The minute Christmas celebrations are over, most of us have quickly turned our attention toward the new year, pondering what changes we want to make in the coming year. After all, what better time to develop healthy habits and routines than at the beginning of a new year?
Yet research shows that 80% of people abandon their New Year’s resolutions by February.
Among the most common reasons new year’s resolutions don’t work are:
1. You expect to see results too quickly and lose motivation
Naturally, we want to see results from any effort that we make. Unfortunately, often if we don't see changes quickly, we lose motivation. Take the gym, for example. It takes time before you start to see a change in the mirror. It's only after you've been lifting weights for several weeks that you begin to see the fruits of your labour.
However, don’t confuse what you see with how you feel. The benefits of working out at the gym can be felt relatively quickly, yet seeing the results often take longer. It can be helpful to see the effort you make today as an investment in future rewards.
2. You’re trying to avoid something instead of reaching something
It's important to ask yourself whether your goal focuses on reaching something or avoiding something. The difference in your motivation is important. Put another way, is your goal focused on the negative or the positive? Here are two examples:
Avoid goal: I want to lose weight. (Note the word “lose”)
Achieve goal: I will weigh 65kg. (Note the clear intention and action)
Avoid goal: I want to stop eating junk food. (Note the word “stop”) Approach goal: I will buy fresh vegetables and hummus to snack on. (Note the action)
3. Your goal isn't specific enough
Simply having the goal to "lose weight" or to "eat better" isn't enough; there isn't enough information about how or when you are going to achieve the goal. Continuing with the previous point, focusing on what you want to achieve and adding a timeframe makes your goal specific and reachable, not to mention more powerful. Let's look at the two earlier examples above, which have now been expanded to include a specific time frame:
Avoid goal: I want to lose weight.
Achieve goal: I will weigh 65kg by summer.
Avoid goal: I want to stop eating junk food.
Approach goal: I will buy carrot sticks and hummus twice a week, which I will bring to work every day and snack on when I get hungry mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
Today is the best day to start
While New Year’s Eve can be a good time to set goals or resolutions, the truth is any time of year is a good time to start positive new habits. Best of all, there are many things you can do right now to help you feel good and support your health in the long term. Let’s look at five examples:
Water has been called the elixir of life and is essential to our health, digestion and survival.
1. Drink more water
It’s been called the elixir of life for good reason. Water is essential to your body. Your body uses water to help regulate temperature and maintain other bodily functions. In addition to keeping you hydrated, drinking water helps the brain function optimally, aids digestion, regulates body temperature, prevents constipation, and so on.
Try drinking at least four to six cups or two litres of water daily. Tip! Buy a stainless-steel refillable water bottle and keep it on your desk to remind you to drink water and stay hydrated throughout the day.
2. Kickstart your morning
Eating a nutritious and healthy breakfast together with a probiotic supplement is a great way to start your day. Make it part of your morning routine. Put your dietary supplements near your coffee machine so that they're visible, and you remember to take them every morning. Tip! Make habits automatic by subscribing to your favourite products and have them delivered to your door.
3. Walk the Walk
The benefits of walking are countless. For example, walking 10,000 steps or a minimum of 30 minutes every day has been shown to maintain a healthy weight or lose body fat, improve cardiovascular fitness, and even prevent or manage various health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
Best yet, you don’t even need to join the gym to get exercise. Simply go for a walk during your lunch break or if you take the train or bus to or from work, get off a couple of stops earlier and walk. Additionally, get into a habit of taking the stairs instead of the lift or escalators.
In addition to the physical health benefits, there are plenty of mental health benefits to walking, including stress relief, problem-solving, improvement in mood, and increased energy. One study also shows that it can boost creativity.
4. Focus on the good and give thanks
When you wake up in the morning and when you're about turn in for the night, instead of reaching for your phone, reach for a pen instead.
Buy a journal and keep it beside your bed. Each morning, write down 3 things you are grateful for. It could be anything. Maybe it's the fact you have a job to go, which, in turn, enables you to live the life you do, or that you have a warm bed and shelter, a group of great friends, or simply the fact the sun is shining today. Training your mind to notice the good things in your life can do wonders for your well-being.
Similarly, before going to bed each night, write down 5 things that happened today that were good. It's easy to breeze through every day without taking stock of what good things happened. For example, maybe you feel you had a bad day at work; if you make a habit of reflecting upon the day and identifying the good things that happened, you may realise that it wasn't such a bad day after all.
Reflecting at the end of the day allows you to stockpile the good things and trains your brain to focus on the good.
5. Prioritise sleep
The importance of sleep cannot be overstated. We all know what getting little sleep feels like and the impacts it can have on our day. Sleep is essential for various brain functions, including cognition, concentration, productivity and performance.
Research conducted by the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School has revealed that insufficient sleep is associated with long-term health consequences, including chronic medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
So, how much should you sleep? Experts say the optimal number of hours that adults under 65 years of age should sleep is between seven and nine hours per night.
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