5 simple steps to stick to your health goals

Every year many of us come up with our New Year resolutions. A large number of these tend to have a physical activity or lifestyle focus. Whatever your resolution is for 2017 - whether it is to become more physically active, eat better, lose weight, improve your work life balance, get more sleep, quit smoking or cut down alcohol - if you have found it hard to stick to your resolutions in the past, consider these five steps to help you on your way.

Step 1: Focus on the goal itself

Only you know YOU! Is this a realistic goal for you? Is that plan realistic? If it isn't, perhaps rethink your plan or come up with a goal that's more realistic. For example if you are very inactive at the moment, then perhaps setting up a goal of completing a marathon may not be the best idea but perhaps a 5K or even 10K event might be appropriate depending on the timescale. We all need goals but it doesn't have to be an event, it could be a target that can be measured in numbers or even a feeling. Remember to break down your goal into smaller chunks. Perhaps today you might jog for one minute and then walk one minute to two minutes and repeat. Perhaps in a month that might be a continuous jog? Make your goal realistic.

Step 2: Ink makes everything real

Write down your goal to make it real. Plan your pathway to success. For example my 2017 resolution is to get a better work life balance. To do this I need to consider:

What is my priority? It's both work and social.

What am I doing work-wise that is not a priority or not required?

What am I spending the most time on?

Does it have a good return on investment?

That return on investment could be enjoyment or job satisfaction, not necessarily always financial. Whatever the habit you are looking to change consider asking yourself the following:

Why do I want to change it?

Why do I currently do it?

What are the different ways I can achieve this?

Step 3: Sharing is caring

Tell people about your resolution. The more people you tell, the more accountable you will become. Friends and family are also a good source of support and opinion. They may help keep you on the straight and narrow! They may also provide input into how you can achieve it. You won't know till you share! They may even have the same goals and join you in your crusade.

Step 4: Nudges, pushes, shoves

I love this concept. You can read more about it here. We need to be constantly reminded of our goals, and priorities. Nudges are things put in place to remind us or "nudge" us the way we want to go. For example, if I wanted to become more active I could set my phone to alarm with tasks showing I must exercise this morning before I go to work. Or if I wanted to eat better perhaps each morning I would wake up to a message with a slogan about eating well or have posters or messages on my kitchen wall or fridge!

For my work life balance it could be to put sometime aside in my calendar and block it off - so although I could override it, I am perhaps more likely to think twice about doing that.

Health apps on phones and wearable technology are all great for nudging us. Many of them do this by vibrating and telling you to stand up or other such messages. I am a big fan of the One You campaign by Public Health England. Once you have filled in their questionnaire, it provides nudges by email to prompt you to work on your focus. Unlike other emails, this is not someone who is selling a product to you! Visit their website and see if it can help you with your lifestyle changes.

Step 5: Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate

Evaluate your performance regularly. Ask yourself how are you getting on? Are you achieving what you set out to do? If so, what is working? If not, what is NOT working? What changes can you make? If it's going well how can you progress it further? For example, if your goal was to stop smoking, and you have lapsed on weekends or evenings, what can you do to stop that happening again? Can you substitute a poorer behaviour with a better one?

Changing behaviour is difficult, but carefully planning and considering what motivates you, why the change is important and remembering that not every day is going to be perfect is key. It's the overall bigger picture that counts - so if a day doesn't go well, ask yourself why and see how you can change it for tomorrow.

Good luck with your New Year resolutions. I hope they are still going well. It is never too late to change!

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