A very happy New Year to you all! The start of a new year inspires many to improve some aspects in their lives. Eating healthier and being more active is a recurrent theme for many. However, often these new habits don’t even last till February! If this resonates with you, let’s look at some key tactics to make it really happen this year.
Motivation + Reminders + Action plan + Know-how + Support = Success
How do you want to live your life?
First, have a good think about WHY you want to change something. You may have to ask yourself a few times “Why?” to get to the core of your true motivation. For example; “I’ll do more exercise”, why? “I want to be more fit”, why? “I want to be able to join my friend’s walking club”, why? “I feel left out and miss the social interaction” BAM…. So, the reason for you wanting to do more exercise is not just for the sake of feeling fit, but because of the underlying desire to keep up with others and feel socially more connected. Question yourself how you want to live your life and keep this picture in mind while setting up your new habit. Visualizing this with a photo or text placed where you often see it (e.g. phone or computer screen) reminds you to stick to it. Making a vision board can be fun and useful if you enjoy being creative.
The next crucial step is to make an action plan that is realistic and fits in your daily life. Think of what is more achievable for you; making small changes step-by-step or turn things over in a more radical way? Think of possible barriers and how to tackle them before they even occur. Do you fall back into old habits because healthy options are simply not available, you don’t know how to prepare vegetables in a tasty way or you simply forget to move more? Think ahead what would help you to avoid giving up on your goals. Let your current situation and previous experiences guide you to take action in a way that is easy to sustain long term.
You’re unique and what works for some may not be beneficial for your body or fits into your lifestyle. If you’d like assistance in drawing a plan, then a qualified health professional can guide you in determining what would be an ideal selection of foods and how to implement new ways of eating, or qualified exercise professionals can show you what exercise routine is most beneficial for your body.
Not ready to immerse yourself in a structured exercise program? Small changes in our daily lives can already have a big impact on the amount of movement we get. Our bodies stay healthy by moving (a lot!) but from a survival perspective our brain tries to prevent unnecessary burning of energy. With modern technology making it less and less necessary to move so that we do most of our work while sitting and getting food requires minimal physical activity, our brain has an easy ‘win’ these days. That means that we mostly have to make a conscious decision to be physically active. Some easy ideas to incorporate more exercise in your day are:
- Choose the furthest carpark rather than the closest one to the door
- Take the stairs rather than elevator or escalator
- Consider walking or biking to run an errand
- Plan (some days) that you walk or bike to work or the kids to school
- Hop off the bus a few stops earlier and walk the remaining part of your journey
- Carry your groceries rather than using a trolley
- Schedule exercise at home. There are plenty of tutorials from exercise consultants online. Pick some exercises you think you’ll enjoy or find useful and schedule reminders in your phone when to do them.
- Tackle those weeds in the garden
- If you have a stationary bicycle or treadmill, use it when you watch TV
- Have ‘walking’ meetings
- Dance to music you love
- At work make coffee breaks walking or stretching breaks, let your co-workers join for company
- Walk and talk to your co-workers rather than using messaging systems
Who’s with me?
Support from your environment is key in changing habits. Tell the people around you what you’re trying to achieve so they can support you along the way. They may even have the same goals so you can take on the challenge together, remind and support each other!
Most of all: ENJOY your new routine, once you get used to it you won’t want to go back to old habits and you’ll be living a life you love.