It’s that time of year again when people promise to change their ways and make healthy changes in their lives. So what works and what doesn’t?
Here are some practical strategies for making the big five resolutions stick; namely losing weight, getting more exercise, giving up smoking/alcohol and other drugs, improving mental health, and being a better partner/friend/family member.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet: Focus on eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Avoid foods that are high in added sugars, salt, and unhealthy fats.
- Engaging in regular physical activity can help you burn calories, build muscle, and improve your overall health. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise each week.
- Pay attention to the amount of food you are eating and be mindful of how much you are consuming. Using smaller plates and measuring cups can help you to better control your portion sizes. Remember some foods, such as nuts and olives, are extremely energy dense.
- Drinking water can help you feel full and may also increase your metabolism. Aim to drink at least 8 cups of water per day.
- Unless you’re doing organised fasting, don’t skip meals. A random approach here can lead to overeating later in the day. Try to eat regular, well-balanced meals to help keep your appetite in check.
- Lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain, so it’s important to get enough rest. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night (some of us need more).
- Stress can lead to overeating and making unhealthy food choices. Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as through exercise, meditation, or talking to a friend or therapist.
- If you want to take a scientific approach to losing weight, the CSIRO Total Wellbring Diet has helped many Australians.
Losing weight takes time and effort, and it’s important to be patient and consistent with your efforts. You might find it helpful to work with a healthcare provider or a dietitian to develop a weight loss plan that’s safe and effective for you.
Getting more exercise
- Decide on a specific exercise goal, such as running five kilometres, or cycling 20 kilometres, or going to the gym three times a week, and make a plan to achieve it. Setting achievable goals can help you stay motivated and track your progress.
- Choose activities that you enjoy, so that exercise feels more like leisure than a chore. Fun makes it much easier to stick to your exercise goals.
- Incorporate exercise into your daily routine by finding ways to be active throughout the day, such as taking the stairs instead of the lift, or going for a walk during your lunch break, or riding a bike to work.
- Exercise can be more fun and rewarding when you do it with other people. Consider joining a sports team, taking a fitness class, learning dancing, or exercising with friends or family members.
- Mixing up your workouts can help prevent boredom and keep you motivated. Try different types of exercise, such as lifting weights, yoga, or cycling, to keep things interesting.
- Having a workout partner can help provide motivation and accountability. Find someone who has similar fitness goals and schedule regular exercise sessions together.
- Keep a record of your workouts and track your progress. This can help you see the progress you’re making and stay motivated.
- If you’re not averse to putting on your running shoes, many people have found the Couch to 5k program useful and life-changing.
Remember it’s a good idea to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any major new exercise program, especially if you have a medical condition or are just starting to be physically active.
It’s also important to listen to your body and not push yourself too hard, as this can increase your risk of injury.
Giving up smoking (and other drugs)
- Choose a date to stop smoking and make a plan for how you will manage cravings and other challenges that may arise.
- Surround yourself with supportive people who will encourage you to stay smoke-free. You can also consider joining a support group or seeking help from a quit smoking program or a healthcare provider.
- Be aware of the situations that trigger your urge to smoke and try to avoid them or have a plan in place to cope with them.
- Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) can help reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings. NRT is available over the counter in the form of gum, patches, lozenges, and inhalers.
- Some prescription medications can help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Your healthcare provider can help you determine if a prescription medication is appropriate for you.
- Find healthy ways to cope with stress: Smoking is often used as a way to cope with stress, so finding healthy ways to manage stress can be an important part of quitting. Exercise, deep breathing, and activities like yoga and meditation can all be helpful.
- Celebrate your progress and reward yourself for reaching quit smoking milestones. This can help motivate you to continue on your journey to becoming smoke-free. There are a number of free phone apps that can assist with things like controlling cravings, reminding you how much money you’ve saved since giving up, and other benefits.
Quitting highly addictive personal habits like smoking isn’t easy for most of us, and it can take several attempts before you’re successful. Don’t get discouraged if you have a setback.
Remember it’s never too late to reap the benefits of quitting smoking or other destructive drugs. The sooner you quit, the greater the benefits will be.
Improving mental health
- Talk to a trusted friend or family member, or consider seeking help from a therapist or counsellor.
- Take care of your physical and emotional needs by getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and engaging in activities that you enjoy.
- Stress can have a negative impact on mental health. Try relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga, to help manage stress.
- Building strong social connections is very beneficial for mental health. Consider joining a support group or participating in activities that bring you in contact with other people, such as volunteering or taking a class, or fighting for a cause that matters to you.
- Doing things that you enjoy, such as hobbies or spending time with loved ones, will help improve your mood and overall well-being.
- If you’re struggling with persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or hopelessness, or if your symptoms are interfering with daily life, consider seeking help from a mental health professional.
Improving mental health is a lifelong process, and it often takes time to see progress. Try to be patient and consistent with your efforts, and not be too hard on yourself when things go wrong.
Also remember that seeking help is a sign of strength, and there’s no shame in seeking support when you need it.
Being a better parent/partner/friend/sibling
- Good communication is the key to any healthy relationship. Make an effort to actively listen to the other person, express your own thoughts and feelings clearly and respectfully, and try to resolve conflicts in a constructive way.
- Expressing appreciation and gratitude towards the other person can help to strengthen the relationship. Show that you value their contribution to your life and the relationship.
- It’s important to set boundaries in any relationship to ensure that both parties feel respected and valued. Identify what is and is not acceptable to you and communicate these boundaries clearly to the other person.
- Make an effort to spend time with the other person and engage in activities that you both enjoy. This can help to strengthen the bond between the two of you.
- If you’re struggling to improve your relationship with someone, consider seeking help from a counsellor. They can provide guidance and support to help you work through any issues that may be impacting the relationship.
Human relationships take work and effort to maintain and improve. It’s normal to have conflicts and challenges, but if you can be open and honest with the other person, it’s usually possible to work together to find solutions.
Good luck with your New Year’s resolutions!