With the silver linings of 2020 — a year spent toppling into and out of new and confusing restrictions — being few and far between, a positive slant of this year was re-discovering the very real pleasure of escapism. Thrillers, romance, self-help, action and adventure were the orders of the day and, cooped up inside, indulging in a un-put-downable book would quickly become the ‘new normal’ for many.
Now many of us are looking to carry this healthy new habit into the new year and align it with new intentions and resolutions as we move forward. Biologically speaking, it’s a very smart move — a 3635-person study published in the journal Social Science and Medicine examined the reading patterns of people aged 50-years-old and over, finding that, on average, regular readers (such as yourself) were found to live almost two years longer than those less inclined to flick through pages. Similarly, the study subjects showed signs of improved cognition and a lower risk of dementia, with as little as 30 minutes a day proving beneficial.
So, whether you’re a bookworm always on the hunt for the next big page-turner, or just want to switch things up in 2021, we’ve assembled the ultimate arsenal of go-to reads, each designed to help you make positive, actionable steps in the new year. You’re going to need a bigger bookcase…
Penned by the UK’s fittest man and elite CrossFit athlete Zack George, this practical guide to health and fitness uses a three-step approach — set goals, overcome challenges and achieve anything — to help you make real changes with your fitness as the new year rolls in. Inside Start Where Others Stop, you’ll find science-backed exercises, personalised programming and a blueprint approach to achieving your goals from George, who himself has a tumultuous relationship with fitness over the course of his life.
2020 was littered with fake news, so let’s use 2021 to set the record straight — in the ‘Science of Living’, doctor and science communicator Dr. Stuart Farrimond explains the real science behind your ritualistic daily activities by debunking myths, exposing fads and addressing issues that you may be too conflicted too ask, from diet myths to WFH productivity and coffee habits to mindless spending. Statistics, infographics and action points help you address the points that may need tweaking in your life, helping you optimise your day one step at a time.
For many, the beginning of a new year marks 31 days of abstinence from alcohol. A habit that promotes healthier skin, an improved metabolism, better sleep and much more besides, it’s one that many take past January and continue throughout the year. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone — research from charity Alcohol Change found that one in three (38%) British people cut back on alcohol in 2020. Here, Chapple uses real-world experience of himself and those he’s helped to provide a refreshing take on sobriety that leads the reader through the often-undulating journey of abstinence, debunking myths about alcohol dependency while encouraging sober-curiosity and experimentation with a new lifestyle choice.
Love it or loathe it, WFH is here to stay and, with it, the stressful balancing act of blending our home with a fully-functioning office. In ‘Own Life’, Eden walks you through several factors that could lead you to falter if unaddressed, including owning your self-identity, boosting your energy through positive choices and addressing your fears, to name but a few. “I thought of my time with Own Life as a journey of positivity, personal insights and recapturing energy,” says one reader. “I would recommend this to anyone who wants to understand their motivation, and identify and focus on their goals.”
Knowing that you want to lead a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle is one thing, but taking action towards this is something else entirely. Harriet Dyer’s ‘Every Day is Earth Day’ is chock full of simple, digestible ways to help you minimise your environmental impact, including eco-friendly home hacks, tips on reducing plastic use and sustainable shopping habits that are easy to pick up. With a third of UK households (study) becoming more eco-friendly in 2020, could yours be the next?
“More than half of adults (60%) and over two thirds of young people (68%) have said their mental health got worse during lockdown,” explains a recent study from mental health charity Mind. “Many without previous experience of mental health problems have experienced poor mental health during lockdown and have seen their mental health and wellbeing decline.” It’s sombre statistics such as these — and countless others — that have inspired ‘Tools for Slow Living’, where a collective of authors offer reams of carefully selected pieces of advice, accessories and objects that will help you decelerate your life and refuse the often relentless pressure of working to tight deadlines. This is living, stripped back — a chance for you to jettison the hubbub of modern life and re-learn the joy of taking things slowly .
Just like fixing your sleep schedule, mastering your breathing patterns can unlock huge changes in your health and fitness. And we’re not just talking about your workouts — in this all-levels handbook, Smart dissects breathwork techniques — combining breathing exercises with meditation — to teach you how to overcome anxiety, increase energy levels and learn a new skill that translates to almost every area of your life. That it could transform your fitness is just a welcome bonus.
Dr Rupy Aujla, MBBS,BSc, MRCGP, is an NHS GP and founder of ‘The Doctor’s Kitchen’, a community that’s built around educating and sharing the beauty of healthy cooking and nutritious food. In ‘3-2-1’, Dr Aujla walks you through a no-nonsense approach of cooking, where each recipe — including curries, traybakes, casseroles, salads and stews — is made to contain three portions of fruit and vegetables per person, to serve two people and, rather handily, all be made in one pan. Bon appetit.