1. Art therapy
It was a year of mandalas – of colouring in mandalas, to be specific. The circular Buddhist symbol for the universe makes for a great repeating pattern for adult colouring-in books. Said to be a great form of stress-relief, the trend started in France and made it big here in 2014. We’ve been felt-tipping forests, owls and, yes, mandalas, in a bid to swap iPhone swiping for a more creative use of our hands…
TRY THIS: Our sub-editor Anne-Claire Heels enthusiastically tested every colouring book that came her way and recommends Vintage Patterns: Creative Colouring For Grown-Ups (Michael O’Mara, £9.99)
2. Giving up sugar
The signs were there at the end of 2013, as a slew of book proofs on the subject started arriving in the post. By the time we’d read David Gillespie’s The Sweet Poison Quit Plan (Penguin, £7.99), Brooke Alpert and Patricia Farris’ The Sugar Detox (Bantam, £8.99) and David Perlmutter’s Grain Brain (Yellow Kite, £13.99), we were converts. Sugar, not fat, was the enemy, and we were ready to oust it.
Or some of us were… If we’re honest, the biscuit tin remained a fairly popular member of the office team but slowly, the idea of cutting down on the white stuff a bit percolated like (unsweetened) coffee through our consciousness. We knew it had gone national when we started getting press releases from the big supermarket chains to say they were cutting sugar levels in their own-brand products.
As year ends, we’re still trying to keep our sugar consumption low, with the exception of the occasional seasonal treat. Mince pie, anyone?
TRY THIS: After much trial and error, our favourite quitting sugar aids are Aussie Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar and I Quit Sugar For Life (Macmillan, £14.99), for their doable recipes, alongside a handy bar of 80 per cent cocoa content chocolate, for when a craving strikes. (We favour Lindt for every day.)
3. Being quiet
OK, so we’ll never win prizes at Psychologies for being the quietest office on the block – our firm belief is that work is best done through verbal communication rather than endless emails.
But, with a few introverts on the team, we do like to take some time out with a bit of silence, and found a multitude of ways to do it this year. Whether it was quiet walks in the field behind our offices, attending Quaker meetings or trying to fit just three minutes of sitting still into our mornings, we definitely found silence to be golden this year.
TRY THIS: Siobhan Wall’s brilliant Quiet London book was expanded this year into three separate books covering ‘Quiet Corners’, ‘Culture’ and ‘Food & Drink’. A great aid to pop in your purse next time you’re in the Big Smoke. (Frances Lincoln, £7.99 each)
4. Rediscovering poetry
Young poet Kate Tempest put poetry where it should be this year – close to the front of our national consciousness – when she was nominated for the Mercury Music prize for her album Everybody Down and released her first full-length poetry collection, Hold Your Own (Picador, £9.99).
But bracingly new or gentle and beloved, poetry is always there waiting for us when we need it most, as Rachel Kelly reminded us when she wrote a moving piece for us in our November issue about how poetry helped her cope with depression.
TRY THIS: Go through your book collection and gather all the poetry collections you own in one place, then place them in easy reach – by the kettle in the kitchen, on a coffee table, on top of that teetering pile beside the bed… Then pick them up and read just one poem each day (though we challenge you to limit it to one). Life instantly improved.
No poetry in your home? Get yourself to your nearest Oxfam or secondhand bookshop for some cheap gems.
5. Background noise
Did we mention the chatty office? Our Work Experiment expert Oliver Burkeman reminded us this year that when you are distracted from a task it can take up to 20 minutes to re-engage your attention. So the recent arrival of a little app called Noisli on the scene has upped our productivity levels no end.
The secret is in its simplicity. Click on ‘Random’, ‘Productivity’ or ‘Relax’ and the software will create white noise of various kinds for you, which you can then adjust levels on to suit. Our favourite is the coffee shop sound, which makes us feel like we’re working on our novel from our local independent brewhouse, and not hunched over a budget spreadsheet in a stuffy office.
TRY THIS: For those of you who are as lazy as some of us, you don’t even need to download the app – just visist noisli.com next time you’re on your work computer or home laptop, and plug in your headphones for some blissful background noise.
