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We understand some days in your life are extra special. We really do. And we appreciate that few, if any, are more important than your wedding day. You want to know it’s in safe, capable, passionate hands. As many of our hotels are licensed for civil ceremonies, we’re also happy to host your actual wedding as well as your reception. Whatever your choice, when you get hitched, we’ll make sure your special day goes without a hitch. That’s a Hallmark promise.

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Make this your Best Year Ever with these 10 Tips

05 January 2016 leisure-spa

Welcome to 2016- and a fresh set of 12 months for us all to embrace and make the most of. Or at least that’s the overall idea. Here are 10 ways to Make this your best year ever! 

At this point in the calendar it’s important to take stock of things and begin formulating plans for how we can improve ourselves as the weeks begin to roll on by once more. In honour of this moment, we’ve come up with a few ideas that can hopefully inspire some positive changes in your life, all with one thing in common- there’s no better time to begin implementing them than right now, today. Take a look below, then, and see what we’ve come up with, then download our handy checklist that you can complete and pop in your wallet or purse.

Plus you can win 12 weekend breaks here.  1. Take more city breaks


Although cheap air travel makes it quite difficult not to be tempted by destinations outside the UK, it’s always wise to consider visiting those places right on your doorstep too. Booking yourself a long weekend in a British city also has a few benefits over foreign towns, not least the fact you don’t necessarily need to take any days off work in order to squeeze in 48 hours amid unfamiliar surrounds, and the small matter of Lonely Planet ranking Manchester in the Top 10 urban areas in the world to visit during 2016. Other ideas might include York for history buffs, Edinburgh if you’re culturally inclined, Birmingham- home to the most Michelin-starred restaurants outside London- and, of course, London, one of the most touristic metropoles on the face of the Earth.

The facts: According to research published by Jessica de Bloom in The Psychologist, holidays of any kind have a positive impact on our personal and professional lives, but, perhaps most interestingly, the beneficial effects fade after two weeks, meaning it might well be better to take several shorter bouts of leave than one long stint.

To put it another way: “I have had a holiday, and I’d like to take it up professionally.” Kylie Minogue

2. Test your nerves (in a new way)


Being comfortable and not pushing your personal boundaries can be all-too-easy, especially in a month defined by dark evenings, rain and generally uninviting climate conditions. Nevertheless, we say that testing your nerves in a new way should be high on everyone’s priorities for 2016, and by that we mean trying something that’s at least exciting, if not scary. Skydiving is an obvious choice, combining the frantic freefall with a strange tranquility that ensues once the parachute opens (giving you ample opportunity to take in the beauty of the landscape below). Alternatively, why not go paintballing, take a bungee jump, or put peddle to metal in a motor race?

The facts: In 1908, psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson theorised that a state of relative comfort created a steady level of performance. As such, breaking out of your comfort zone can help maximise your performance.

To put it another way: “Pearls don’t lie on the seashore. If you want one, you must dive for it.” Chinese proverb


3. Eat out more, and eat more healthy options

Superfood quinoa & feta salad 2

At this point in the year we’d hazard a guess that you feel as though another slice of brie would threaten to turn you into an actual lump of high-cholesterol cheese. Meanwhile, there’s a good chance that after all the turkey, ham, sausages and bacon, the thought of putting more meat in your body gives rise to nausea. This shouldn’t mean you can’t still eat out, though; instead, it’s more indicative of the need to think carefully about what you’re going to eat when you do go out. Cuisines like Vietnamese, Japanese, Ethiopian and Thai are all known for containing less of those Very Bad But Very Tasty Ingredients many Western kitchens offer in abundance, but no less flavour, and in our biggest cities you’ll be spoilt for choice in terms of getting your hands on such dishes.

The facts: Cancer experts believe that some 1 in 10 cases of the disease could be prevented altogether through a healthy, balanced diet.

To put it another way: “To keep the body in good health is a duty... otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” Buddha


4. Work on your fitness

Gym 1

Yes, it’s perhaps the ultimate New Year cliche, but cliches are usually cliches for a very good reason- namely the way they’re based on common truths. Notwithstanding the sheer volume of fattening foods and alcoholic beverages that define the festive period for many, starting your health kick in January also means you can make the most of a full 12 months of better living. Whether it’s hitting the golf course to play a few rounds, booking into a spa to have luxurious treatments and massages, or signing up to a gym, the idea of a fresh start is the perfect incentive to make this year your most active yet.

The facts: As little as 2.5hours of moderate physical exercise each week can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems like heart disease and stroke.

