The New Year is a popular time for making resolutions and sticking things on your bucket list. Some are just small changes, some are new habits, and some are big goals or ambitions like visiting a certain number of countries or doing some kind of extreme challenge. This list is a little different. Instead on focussing on what you'd like to change about yourself, this list is more about exploring Southampton and Hampshire and finding ways to make your year fulfilled.
Apparently only around 8% of people manage to stick to their New Year's resolutions, but that's no reason not to try. This list has easy ways that can add more to your year, and all you'll need is an odd weekend here and there and a bit of spare time.
Getting more exercise is a resolution that tops many lists. It could also be joined by 'loose x amount of pounds' or 'drop 3 dress sizes'. But if you're not already a gym junkee, there's a good chance you won't become one overnight. Here are some ways to fit in exercise while enjoying yourself at the same time.
Get outdoors and go for a walk Don't pound away at a treadmill watching EastEnders when you could get some fresh air instead. Within the city there are plenty of walking, jogging or running tracks, especially through Southampton Common. You can go it alone, or even join up with an organised event like Parkrun. Parkrun is a free weekly organised 5km run through Southampton Common starting outside the Hawthornes Centre, as well as their website you can also stay up to date on Facebook for more info on how to get involved.
A little further afield, there is always plenty to explore at New Forest. You can head out for a run, jog or walk, but it's also the perfect place for a longer leisurely hike. New Forest is filled with over 140miles of walking tracks, and while you're out and about you're quite likely to come across ponies, cattle and donkeys. You can find more information on the different trails available on the New Forest website.
New Forest, Photo: Jim Championhttps://www.geograph.org.uk/profile/1086
There are plenty of other walking trails around Southampton, from full day hikes taking you down to Portsmouth to shorter walks around the city. With plenty of historical sites dotted around Southampton and Hampshire, you might also be able to find a walk that suits some of your other interests - perhaps take a trip up to Winchester for a self guided Jane Austen literary walk.
Other Ways to Exercise
Of course, there's more than just walking. You could try giving yoga a try in the New Year. Yoga Sanctuary run classes throughout the week for beginners and the already experienced and they have longer retreats and teacher training courses too. Southampton Yoga run regular yoga classes, but they've also got hot yoga as well - yoga in a 30ºC room can be good motivation for exercising in the middle of winter.
Another winter activity is ice skating. Ice Skate Southampton sets up during late autumn and early winter by the Esplanade next to the Medieval Walls and Westquay South, while Winchester Cathedral also offers a rink. Unfortunately you'll be out of luck when the weather warms up, because it's been over 30 years since Southampton was home to a permanent ice rink.
There are many more ways to fit in more exercise, you could give Cross Fit a go, or even have fun at Oxygen Freejumping trampoline park. The key to getting in more exercise isn't always pushing yourself to the max, it's finding something you enjoy and sticking with it.
Something else you could try in the New Year, is learning a new skill. Really, there's no limits to what you could learn. There are courses and workshops held locally, but with the internet you have endless opportunities following web tutorials or youtube video guides. Here are a few locally based ideas to get you started, but the key is to find something you've always wanted to do and just giving it a go.
Here are some options if you're wanting to explore your artistic side. My Pottery is based at the Marlands Shopping Centre and has classes for adults and kids. You can join a once off workshop or class, but if you're a little serious you can also get in touch about longer term poetry tuition. The Southampton City Art Gallery also has regular activities where you can learn about particular styles and methods and try getting a little artistic yourself. Or you can join a 14-week art course with Colour Wheel Art Class held at Hangar Farm Arts Centre.
For something modern, check out Southampton MakerSpace. This is for the high tech crafters. The communal space is designed to be somewhere that people can share knowledge and tools, and options range from metal and woodwork to costume design, robotics, photography, 3D printing, and more.
If you're after something a little more serious, then you could try heading along to the University of Southampton. You don't have to be a full time student to take advantage of some university learning. They have a range of evening and short courses that range from learning about sustainability to history and classics. You won't be able to whittle your own boat by the end of a course, but you'll certainly know a little more. The university also offers modern language courses, where you can learn a range of different languages including Arabic, Japanese, Dutch and of course even English if you're not a native speaker.
If you consider yourself a bit of a gourmand, then perhaps you'd like to sharpen up your skills when it comes to food and drink. Lemon & Soul Cookery School offer a cookery masterclass, private lessons, or even family cooking lessons either at their place or yours. For something sweeter check out the available experiences at Fredericks Chocolates, you can learn how to make your own chocolate truffles. For cakes, the Cake Makery has classes on almost every aspect of cake making and decorating you could think of. There's even a course to help you kickstart your own cake making business. They're located a bit out of Southampton in Fleet, but it's worth the trip if you're serious about learning some new skills.
If you're more interested in the drinking side of things, the Southampton Wine School can offer wine, champagne, beer, port, gin & tonic, and whiskey tastings to expand your pallet, or they also have courses designed to make you a pro at food and drink pairings. Across their classes you can find something for the hospitality professionals as well as the at home enthusiasts. If beer is more your thing, you can check out Beer School at BrewDog Southampton or book a Brewery Experience Day at Brewhouse & Kitchen to learn all about brewing with the pub's head brewer.
