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Living a healthy life: getting started

We should all be mindful every day about our lifestyle choices and how they affect us in the short, medium and long-term. The beginning of a new year, an impending holiday, a key moment in life can provide extra clarity to our thinking around where we might like to focus on improvements so, if you’re planning to upgrade your wellbeing at any time, these 6 steps will help you achieve quick and lasting results.

Setting yourself a specific challenge (or a selection of challenges) is a fantastic way to get motivated. When doing this, here are a few things to consider.

1. Find a positive goal

Select objectives, changes and challenges that get you excited. Don’t focus on negative thoughts such as ‘giving up’ a ‘vice’ or a habit as this may leave you feeling as though you’re missing out on something. Instead focus on the benefits that making changes will bring you, such as increased energy and an improved sense of satisfaction and fulfilment.

2. Start small and win big

Starting the year with a small goal that doesn’t require a major behaviour change is the best way forward. Once you’ve achieved your first goal, and have experienced a taste of success, you’ll be motivated to set, and succeed with, other challenges.

3. Plan your approach: cut back or cut out?

Aiming to quit something completely can be a real challenge, unless you have a very compelling reason to do so. Cutting back on alcohol, coffee, chocolate or takeaways rather than telling yourself you’re going to give them up completely can be more achievable for many people. Otherwise, the moment you tell yourself ‘no more’, you’ll begin craving exactly what you’re aiming to avoid!

4. Be proactive

The key is to plan your actions. Think about your forthcoming days and weeks and make decisions about your lifestyle choices in advance. Decide on the appropriate level of exercise, sleep, caffeine, alcohol and all other elements of your healthy, balanced life and then follow your plan. This is much easier than making decisions on the go.

5. Learn lessons from the past

You may have tried to improve your wellbeing or you might have made New Year’s resolutions in the past. Use these previous experiences as feedback to help you refine your approach this year. Analyse what worked and engage these strategies again. Think about what you can learn from any previous setbacks but don’t dwell on them – establish how you can avoid repetition of these and focus on the future.

6. Use the SMART principle

This means making sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-framed. For instance, if you decide to take up running, choose how many times a week you will run and roughly how long you will run for each time. If your goal is to spend more quality time with the family, a target might be to have one family night out each week. Review your progress regularly.

For more resources on setting goals, read our guide to well formed outcome planning.

Top Tip: Be as clear as possible about your goals so that you’ll know when you’ve achieved them and you’ll be guaranteed a sense of satisfaction. This is not only rewarding but also extremely empowering.



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