6. The rise and rise of nutri-gadgets
With old-fashioned fruit juice getting the heave-ho because of concerns over insulin spikes (see giving up sugar, above), attention turned to fibre-filled green vegetable smoothies, made using machines that hang onto that all-important fibre. Vitamix super-blenders had gone big in 2013, and this year we found ourselves intrigued by the Nutribullet – a sort of ‘baby’ super-blender that doesn’t take up too much space on your worktop, and carries a good entry-level price tag for those new to the trend.
Vegetable intake was upped even further with spiralizers, a sort of pasta-machine for your courgettes, and 1970s-style slow cookers saw a return, as we tried to up our protein consumption despite hectic days with little time to spend in the kitchen (or maybe it was all the time lost from washing copious amounts of vegetables).
TRY THIS: Every nutri-blogger worth their pink Himalayan sea salt has a good green juice or slow cooker recipe, but our favourites this year were wrapped up in Hemsley & Hemsley’s cookbook The Art Of Eating Well (Ebury, £25)
7. Unstoppable women
This year was a game-changing one for feminism. We stood up for our rights, challenged stereotypes, fought for recognition and started new conversations. As Melvin Konner says in his new book Women After All: Sex, Evolution And The End Of Male Supremacy (WW Norton, £16.36): ‘An unstoppable move towards equality is afoot. It will not be the end of men, but it will be the end of male supremacy and a better, wiser world for women and men alike.’
With Nicola Sturgeon being elected as first minister of Scotland, Hillary Clinton rumoured to be running in 2016 (we were delighted to host her as our cover star in October), and actresses such as Emma Watson with her HeforShe speech for the UN and Malala Yousafzai accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, 2014 has set the bar high.
DESTINED TO BE BIG IN 2015:
8. Habits set to change
‘Habits are the invisible architecture of daily life,’ says Gretchen Rubin, bestselling author of The Happiness Project (Harper, £6.99). ‘We repeat about 45 per cent of our behaviour almost daily, so our habits shape our existence, and our future. If we change our habits, we change our lives’.
Rubin will give us her brand new tome, Better Than Before: Mastering The Habits Of Our Everyday Lives in March 2015, explaining how we can transform ourselves by giving us the tool of effective habit building. We can't wait to get started!
9. The wolves are watching…
'All stories are about wolves. All worth repeating, that is. Anything else is sentimental drivel.
All of them?
Sure, he says. Think about it. There's escaping from the wolves, fighting the wolves, capturing the wolves, taming the wolves. Being thrown to the wolves, or throwing others to the wolves so the wolves will eat them instead of you. Running with the wolf pack. Turning into a wolf. Best of all, turning into the head wolf. No other decent stories exist.'
– Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin
Wolves have been gathering pace in the culture for some time now. The wolfish dogs in Game of Thrones are either a terrifying wild animal or a dog-like faithful, depending on whether you are enemy or friend. Perhaps it’s this familiar, yet strange, feeling they arouse in us that makes them such an object of fascination, but expect to encounter wolfish themes aplenty in 2015. At the end of this year we were beguiled by musician John Darnielle’s book Wolf In White Van (Granta, £12.99), in which the mysterious titular ‘wolf’ is revealed in a brilliant piece of writing that sets this debut author apart as one to watch. February 2015 will see another debut, Cecilia Ekbäck’s Wolf Winter (Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99), set in an 18th-century Swedish Lapland, where the ‘grey-legs’ are blamed when a dead body is discovered among a remote community, as a freezing cold ‘wolf winter’ arrives and secrets begin to be uncovered…
Finally, we’re highly excited about a new novel from Cumbrian author Sarah Hall. The Wolf Border (Faber & Faber, £16.99) arrives in late March and is centred around a woman whose work monitoring wolves eventually brings her back from Idaho to the Lake District, where her estranged family is waiting…
10. Wild walking gets even bigger
We first introduced you to Cheryl Strayed in Psychologies in 201X, when we ran a feature by her about her book, Wild, and its story of her 1,100-mile walk along the Pacific Crest Trail in the wake of her mother’s death. But 2015 is when we predict Cheryl will become a household name, as the film of her story, with a screenplay by Nick Hornby (and it’s as good as the book, in a different way) hits the big screen in January starring Reese Witherspoon.
Better find somewhere new for your next challenging walk – the PCT is going to be busy. We recommend the coast of Cornwall (our editor, Suzy Greaves, did it with her dog Oscar) or, for a PCT-style effort, Corsica’s infamous GR20 trail.
Here’s to more life-changing discoveries in 2015!