My month-by-month resolutions for 2016

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Not Christmas (though mine this year was lovely and quiet), but the start of the new year, which means a great opportunity to reflect on the past year and decide what I want to prioritise in the coming year. I know that this is something you can do on any date, but it’s nice to feel like you’re starting again with a new year, full of possibilities.

I know I set resolutions for 2015, but I definitely didn’t go about it right. For one thing, I already had my 25 Before 25 list going, so extra resolutions weren’t a priority. For another, I didn’t make very good goals – they were too vague, which made them much harder to work towards. This year I’m going to do things a bit differently. Rather than having a list of things to achieve over the course of a whole year, I’m going to consider each month in turn, since that’s a more manageable time frame for me. I’m also choosing to structure the resolutions as a list of small things I’d like to achieve each month. Here’s what I have at the moment (though it probably won’t change too much):

  • Bake once
  • Cook one new dish
  • Read five books
  • Visit a new place
  • Watch four new films
  • Write two blog posts
  • Have a date day/night
  • Keep on track with my savings goals
  • Lose at least two pounds overall
  • Get up to date with book reviews
  • Get up to date with my study timetable
  • Volunteer twice
  • Go to the gym four times
  • Do some work towards a WordPress theme design (however little)

I’ve deliberated set the goals quite small, making them easier to complete and thus hopefully encouraging me to do more. This has worked for me previously when using the language-learning website Duolingo – my official goal means I do at least a little bit of work every day, but many days I end up doing more.

I’m actually also working on a “life list” type thing, as well as having a few other projects of varying sizes that I would like to work on. I know I can do a good proportion of the things I’d like to – it’s about making myself do them, in spite of everything else going on in my brain. This year I think I realised how much I’ve missed out on because of the actions of other people, so I hope that I can be more proactive in 2016 and rise above their actions of those people – all of whom were either mentally unwell, not mature enough to realise the consequences of their actions, or both – and how they made me feel. It would be silly not to, really!

(Edit: My boyfriend Gord also pointed out that these things happened a number of years in the past, so even more of a reason to let them go.)

Book review: “The A.B.C. Murders” by Agatha Christie

This is the first Agatha Christie book I’ve ever read. Can you believe it? Oddly, I remember a girl at school who wasn’t very nice to me loved Christie’s books; in fact, they were just about the only thing she did read. Maybe that’s what put me off. Anyway, I’m very glad I finally decided to give one of her books a go, having read various opinions on her best works. The premise of this one – a serial killer murdering people in alphabetical order – particularly intrigued me, so I downloaded it from the library.

Foolishly, I’ve put off writing this review until a bit too long after I actually read the book, so this won’t be as detailed as it should be. I’ll do my best, though. I think my favourite thing about this book was the twist at the end, which I didn’t see coming at all (though admittedly I’m not particularly good at figuring out what’s going to happen in murder mysteries). I found the plot intriguing and engrossing and found the use of different narrative styles to be particularly effective. I am also really liked the characters and cared about what happened to them, which tends to be the most important part of a novel for me. Even though I tend not to like arrogant characters, I actually really liked Poirot as well – considering how many crimes he must have solved, I think he has good reason to be arrogant.

On the strength of this book, I’ll definitely be reading more of Agatha Christie’s novels and making up for lost time. I’m particularly interested in reading the Tommy and Tuppence books, since I enjoyed the recent BBC adaptations of a couple of them, but thought that David Walliams was totally miscast. Thankfully there are plenty of lists online ranking Christie’s books, most of which broadly agree with one another, so I shouldn’t have too much difficulty finding another one to enjoy.

Book review: “Quiet London” by Siobhan Wall

I have one big issue with books like Quiet London: they’re lovely and I want to buy them all, but I’m sure they must go out of date regularly as businesses close and new ones open. I also wonder whether some of the places featured in this book in particular might no longer be classed as “quiet”… as a result of being featured in the book. With those concerns out of the way, I’m really glad that I finally came across this book in my local library after several attempts to find it.

I’ve visited a few of the places featured in this book (or, at least, previously made vague plans to do so), but the vast majority were new to me. This isn’t surprising, since I’ve only lived in London for a total of about five years and am a bit lazy about scoping out new places to explore. Thanks to this book, I have a nice long list of new ideas! I’m glad most of them were in or close to central London; it would have been a bit of a cop out to feature mainly places further out, plus it helps people who are already in central London and need some quiet. I also liked the range of places featured, from libraries to shops to restaurants and even hotels. I’m hoping I can plan a few day trips into town – maybe studying in the morning, lunch in a quiet café and then an afternoon of exploration!

This is a great book that I’d recommend to anyone who wants some alternative places to visit in London. Of course, since I’m now totally a proper Londoner (just kidding, please don’t throw jellied eels at me) I have to add some of my own suggestions.

1) The Science Museum Library when it used to be within Imperial’s Central Library was a lovely place to be. I could spend hours in there browsing in silence. I haven’t yet visited it in its new home in the Dana Centre yet, but I hope to soon (if I’m allowed, since I’m not an academic).

2) Hyde Park is surprisingly quiet in parts, if you go at the right time. I used to live nearby, so went there quite a lot, and it’s incredible how you can barely tell you’re in the middle of a huge city when you get far enough into it.

3) Okay, not exactly somewhere you can visit, but the toilets in Vanilla Black, a posh vegetarian restaurant near Chancery Lane, are almost eerily quiet. Going down there was a surprisingly enjoyable experience. Food’s rather nice too!

4) Finally, an honourable mention. At the very top of the Science Museum there used to be a history of medicine gallery that was always quiet. They’ve closed it though and it’s being replaced with a new gallery on the first floor, which probably won’t be so quiet. A shame really as the history of medicine is one of my favourite topics and that exhibit was particularly fascinating. I hope the new one is just as good.

Book review: “The Depression Cure” by Stephen Ilardi

I’m not too keen on this book’s sensationalist title. Maybe that’s because it feels to me like my own depression and anxiety will never be entirely cured, which is the case for many other people too. One of my former counsellors encouraged me to recognise it as a possibility, citing her own experience of total recovery, but the idea of a cure still feels out of my reach. It’s not so much not knowing what to do as knowing what to do but finding it really difficult. Of course, I did pick this book up because the title intrigued me, so in that sense it’s effective. Despite my misgivings, I have found my experience of the six techniques to be positive so far, and am hoping that will continue.

One thing I liked about this book was the variety in the six techniques offered – a mix of simple and more complex things, plus both emotional and practical strategies. I found the tone of the book to be straightforward and clear, though I thought at times the writer made things seem a bit neater than they might be in reality. I appreciated his cautious attitude towards medication – I also believe that it should be used sparingly and other types of intervention should be prioritised. Another thing I enjoyed was how Ilardi discussed non-Western societies and how their lifestyles seem to protect them from depression and anxiety.

The thing is, you can read all the books in the world, but you have to put in the work and keep doing it every day for as long as it takes*. It’s annoying and rubbish and not fair, I know, but sometimes you just have to forget that and get on with things! I feel like this book recognises that and also recognises the importance of a multi-pronged approach. It always helps to have more weapons in your arsenal against mental ill-health, and this book provides them in a succinct, no-nonsense manner, giving the reader the guidance they need to go ahead and put things into practice.

* Can something be considered a cure if you have to keep doing it for the rest of your life? Probably not, but hopefully I’ll get to a point where I don’t have to do quite so much work to stay on an even keel, which is probably about as close as I’ll get, realistically speaking.