To put it another way: “If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.” Hippocrates

5. Walk (or cycle)


Britons aren’t blessed with the safest of cycle lanes in our towns and cities, yet we do have a spectacular great outdoors to explore once you leave said sprawls behind. As such we want to take this opportunity to recommend that you do something about that, and experience the beauty of the United Kingdom’s countryside. Those of you who feel in good enough shape might want to pack a rucksack and jump on a mountain bike to explore the hills and valleys of our stunning islands, but if those leg muscles aren’t quite up to the task it’s just as enjoyable to head out with the intention of hiking to some beauty spot or other.

The facts: Several medical studies have shown that getting out into the countryside greatly reduces stress levels and improves the mood, so much so that it’s believed exploring the great outdoors could potentially save the NHS money.

To put it another way: “Spending time outdoors makes you feel great.” Elizabeth Hurley


6. Spend more time with those you love


Getting bogged down in day-to-day responsibilities is something we’re all guilty of. From work to studying, loosing sight of what’s really important in life is dangerously simple, and sometimes we all need to be reminded that taking time to appreciate your nearest and dearest is the key to happiness, not to mention great fun. Why not begin by getting in touch with old friends and relatives a little more regularly, and then consider going the whole hog and asking people to put a weekend aside for a reunion? It might seem like a big thing to organise, but it will definitely be worth the effort in the long run.

The facts: As per a study by the University of North Carolina, which included 300,000 participants, having a large, strong social network is linked to a lengthy life, and the differences between those who have and those who have not can be compared to smokers and non-smokers.

To put it another way: “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” Mother Teresa


7. Be more pro-active about listening to live music


For its size, you’d struggle to find another country that can match our own in terms of global music reach. Pop, rock, and their derivatives are amongst the UK’s biggest cultural exports, and since the heady days of the Brit invasion of America during the early-mid 1960s, the rest of the world has been looking at us for clues as to where they can find the latest sounds and trends. Don’t forget how privileged we are then; make an effort to go and see more live music. Cities such as London, Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow and Birmingham have long boasted phenomenally varied and incredibly busy scenes, so why not take advantage properly?

The facts: Catching a gig can help us de-stress after a long day at the office, and, like spending time with those you love, the social aspect is also hugely beneficial.

To put it another way: “Live music is healthy.” John Lydon


8. Take up a new hobby


Potentially another obvious choice, but again there’s a reason it’s so obvious. New hobbies are, in short, the best way to avoid slipping back into those negative habits from last year- and you know what we mean by that (endless evenings spent slobbing-out in front of the TV, glass of red wine in hand, following a meal of nothing but comfort food). Better yet, taking up a fresh hobby can help boost your level of activity, particularly if you decide to join a gym or get involved in team sports of any kind. Those less inclined to hit the treadmill or don a kit and chase some sort of ball around some sort of pitch might also want to consider learning to sew, baking, or climbing- respectively really useful, really tasty, and really good for your health.

The facts: Not only to hobbies provide a great creative outlet, which can be important for good mental health, they also encourage us to meet new people.

To put it another way: “I love my friends. I love my love-life. I love my hobbies. I love eating.” Rebecca De Mornay

9. Dress better (and smarter)


There are few feelings quite like leaving the house in new threads. It might sound like the most consumerist statement you’ve read in ages, but even so there’s a lot to be said for improving your appearance, and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to achieve. Several of Britain’s cities are veritable style epicentres, boasting everything from second-hand outlets to vintage boutiques, independent shops and major department stores. This can also be a great reason to stay in town a little longer, which ties in nicely with idea No.1 in our list.

The facts: According to the theory of ‘enclothed cognition’, your brain makes links between certain outfits and behavioural traits- for example, research studied in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology showed that people performed better in exams whilst wearing a white doctor’s coat.

To put it another way: “If you can’t be better than your competition, just dress better.” Anna Wintour


10. Get cultured (or more cultured)


Here in the UK we are blessed with a multitude of things that many in other parts of the world can only really dream of, not least the ability to visit some of the world’s best museums and art galleries, completely free of charge (albeit some special exhibitions do carry a small entrance fee). As such, if there’s one last bit of advice we have for you when it comes to making 2016 your best year to date, it’s making the most of all the cultural assets we’re offered, sans toll.

The facts:  Participation in arts and culture is significantly association with good health and high life satisfaction, according to the Arts Council.

To put it another way: “A people without knowledge of their past, history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”

So, you are now ready to make this year your best year ever, and to help you get started we have added a simple checklist that you can fill in and print out. Several studies over the last few decades have found that the best way to make sure that you achieve the goals that you set yourself is the write them down. It also makes sense to keep them with you in your wallet or purse so that you can continually refer to them. [gravityform id="1" title="true" description="true"]

Do you struggle with keeping your resolutions? Here are our tips and tricks on how to get better at it, click here.

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