up having to carry our coats.

It also provides a second chance, after the hype of new year, to take stock, make changes and try a more gentle kind of reset. It’s easier, after all, to fulfil a resolution to go running or play tennis when there are more hours of daylight and the weather is kinder.

Outside, the world is waking up. Whether you have a green space to tend to or not, there’s plenty to bear witness to. Look for the bright green of new leaves on the skeletons of trees and the fattening of flower buds. Keep an eye out for more frenzied activity among the birds, who will be mating, nesting and feeding as the breeding season kicks off. Even the most overlooked early wildflowers will be providing vital nectar for bees.

Easter gives us a moment to relish these things. Four long days with far less pressure than Christmas but an undeniable reason to celebrate. In gathering our loved ones, decking the table with spring flowers – a handful of daffs will do – and buttering a hot cross bun, we follow traditions that have been forged over centuries.

Five Easter resolutions to make this weekend

Get outside

The most obvious of springtime resolutions, but one of the most powerful: shed some layers and spend time outdoors. A 2019 study of more than 19,000 people published in the journal Scientific Reports found that spending two hours a week in nature had a significant positive effect on health and wellbeing. Another study by King’s College London found that hearing birdsong has a positive impact on mental health. Increased exposure to sunshine and natural light also increases your Vitamin D intake, which is linked to improved mood.

Reset your circadian rhythm

Sleep suffers in winter and we feel more lethargic when sunshine is in short supply. Light exposure affects our circadian rhythm (our inbuilt body clock), so if you’ve been feeling sluggish or not well rested, use spring to reset. Start by picking the time you need to wake up and moving it 20 minutes earlier each day to reach your goal, and inching your bedtime earlier each day over the course of a week so you get the sleep you need. Waking up and going to sleep at the same time each day is key for keeping your circadian rhythm in check, says Dr Guy Meadows, clinical director of the Sleep School. A dose of natural light soon after you wake up will help you feel more alert (studies have shown that 30 minutes of light exposure in the morning improves your memory and reaction times) and help you sleep better the following night.

Conduct a “joy audit”

While New Year’s resolutions are often about restriction and abstention, spring is the time to focus on “aspirations, rather than resolutions,” says Dr Marianne Trent, a clinical psychologist. She suggests a “joy audit” to get fully into the spirit of spring, “because life is supposed to be at least reasonably enjoyable,” she says. “Think about where you’re getting joy from: family, your intimate life, work, leisure pursuits, and whether they’re as full as you might want them to be … and if there are one or two areas that are lagging behind, are there tweaks you could make?”

Try “habit stacking”

There’s probably a reason those New Year’s resolutions always seem to fall by the wayside – we often try to do too much all at once. Trent advises clients to “habit stack”: essentially breaking down goals into bite-size chunks and focusing on small, achievable steps in the right direction.

Consider your purpose

Spring has always signified rebirth and renewal; the first signs of spring feel particularly refreshing this year after a long, bleak winter. Harness the power of spring, with the increased motivation and renewed optimism that comes with it, to consider the meaning of life and what you want from it over the coming season.

How to fail…..and keep failing!

We live in a culture where failure is seen as something to be avoided at all costs. But just as children should get chickenpox and be allowed to play in mud so a bit of bacteria won’t harm them later on, we must experience small failures to ready ourselves for the big stuff that can, and definitely will, go wrong.

Frankly, it’s a kindness to fail now. I’ve seen so many people – who have only ever known a charmed, secure, smoothly run life – go into full meltdown the moment even the tiniest thing has gone awry. Failure is not only inevitable, it’s essential.

The only true failure is not to learn from it. Failure is the most powerful way to learn lessons, evaluate what it is you really do and don’t want, and feel the incomparable sense of self-confidence in knowing you can pick yourself up off the floor, out of tear-sodden pyjamas and back into the world, harder and stronger than before.

There’s no use telling yourself never to fail, so see failure as an opportunity to make things right. It’s a crucial life skill.

Some are broken by failure and others make the best of it. A quick inventory of my closest friends demonstrates that I can only truly be close to the latter type. All have messed up, made the wrong decisions to dire consequences or just had really bad luck.

But none of us has let it define us; we’ve all picked ourselves back up and vowed to do differently next time failure comes around – because we know it always will.

Fear of failure is far more debilitating than failure itself. Trying to avoid failing stops us from succeeding, because no worthwhile success comes without risk. It’s invariably a case of the bigger the reward, the scarier the task. In denying ourselves the opportunity to fail, we’re actually stopping ourselves from experiencing the pure, undiluted joy of true success. Not to take the plunge is the biggest failure of all because we only regret the things we didn’t do, not those we did.

Full-time failures are really tedious company. There is no one duller than a person who wangs on about life having dealt them a cruel hand. Seriously, these people are impossibly draining and so comfortable at their own pity party that repeat failure is not only a foregone conclusion, but also a lazy way of never aiming for success. Don’t be that person.

Some failure is inevitable, but it’s never the beginning and end of your story unless you allow it to be.

“I have no regrets” is a phrase one hears often in everyday life, and I am generally mistrustful of anyone who lives theirs without ever admitting they wish they’d made another call. Who has lived such a flawless life that they don’t wish they’d done something differently? It’s the sort of throwaway cliché, much like “everything happens for a reason” (no it doesn’t, shush), spoken by people looking to live with as little personal responsibility and insight as possible.

My own regrets are infinite – from choosing to stay in a job way longer than I should have as it was a toxic environment, to making bad choices because I was an idiot, ignorant, young or unthinking. But my self-judgement over each of them has been essential to my principles and self-awareness thereafter.

Regrets are important in changing future behaviour and I’m not convinced anything does so as powerfully. They prompt you to do better next time, however insignificant they are in the broader scheme.

Instead of refusing to look backwards and harping on about living with “zero regrets”, we should give our regrets room for processing, without allowing them to overcome us.

Because ultimately, regrets should have a shelf life. Left to fester, they damage soul and body, taking away more than they bestow. There comes a point, after learning from our mistakes, when we must draw a line in the sand, forgive ourselves, pledge to do better and refuse to let life be governed by the past.