If you’ve set yourself some health goals for this year, these tips could be the inspiration you need to start making a positive long-term change in your life.
I’m lucky enough in my job to meet and talk to hundreds of people every year about their wellness and health goals.
Many of us know what we should be doing, but how to do it, and how to do it in the long term, is where people can get a little stuck.
Think about what it is that you want to achieve this year. What does the healthier version of you look like? More well rested? More connected to friends and family? Fitter? Think about your health goals and start to set yourself up for success with these tips:
1. Connect to your purpose
Why is it important that you achieve this health goal? Then once you’ve asked yourself why, ask yourself why again and again until you drill down to the real reason you want to make a change. The more you understand your true motivation, the more likely you are to succeed.
2. Think very very small
We can lose motivation and feel overwhelmed by big health goals that feel unachievable. Trying to change everything at once very rarely works long term. Start with a mini version of a big health goal that you could start doing today. Then focus on repeating that behaviour every single day.
If we do something often enough, eventually it may happen automatically without much thought or effort. Repetition helps re-wire our brain, so focus on consistency first. Research suggests that it can take about 66 days for a behaviour to become a habit. For example, if you want to be able to do 100 push-ups, just do one push-up every single day to start with. It’s like brushing your teeth — something you do every day that you probably don’t think much about now.
3. Get support.
This could be a professional or a friend or family member.
4. Focus on the behaviours, not the outcome
For example, you may not be able to control how much weight you will lose each month, but you can try to control your behaviours. Focus on what you can control to help maintain a positive mindset and help you better achieve your health goals.
5. Store food strategically
Keep healthy unprocessed foods conveniently close by and easy to access: fruit on the bench, nutritious homemade meals in the freezer and healthy snacks in your bag, car or desk. Even if your goal isn’t weight focused, being properly energised for the day can help you with those little steps towards your big goal.
6. Remove temptation
Get rid of needless temptation and manage stress. After all, we only have a finite amount of will power. This might mean going straight to the gym after work and not stopping off at home first.
Don’t underestimate the power of sleep. It helps repair our body, supports our immune system and contributes to our emotional stability. Prioritise sleep – this might even be your goal!.
8. Identify your triggers
It could be that you always open a bottle of wine once the kids are asleep, or have a biscuit with a cup of tea after dinner, and you don’t stop to think whether you really want it or not.
9. Identify your barriers
While you’re thinking about triggers, identify barriers that may be keeping you from reaching your health goals. Once you’ve worked out what has gotten in the way in the past (lack of time?) you can put a plan in place to directly address it.
10. Adjust your portion sizes
If weight loss is your health goal, you may need to reduce your portion sizes. You could try this handy guide to learn about recommended portion sizes for different foods. It can also be easy to ignore signals from our body around hunger and satiety (satisfaction) and overeat, particularly if we’re paying more attention to the TV than our meal. Try waiting 20 minutes before thinking about seconds — you may feel full by then and change your mind.
11. Be kind to yourself
Remember that progress is very rarely a straight line. It can dip up and down, but over time heads in the right direction. It also takes time to reach health goals. Don’t beat yourself up. The goal should focus on improvement, not perfection.