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With the start of a new year, there is the opportunity for new challenges and opportunities to immerse yourself in feel-good experiences, whether virtually or in person. It doesn’t have to be a new you, small wins count too. Here are some ideas of ways to improve the winter months and kick off your new year challenges.

Walk a little more

Woman walking in the Peak District

Psychologists found that a 10-minute walk may be just as good as a 45-minute workout when it comes to relieving the symptoms of anxiety. Walking in nature specifically has been found to reduce reflecting on negative experiences. For some accessible, wheelchair-friendly routes all over the country check out The Outdoor Guide. Or why not take part in our second Virtual Adventurer challenge where you can race your way virtually around the spectacular Pembrokeshire Coast Path this February, from wherever you are in the world. Simply pick your distance: 50, 100, or 299km, clock up your kilometres on the way to work, a local walk when you take the dog out or wherever you go and track your progress. If you complete it, you even get a medal. And you can choose to raise money for YHA whilst you do it.

Try vegan

Veganuary is a yearly challenge that encourages people to try going vegan for January and beyond. We all need to be eating less meat for environmental reasons and it’s healthier to eat a plant-based diet, so why not give it a go? You can recreate the flavours and textures of meat in vegan food as there are plant-based burgers, jackfruit (which is similar in texture to pulled pork), vegan sausages, vegan bacon and more all readily available. Often the worry is replacing the protein, you can do this by including products such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, soya, peanut butter, cashew nuts and pumpkin seeds into your diet. Vitamin B12, which is commonly found in meat, eggs and fish, can be found in foods such as breakfast cereal, dairy-free spread and yeast extract. Take your normal recipes and replace the ingredients with plant-based alternatives, for example, in a shepherd’s pie replace the mince with green lentils. Yum.

Exercise at home

If you’re shielding or feel anxious about going out but still need a challenge, there are many online classes available to take at the moment. Yoga is suitable for all abilities. It combines a series of poses with breathing, and is good for building strength, flexibility and balance. Look on YouTube for videos for beginners; there are great kids yoga classes called Cosmic Kids Yoga that adults can join in with too. Or choose a workout from the NHS Fitness Studio. Don’t dismiss household chores which are a fab way of raising your heart rate, some heavy gardening, washing the car or hoovering the house will all count towards a daily activity.

Go somewhere new 

Cathedral York Minster, England

Change the feel of January by filling it with frequent things to look forward to. Challenge yourself to visit new places, see new vistas, walk new paths, fill your year with adventures. Now is the perfect time to book a getaway with our January sale.  Get 25% off selected hostel stays for breaks booked before 7th February 2022 on accommodation up until 31st March 2022. That includes the February half term. Dreaming of a hike in the Lakes, a walk along the coast in Cornwall, a visit to see the city walls of York, camping in the South Downs? Book today and start daydreaming about your chosen destination.

Creative challenge

For one month, set yourself a creative challenge. A doodle a day, collecting bits from nature to make art, taking a photo of things you love. Instagram often has photography ideas for a month, each day setting you a task to take a photo of something blue, a snap from the garden, a favourite book for instance. Try YHA’s Nature Challenge, immerse yourself in nature, visit beautiful places and take a snap, a video, or even a time-lapse. At YHA we love to see your shots that capture nature at its best around our hostel network. Share them with us and we will put them on our social media. We can’t wait to see what you discover when you stay with us…

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Photo credit: Stephen Davies / Jaroslav Moravcik /Anthony Brown / Adobe Stock

Written by Jo Avery

Jo works in YHA's communications team, writing about travel and adventures for all. She loves curling up with a good book and a large mug of tea, ambling through wheat fields in Derbyshire with her family and dog and holidaying beside the seaside.

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