Party season is officially over. You’ve eaten enough chocolate to last until next December and the sherry has been relegated to the back of the cupboard once more. It’s time to turn over a new (salad) leaf and get cracking with those resolutions.
The top three resolutions in the UK for 2017 were to exercise more, lose weight and eat healthily – sound familiar? They sound so simple, yet each year, sometime around Blue Monday, most people admit defeat.
That’s because New Year does not mean a new you. (Sorry.) In fact, January you is probably you at your lowest ebb – exhausted and out of routine, reducing your chances of a successful fresh start.
So, this year approach your resolutions differently. Embrace them as lifestyle changes rather than quick fixes for a month or two, and use these tactics to turn your good intentions into real results.
Don’t be over-ambitious: If you try to take on too many ‘life-improvements’ in one go, none will succeed. Cutting out sugar, caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, cigarettes (and any other vice you may have) at once is going to send your body into a detox spin that’ll stop you in your tracks. You won’t want to get out of bed, let alone do some exercise. Start with one thing, nail it, and then consider what else you can achieve. (A word to the wise: activity is a great choice - will not will it only contribute to other goals like weight loss, reducing cholesterol, improving mood, etc, it’ll also reward you with endorphins so that you want to keep going. Bonus!
Get SMART: Let’s say you choose to ‘exercise regularly’, now you need to make your goal Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-based. For example, ‘I am going to achieve the recommended 7000 MOVEs per week’. Writing a plan of exactly what you’ll do on which day and at what time will add clarity to your target and break it into manageable chunks. Tick off each completed activity for added satisfaction and motivation. When things feel tough, looking at your accomplishments will remind you how far you’ve come and mean you’re less likely to give up.
Arm yourself with some psychology: Humans are creatures of habit, so breaking bad habits is all about replacing them with new good ones. Attach your new active habit to something you do already – if you go to the gym on the way home from work, you won’t have to motivate yourself to get off the sofa. You also need to make it as easy as possible to embed the new habit – lay your gym kit out the night before so finding it when you’re in a rush doesn’t become a reason not to go.
Be part of a movement: Joining a campaign or challenge will give you support, structure and motivation. It can add a bit of healthy competition too. These websites and apps are great places to start:
Active 10 – an app to track 10 minute bursts of exercise, e.g. brisk walking
Let’s Do This – an 8 week challenge to get to more active and eat more healthily
Swim the Thames: A 4km swim challenge, just one of many options with Swimtag – free for all Places Members
Places Locker app challenge – log 10 workouts across January and February to be entered into a prize draw for £1000. How’s that for motivation?!
Ultimately, don’t be afraid to re-evaluate. If necessary, wipe the slate clean and start over. After all, fresh starts can happen on any date, not just January 1st.