We all have the best of intentions when it comes to setting new resolutions, but often the reason these resolutions don’t stick is because we’re trying to change a habit overnight.
For sustainable, realistic changes, these habits should be overcome gradually and consistently.
First establish your goals, for example, becoming physically active, eating more healthfully, dealing better with stress etc. Don’t set these goals because someone else says you should.
Your goals should be yours alone and in setting them, not only will you buy into them, but you’ll also be fully accountable for their achievement.
Something that excites you to think about completing, a long-term (LT) goal can be anything you feel is realistically achievable. Examples might be working fewer hours, cycling across the continent (!) or losing 6kg.
Setting LT goals within a 4 to 12 month period should work well – anything longer and it may be hard to maintain motivation or commitment. Anything shorter and you’re moving into dangerous territory, since dropout tends to be greater within the first three months of starting any new programme.
These help you achieve your LT goals. For example, if your LT goal is to lose 6kg within a 4-month period, your medium-term (MT) goal may be to lose 1.5kg per month. If your LT goal is to reduce by two hours, your working day, from 10 hours within a 6-month period, your MT goal may be to get home 15 minutes earlier every 2 weeks.
These are immediate events that facilitate your MT goals and include things as simple as attempting to get to the gym three times a week; eating a good quality home-prepared lunch daily, meditating for 5 minutes every day etc.
Once again, make sure these are realistic – if you don’t normally take a lunch break, don’t opt for a one-hour walk at that time; rather attempt a 10-minute power walk until you become used to the idea of taking time for yourself during your working day.
The above make up your action plan. Write it down so that you can remind yourself of your goals regularly.
If you hit a rough spot and don’t manage to complete your ST goals for the week, don’t panic; simply start up again as soon as you can (don’t wait till Monday!).
If your lapse is happening frequently, revisit your ST and MT (and perhaps even your LT) goals, since they may not be as realistic as you thought they were.
Lastly, be sure to reward yourself when you do achieve your goals consistently. Perhaps not with a piece of ‘Death by Chocolate’, but with a new item of clothing, a weekend away, time by yourself … whatever floats your boat and makes you feel good. You’ll have deserved it!
Why not set your goals and achieve them differently in the future? A habit takes a good 30 days to change, so trying to achieve more than one small change at a time can be a mighty difficult thing. How about setting yourself 12 new health-enhancing habits for the year ahead – one for each month?
What exactly should those new habits be? Well, a lot will be dependent on your long term goals (i.e. losing 10kg, improving your health, reducing your stress load etc.). Consider these goals and work backwards from there, giving thought to the changes required to help you achieve them.
I’m going to suggest 12 very basic but important life and health-enhancing changes, but you could come up with your own or apply them in a different order...
Drink enough good quality water. Your weight in kg X 0.033 = your ideal daily water intake (not taking into account any sweat-inducing activities), e.g. 0.033 X 60kg = 1.98L.
Eat enough good quality salt. Your daily water intake amount X 2.2 = your daily salt intake, e.g. 1.98L X 2.2 = 4.35ml salt (just short of one teaspoon daily). Good quality salt would be Himalayan Crystal Salt (preferably the Universal Vision brand).
Add more fat to your diet, such as coconut fat, butter and cold-pressed nut oils. They ensure better blood sugar control, improved inter-cellular communication, provide the body with long-term energy and help tremendously with weight management. They will also rid you of sugar cravings.
Bring more raw food into your diet. Aim for 30-50% raw intake with foods such as salads, smoothies, raw soups (look online), lightly steamed veggies and raw veggie juices.
Build more physical activity into your day through gardening, walking/cycling to and from shops/work, taking the stairs and not the lifts/escalators, walking the dog daily etc.
Learn to breathe properly! Ask a yoga teacher to show you how it’s done. This can dramatically improve your health (oxygenation of cells means more alkaline cells, which in turn means a reduction in the potential for disease states to occur).
Get more sleep. It is vitally important for good health and weight management, so aim for early-ish nights (10.00/10.30pm) and try for 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep in a pitch-black environment.
Reduce the amount of processed food (packaged, pre-cooked, preserved, flavoured or coloured) in your diet. Start spending more time preparing and eating good quality, real food.
Start thinking about the things you think about! Mind management is one of the most challenging things to accomplish, but is undoubtedly the most important facet of good health. Keep in mind just how potently our inner thoughts impact on our emotions, which in turn impact on our physical state.
Eat your food in a relaxed environment to keep your parasympathetic system ‘switched on’ (this is the ‘rest and digest’ side of the nervous system). You can do this by avoiding any stressful thoughts/environments/actions, so get used to sitting down and enjoying your meal.
Chew your food until its liquid; this gives your body the time to recognise what enzymes are required to digest the food appropriately and to release them in the correct quantities. It also increases the surface area of food, allowing your stomach acid to work more effectively (killing any pathogens present on your food and helping you absorb certain key nutrients from your meal).
Stay relaxed about falling off the wagon. It’s never a good idea to try and do things perfectly … instead, aim to incorporate some not-so-healthy habits every now and then. After all, we live in a world full of temptations that promise great pleasure and frankly, life would be a little dull without giving in sometimes. Don’t wait until Monday to go back to your healthy habits; every hour/meal/day can afford you great benefits, so throwing in the towel and despairing about your past choices isn’t going to get you anywhere closer to your goals.
Above all, have fun and enjoy the process of becoming healthier…