And what's the best way of creating a new habit and ditching old ones.
A new year prompts many of us to turn over a new leaf and improve our health and fitness.
Increasing our activity levels and looking after ourselves is a great goal. However, many of us start the year with good intentions, only to find we’ve run out of steam by the end of January. Here’s our guide to creating realistic New Year’s resolutions that you can keep long-term.
We create our New Year’s resolutions with the best of intentions. However, many of us set goals that go beyond what we’re currently capable of. Then, we lose motivation and return to our old habits. You’re much more likely to succeed if you do something you enjoy and want to do regularly. Think about activities you’ve enjoyed in the past. If you’ve always found running boring, it probably isn’t the activity for you. However, if you last enjoyed sport when you played hockey or netball at school, look for a local club. Then, you can also benefit from professional coaching and advice and a social buzz too.
Take baby steps
You (hopefully) wouldn’t try to run a marathon if you’ve never run before or swim the Channel if you struggle to do ten lengths at your local pool. Break your activity down into baby steps you can commit to regularly and build up from there. Think about how you can start, for example, by doing one lap of your local park or walking the kids to school instead of driving. Think about what you want to achieve so you can plan how to get there and increase your activity gradually over time.
Link change to a pleasurable habit
If you want to change your behaviour and create new habits, try to link them to something you already enjoy. That way, it becomes part of your routine. Creating a new habit takes around six weeks, so reward yourself a little bit when you do well. Try and make it healthy – you won’t get very far if you eat a packet of chocolate biscuits every time you go for a ten-minute run.
It's always easier to replace a bad habit with a new one rather than just going cold turkey
Cold turkey is tricky and best saved for Boxing Day, so if you’re trying to give up smoking or eat better, replace the habit with something else. Fiddle with something to keep your hands busy if that’s a thing for you. Gradually replace fatty or sugary snacks with something healthier rather than skipping them altogether.
Be kind to yourself
We’re our own worst critics, which can cause us to give up on our goals. Setting realistic goals and choosing activities you’ll enjoy is a good start. Many resolutions fail because we take an all-or- nothing approach. For example, you start by telling yourself you’ll run every day. Then you miss a day because you were ill or had a long day at work. Don’t beat yourself up just because you had an off day or life got in the way. You don’t need to abandon the whole plan. Just review it to see if it’s realistic, make changes and start again tomorrow.
Think about your priorities
New Year’s resolutions are about improving your life, so think about that in a broader sense. Do you want time to yourself or to see your friends more? Exercising together creates a bit of peer pressure but can also support you in developing a new habit. You’re much more likely to get out of bed if you know a friend is waiting for you, and you don’t want to let them down. Chatting while you exercise helps you find the right effort level and makes the time go faster. Alternatively, you might want time alone to think or zone out and listen to music. Women often look after everyone else and not themselves, so give yourself permission to be a bit selfish in January.
If you’re uncertain about any aspect of your health or what activity is safe for you, speak to your GP or a physiotherapist for advice. We can help advise you on suitable activities or create a mini programme to follow. Our sports therapists can give you an MOT and service so you can avoid problems that might cause a breakdown.
Setting realistic new year’s resolutions means considering your priorities and creating new
sustainable habits. Thinking about what you enjoy and taking baby steps means you’re more likely to