After something a little different? If you can dream it up, chances are you can learn it. Perhaps you've been bitten by the Cirque du Soleil bug and want to join an aerial workshop at Aerial Southampton. You can join in a group workshop or organise private lessons, but it's definitely a skill you don't see every day. If martial arts is more your scene, you could pick up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at Phoenix BJJ where they teach BJJ and MMA for various ages and skill levels. Or why not start your apocalypse preparations with a survival course with Wildway Bushcraft. They're based in Dorset but offer bushcraft courses in Hampshire as well, including canoeing, general bushcraft, fire making, and even spoon crafting.
Volunteering is a great way to enrich your own life while helping other people. You can volunteer to help people in need as well as for not for profit organisations that match your interests. A great way to get started with volunteering is to look through available volunteering opportunities through Southampton Voluntary Services. They have a comprehensive database that will match you up with an appropriate opportunity whether you're interested in helping animals, children, conservation groups, people in need, language learners, or more. You can find something that matches your skills with the people who need them most.
There's also the Society of St James (or SSJ), an organisation that was created to help homeless people in Southampton. They run fundraisers throughout the year and have programs that recycle computers and bikes so that people in need can get access to technology and transport.
Perhaps you'd be interested in volunteering at the SeaCity Museum. They have a range of volunteering opportunities whether your interests lie in history, education or tourism. You assist with school education programs or guide people through different areas of the museum.
There are so many organisations that can benefit from a helping hand, and volunteering is a great way to make sure you give something back this year.
Reading is great for enjoyment, learning new things, or even just giving yourself a chance to zone out and forget about the busier side of life. Obviously you can read wherever you are in the world, especially with eBooks making it even easier to read whatever you want, whenever you want, wherever you are. But if you're more interested in books, here are a few spots that will help you increase the number of books you're getting through in the New Year.
When it comes to reading, there's nowhere better than a library. The Southampton City Council has six libraries across Southampton and if you like books you should make sure you have a membership. Joining is free and gives you access to a huge range of books and other resources. You can borrow up to 30 items at a time, and if the library closest to you doesn't have what you want you can request it from one of the other libraries. Further afield, you can also get a Portsmouth or Hampshire library card which both bring even more options.
If you're more interested in buying your books, then don't worry, print isn't dead yet. October Books is one of Southampton's most popular independent booksellers. It's a co-operative community bookshop that first opened in 1977 and is focussed less on profits and more on providing the community with quality books to expand their horizons. Another place that isn't too fixated on money is Free Books Southampton. This is where people bring their already read books instead of leaving them sitting on the shelf collecting dust. You can pick up a new read for free and you can donate your own pre-loved books for someone else to enjoy. For those who don't like to pick up a book without a beer nearby, never fear, the Bookshop Alehouse have seen the gap in the market and have put a pub inside a bookshop. You can enjoy books and beers together, like they should be.
Of course, if you want to do more reading, you don't have to stick to books. Why not aim to read more comics this year. Head along to Southampton Comics at the Loft Ladder to rifle through their collection of vintage comics. Whatever you end up reading, reading more is always a good goal to make the New Year a good one.
If you've been reading through this list, you'll have noticed that a few of these suggestions are already opportunities to make new friends. Starting a new hobby, volunteering, and getting out and about will all give you opportunities to meet new people and expand your social network. Whether you're new to Southampton, your friends have moved away, or you just want to meet someone new, making new friends can lead to much more fun in the New Year.
Joining a sports group can be a great way to not just meet new friends, but also become part of a team or community. Ultimate Frisbee can be a great way to make friends, as it's a little less established than many other sports and is a popular choice for people wanting to give something new a go. The University of Southampton have a team, but you don't have to be a student to join. Southampton Solent University has plenty of other sports that are also open to the wider community.
Hash House Harriers provides the perfect mix of socialisation and fitness. There's a club in Hursley and one in Winchester, but they organise runs around Hampshire. Typically the day starts off with a run (although you can walk too) on a trail that has been set the day before and it ends with a few drinks and some food. They describe themselves as a 'drinking club with a running problem' so this is definitely a better choice if you enjoy a few drinks, but even the sober are allowed to join - you just might get a bit of grief for it when it comes to the sober part of the evening.
If team sports or running aren't your kind of thing, then perhaps Meetup is a better option. The website is designed to link up people with similar interests, and you can find a suitable group whether you're interested in movie watching pals, a playgroup for parents and toddlers, board game enthusiasts, or a group or people to share a few pints with. At times the get togethers can feel a little too organised, but there's nothing stopping you planning things on your own if you meet some people you get along with.
There's something special about the theatre. It's immersive, it's lively and colourful, it can be funny or it can be heartbreaking, but whatever you're seeing it's a great opportunity to experience a bit more culture and see something new. Increasing your theatregoing won't appeal to everyone, but if you do find yourself at the end of the year wishing you'd seen more shows then stop making excuses and book some tickets now.
