The wellbeing articles that changed us in 2021

I was keen to know what the rest of the Lifestyle team has taken from 2021 and will carry with them in the year ahead. This is what they had to say.

A dry month is good, but better yet is a lifetime of drinking in a way that is cut back.

A dry month is good, but better yet is a lifetime of drinking in a way that is cut back. Credit:Illustration by Dionne Gain

Cutting back on alcohol

It seems fitting that one of the most memorable lessons I learnt from a health article we published in Lifestyle in 2021, was from one published on the very first day of the year, January 1: “What happens to your body and mind when you reduce your drinking”. The sober movement has been having a real moment, and for many people, it’s very appealing. It carries many, many health benefits and I encourage anyone to try quitting alcohol if they wish to.

But realistically, it’s not for everybody – myself included, so I’d throw my hands up and open a bottle of wine. That’s why it was invaluable for me to learn from health experts that simply reducing your consumption also brings a long list of desirable effects, including to your liver, your cardiovascular system and cancer risk. I gently took on the advice and became more mindful with my drinking. I found the most noticeable benefits were better sleep and a happier, clearer head. Plus, I wasn’t getting the booze munchies, which meant better nutrition. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve carried some of the insights from this article all year – particularly during Melbourne’s lockdowns, when I was determined to drink less than I had previously – and I suspect I’ll remember them through 2022 too.

Sophie Aubrey

Helping people find their absolute best: Ben Crowe.

Helping people find their absolute best: Ben Crowe.Credit:Eddie Jim

Getting to know me

I hadn’t given much thought to how we define success until I read Sarah Berry’s profile of Ben Crowe, the Melbourne-based mindset coach behind high performers such as Ash Barty and Dylan Alcott. As the former sports marketing director at Nike, Crowe spent most of his career working with athletes on their external story when he noticed that it was the story they told themselves – their internal dialogue and self-worth – that led to real success. Focusing on external validation and being “distracted by results”, he says, can only get you so far. As part of his approach, he gets his clients to answer three “simple but not easy” questions to get them focused on the things they can control: Who am I? What do I want? How do I get there?

In answering them, success becomes less about what you want to accomplish and how that might look to everyone else, and more about who you want to be in pursuit of your goals. It’s an exercise I’ll be keeping in my back pocket as the new year approaches, and one I’ll remind myself of when challenges and frustrations arise.

Julia Naughton

Rachel Stanley recommends considering your cadence when running.

Rachel Stanley recommends considering your cadence when running.

Learning to embrace running

If you experienced the reign of super aggressive Catholic PE teachers in the ’80s you will understand why I didn’t embrace running until coming across this comprehensive guide. While locked down on the Mornington Peninsula in 2020 I had already strapped on sneakers for the occasional jaunt around the Flinders golf course to combat the three Cs: Carbs, Chardonnay and more Chardonnay but the long road was still waiting for me.

During this year’s Sydney lockdown I finally attempted going further than 6-7 kilometres after encountering the practical tips in this story. I cherry-picked the advice that worked for me and ignored others at my own peril (it would seem stretching is important). I completed this year’s virtual City 2 Surf in a time that still makes my chest swell with pride and nudged 20 kilometres during training. Sure, I looked like Cliff Young shuffling home from a Mardi Gras party while running, but it’s a visual I wish those PE teachers had been around to fully appreciate.

– Damien Woolnough

The ‘ideal’ daily step count is less than most of us think.

The ‘ideal’ daily step count is less than most of us think.Credit:Getty

The myth of 10,000 steps

For years now, I’ve assumed that any day I walked less than 10,000 steps was, well, kind of a dud. Ten thousand steps was the magic number. To do what, I never knew, exactly. Would it boost my chances of living longer? Give me the energy of Mick Jagger on stage, hip-thrusting in front of thousands? I never knew, but the number stuck in my head, like a burr to a jumper. This was unhelpful on even the best of days, let alone those when, before falling asleep in the clothing I wore that day, I’d racked up a measly 1500 steps.

And so, when I read Sarah Berry’s piece confirming that, actually, 7500 steps was “ideal”, my heart took a little leap. It didn’t just clarify what 7500 steps a day will get me (a 40 per cent lower chance of dying from any cause in the next two years), it’s also lowered the bar for what success will look like in 2022. A better gift, I can’t currently imagine.

Samantha Selinger-Morris

Nici Berman is a social worker who encourages mental health days.

Nici Berman is a social worker who encourages mental health days.Credit:Nick Moir

Prioritising mental wellbeing

There are so many articles I benefitted personally from. As we dealt with another tumultuous year, reading about people saying “actually, I need a mental health day”, as Sophie Aubrey’s piece explored, made me realise that to remain productive, it was OK to step away from technology and work to recharge and refocus a day here and there. Other pieces, including Kimberly Gillan’s on creating a “third space” at home for our wellbeing and Sarah Berry’s on “Pandemic Flux Syndrome”, made me rethink how I set out my working days, interactions and the use of space at home. The latter also validated feelings of uncertainty and grieving – something we are still going through as cases surge once more during this festive season.

Sophie Aubrey’s “The fertility conversation we are missing in our teens and 20s” has made me think about addressing a previous gap in conversations with my friendship circles about egg freezing, infertility, and family plans. And finally, at the tail end of the year Sarah Berry’s piece on how many daily steps we actually should strive for made me realise that setting goals is important, but it’s important not to beat ourselves up when we don’t meet expectations we set, whether minutes, steps or reps.

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