Every night I fall asleep to the sound of the ocean. Not the real ocean, sadly, just recordings I can stream through YouTube, but it is enough that those recordings were the ocean once, washing gently across some distant shore. It’s either that or a (mild) tropical storm, because the distant rolls of thunder and lashing rain make me feel warm and cosy and far away. White noise in general makes me feel calm in a way that total silence never can. I never sit in totally silent rooms in libraries, for example, it’s just too disconcerting somehow. I like hustle and bustle to remind me there is life outside of my own mind and the object of its immediate focus.
Moments of calm, like deep and restful unmedicated sleep, often prove elusive to me, but their pursuit is a greater priority this New Year than dieting or rushing to the gym. Sleeplessness and anxiety are a vicious cycle because the one aggravates the other indefinitely.
I’ve not often been one to make New Year’s resolutions, probably because I associate them with overly-ambitious and totally unachievable targets (often based on negative body image) that people abandon by 3rd January. And also because I dislike January generally (if you’re the same then this post is for you!). This year, though, I was in the mood for goal-setting and slate-wiping, so thought I would, for once, take the opportunity to bring about simple but important changes – that are mostly unrelated to aesthetics.
2018 goals include:
- find an effective and constructive/non-destructive way to deal with negative emotion
- give up using disposable coffee cups (carry my reusable one or simply drink in)
- read at least one book per month from start to finish that isn’t related to work or study (I have book commitment issues)
- actually look after my hair — i.e. brush it daily, don’t tear out tangles, use less damaging hair ties like scrunchies (’90s is in what can I say?)
- do a total clear out my room in small segments over the eight consecutive weekends of January and February
- research the ethical and environmental record of the brands I buy clothes, food and cosmetics from, and make more conscious choices about where I shop
- reserve 1hr on Sunday evenings for self-care
- try one new fitness class a month (boxing booked for January as an attempt to deal with resolution no.1!)
- save a certain amount per month
- try to blog once a week (so far so good!!)
- complete dry January (preferably with sanity in tact)
- try not to fail at life completely this year :/
I’m no nutritionist, but I asked Google what foods might have a calming effect, and the answers were largely unsurprising — alcohol, coffee, sugar and junk food are bad, whole foods are good. Dark chocolate and almonds particularly seemed to crop up as having stress-fighting and mood-boosting properties (magnesium, zinc, vitamin E, B vitamins, tryptophan, etc). Which made me think of my ground almond cookie recipe, which won’t break anyone’s New Year diet because it’s only made of a few natural ingredients.
No cookie can cure everything. But if you eat it slowly and appreciatively with a glass of almond milk or a chamomile tea, while listening to the gentle roar of a faraway ocean – this cookie might try.
Some other things I’ve found relaxing of late include:
- Taking the time to stretch for ten minutes every morning and again just before bed, particularly focusing on the spine, hips and legs, as that’s where I tend to store most tension
- Waking up early. Even if I don’t need to, it makes me feel productive and gives me more time to wake up and prepare mentally & physically for the day (and do those stretches!)
- Maintaining a varied exercise regime – it’s the one hour out of my day when I physically can’t think about anything else
- Cooking/baking – I just enjoy it.
Dark Chocolate-Chip Almond Cookies
Makes 15 – maybe more if you don’t eat as much of the dough as I do
- 200g ground almonds
- 80g coconut oil, softened but not melted (plus a little for greasing the tray)
- 80ml maple syrup
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 80g dark chocolate, roughly chopped*
- Preheat the oven to 160C (140 fan). Line a cookie sheet with greaseproof paper and lightly grease with coconut oil.
- Mix together the ground almonds, cinnamon, coconut oil, and maple syrup until all evenly incorporated and a kind of dough is formed. Stir in the chocolate pieces. Chill in the fridge for 5 – 10 minutes.
- Scoop out the dough in 1tbsp quantities and press it into a rounded cookie shape – they don’t spread like regular cookies so the shape you bake them in is basically how they’ll come out.
- Bake for 12 minutes, or until very lightly golden on the outside but still soft and chewy in the middle. Leave to cool completely before removing from the tray and eating.
* I used 85% cocoa solids because it’s higher in antioxidants and I like really dark, rich, chocolate, I just find it more satisfying. If you prefer a sweeter cookie, use 70%. Be sure to buy certified Fairtrade chocolate, because cocoa farming is one of the worst industries for modern slavery and no one should have to suffer for cookies. (You can read more about buying food ethically and sustainably here.)
Happy New Year