The Mayflower Theatre is one of the main theatres in Southampton. They feature a range of shows from children's theatre to major touring productions. Generally their program will be announced well in advanced so you have plenty of time to plan your theatregoing.
Your next stop should be NST, the theatre of the University of Southampton. An expansion of the theatre means that now you can see shows at the university campus theatre as well as a new smaller theatre in the city centre. Every Saturday, and some Sundays, they have an affordable children's theatre show and throughout the year they have touring performances as well as amateur theatre shows.
Perhaps you're a musical buff, or maybe you want to start a family tradition watching the Christmas pantomime. There's certainly plenty to watch, so book some tickets before they sell out.
If you work full time and have a healthy sleeping pattern, there's a good chance you spend more time with your workmates than you do with your family. It's no wonder than spending more quality time with family is a popular resolution. You might have young kids that you want to spend more device-free time with, or maybe you want to resume Friday night drinks with your sister, or you just want to see your parents or grandparents more.
Obviously you don't need to do anything special to see your family, but these are a few ideas that might make your days out a little more interesting. If you've got young ones, switch off the telly and head to the park instead. Southampton has plenty of parks with green space to run around and playgrounds for kids to explore. You could explore the SeaCity Museum or peer at the paintings at the Southampton City Art Gallery. For something a little different, you could look at downloading a Treasure Trail map. The trails will take you around spots around the city with information about the different sights you're seeing and fun extras for the kids along the way.
For a fun day out for older family members, book an escape room for the family - just hope you work well together or you might end up causing more fights than fun. You're locked in a room with a mystery to solve and you need to work together to escape the room. There are a couple of different escape rooms around Southampton, check out Elusion Rooms, Houdini's Escape Room Experience, Exciting Escapes or Cyantist Escape Room to get you started. For some old school fun, why not head to 10-pin bowling instead. Hollywood Bowl has classic 10-pin bowling and arcade games that will make a fun family day out for all ages.
Eating healthier is a good goal to stick with at any time of year. But for this list, we don't just want you to head down to Tesco and fill up a shopping trolley. The whole point is to get you out exploring what Southampton has to offer, and there's a way to eat more fruits and vegetables whilst exploring and having fun at the same time.
To start off, you can check out one of Hampshire's farmers markets. There's one in Winchester, Alton, Emsworth, Petersfield, Ringwood, Romsey and Lymington. The produce comes straight from the farmers, and you'll get fresher seasonal produce than you're likely to find at the stores. As well as stocking up on fruits and veggies, there are often tastings and cooking demonstrations. It's worth making a day of it, taking a drive and enjoying the countryside while you're at it.
Another one that probably takes a bit of a drive is heading out to a Pick Your Own farm around Hampshire. You're not going to find them in the city centre, but if you're up for an outing it's worth it. Bourne Valley PYO has raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries, black red and white currants, broad beans and rhubarb. Durleighmarsh Farm Shop has similar fruits available for picking, but they've got a wider range of vegetables. Pick Your Own Farms has a good list of other places around Hampshire where you can fill up your baskets with enough for a healthy feast.
One other way you can get more fruits and vegetables on your plate is by growing your own. Let's be honest, not many of us have a backyard and those that do aren't necessarily suited to a garden of fruit trees and vegetables. But you don't need your own space, you can join a community garden instead. The Ropewalk Community Garden is just outside the city centre, or you could look at joining the Hampshire Organic Gardening Group. If you're really enterprising you could even find your own suitable space in your local area and try and convince your council to support a community garden project.
Of course, if you just want to eat healthy you can pop to the shops and adjust your shopping list, but these ways are definitely a bit more fun.
Chances are you won't be starting off the New Year technology free. We'll be using Instagram, Snapchat and Messenger to ring in the New Year, sending messages to friends and sharing our festivities. But the thought of switching off and unplugging from our technology filled lives is appealing to many. Many of the ideas we've already mentioned in this list, like hiking or some yoga, provide the opportunity to unplug and unwind, but here are a few more that will have you disconnecting with technology and reconnecting with the things around you.
Even if camping isn't your style, you'll be comfortable relaxing with Belltent Glamping in the grounds of Royal Victoria Country Park. The tents are spacious and comfortable. The tents are furnished with carpets, a raised bed, a little camping stove and fairy lights. You can relax and sleep inside the tent, and explore the grounds during the day.
Another activity that will have you switching off your phone is the pub quiz. Sure it's not entirely technology free, but phones are banned or you'll be disqualified so as well as frantically answering questions you'll also spend more time phone-free with your friends than you probably have in a long time. The Alexandra has a quiz night every Sunday, but you'll find plenty of others as well. Maybe you could even do a quiz every night of the week.
This last one is probably a little more specific, but it's definitely one of my top New Year's resolutions. You could always sign up and start writing for Weekend Notes too and you'd have the perfect opportunity to go out and explore more of Southampton. Weekend Notes is all about sharing the best things local things to do, so I know in the New Year I'll be trying to write even more often as I discover everything Southampton has to offer.