8 ways to get more 'me time' this September
By Liz Connor
September always feels like a fresh start. Even if it's been decades since you last wore a uniform, there's an unmistakable 'back-to-school' vibe that makes this month feel like the ideal time to give those failed New Year resolutions another crack. There's something about a bit of mid-year self-improvement that feels so much less daunting than making major lifestyle changes at the start of the year - and it helps that you're not battling against a mammoth party season hangover, sifting through hundreds of unread work emails, and feeling the lows of the January blues too. According to the mood-board platform Pinterest, we're chasing more 'me time' than ever, with the site reporting a 140% rise in searches for 'self-care routines'. And September is the busiest month of the year for site users hunting down content on how to get out and try new things. Whether it's a new fitness regime or hobby, eating healthier or making changes to home decor, the end of summer can be an ideal time to invest in a bit more time to ourselves and commit to lifestyle changes.
Of course, reform is easier said than done, but there are plenty of ways that you can capitalise on the momentum of the new school calendar and carve out some space to get things done.
Here are a few ideas to get you started...
1. Foster a regular self-care routine.
Between work, relationships, children and life admin, it can be really easy to put your needs at the bottom of the to-do list and forget to take care of yourself, beyond the base needs of showering, sleeping and eating. But as a recent study found Brits spend an average nine days each month battling stress, it's never been more important to prioritise your wellbeing.
"Self-care is very much about being mindful of what you need and then taking action to make sure you get it," says Jayne Hardy, author of The Self-Care Project (£8.99, Orion Spring).
Hardy suggests blocking off an evening per week to take a long soak in an Epsom salt bubble bath, losing yourself in a Netflix documentary or going for a woodland walk - anything that gives you permission to slow down, space to reflect, and time to replenish your mental health.
2. Wake up 10 minutes earlier to meditate
You're probably pretty familiar with the concept of meditation, but have you actually tried it? Studies have found that a regular practice can boost concentration, reduce stress, and increase positive emotions, among other health benefits.
Thanks to smartphones, it's never been easier to tap into the skill. Apps like Calm (calm.com), Headspace (headspace.com) and Buddhify (buddhify.com) have easy-to-follow guides that can ease you into the concept of mindfulness meditation. Just like streaming an exercise class, think of meditating like a workout for the mind - just make sure you switch off your notifications so you're not being distracted by incoming WhatsApp messages.
3. Join a book club
Studies have shown that getting stuck into a good book has some amazing health benefits, including nixing stress, boosting mental stimulation and even possibly reducing the chances of developing Alzheimer's later in life.
If you struggle to keep yourself motivated, set yourself a reading goal for the year or start up a book club with friends - your reading list can be as fun, quirky or serious as you want it to be. While nobody likes the idea of yet more deadlines, a regular meet-up gives you an excuse to take your full lunch break at work and enjoy switching off from digital devices for an hour.
4. Meal prep on Sundays
One of the easiest ways to free up your evenings is to prep your meals for the week ahead on a Sunday afternoon. The idea is to create a few healthy dishes and portion them throughout the week, so you're not cooking from scratch every night. (Plus, that Sunday evening cooking session could become a relaxing habit in itself.) Opt for easy cooking methods, keep ingredients simple and think about doing your food shop online so you don't spend hours searching for items in the supermarket. Once you've finished cooking, store everything in containers and pack them into your fridge or freezer. As well as saving you time, it'll put some extra cash back into your pocket and ensure that you stick to a healthy diet throughout the week.
5. Schedule a clutter detox
There's nothing more rewarding than starting the month with a clean, clutter-free space, and as we all know, owning too many things can be a huge drain on your time - think about how much less folding and hanging you'd have to do if you owned 50% less clothes?
"Feng shui teaches that your environment can impact mood too," says Alexandra Lees, founder of Wu Wei Wisdom (wuweiwisdom.com). "Simple changes in the design and arrangement your home will shift the subtle energy of your surroundings and help you de-stress and boost your inner-calm, creativity and productivity.
"I advise my clients to systematically declutter their desks, tables and shelves, tidy under beds, and ruthlessly clear out any junk rooms or cupboards where they may be hoarding stuff - even if you can't see the stuff, it will still be stagnating your energy flow."
6. Take up a new exercise class
According to Pinterest, Brits are constantly on the lookout for the best ways to keep their body in good condition, with over 63 million searches on the site for exercise over the past year. Boxing is still a huge trend thanks to its mood-boosting benefits, and Pinterest reports that Buti Yoga (a fun form of intense cardio yoga that incorporates tribal dance) is set to be a big news this season, with searches up by 55%.
If you're looking for something that's low-impact and relaxing, it could even be as simple as going for a swim at your local pool once a week. Improving your fitness level doesn't have to be a gruelling or unpleasant chore - it's all about finding the right exercise for you.