Lots of us will be making new year resolutions for 2020, hoping that we will finally achieve that lifestyle change. However, for many of us, those resolutions might also feel disappointingly similar to the ones we made in 2019, and 2018 and maybe a bit before that too.
Changing our behaviour is hard. Habits are exactly that - largely automatic, unconscious responses. So rewiring our bodies to do what we want to takes a bit of planning. Here are our top tips on how to make those best intentions stick;
Change your environment
The things around us have a big impact on our behaviour. Make sure that the easiest, natural choice is the one you want. So, if you want to stop looking at your phone in that crucial hour before sleep, move your chargers downstairs and get a lamp. If you want to help your child have good portion control when they eat, have plates that are the right size for them.
Sensible and specific
People who make a specific commitment, such as, “I will go for a swim every Tuesday evening with my friend so I don’t get out of breath playing with my child," are more successful than those who just have a general hope - “I will do more exercise." Be sensible though – it’s better to build a comfortable habit of cycling once a week that you can then build upon, rather than fail to stick to cycling to work every day. Making a clear plan also helps involve others. If you’ve arranged that swim with your friend, it’s harder to cancel.
Piggyback the new behaviour you want onto a habit that’s already part of your lifestyle. For example, a resolution might be “after I pour my regular cuppa in the morning, I will spend a minute doing a mindfulness exercise”, or “after I change out of my work clothes, I will put my running gear on straight away”. This approach reduces the complexity of the change your brain has to make. It also allows you to ‘stack habits’, so once that second behaviour is easier, you can add a third, like “once I put my running gear on, I’ll text a friend to tell them how far I’m going to run”.
Making even a small change in your lifestyle can have a big impact on your health, and that can be a real positive for all those around you as well. Here are a few challenges to think about, but whatever you’re doing, we hope 2020 is the year you make it happen.
Dry January – reset your relationship with alcohol by going 31 days drink-free, and improve your sleep, blood pressure, and save money at the same time.
Eat Well – more fresh fruit and veg, nuts, protein, and wholegrains can make a big difference to your waistline, and more importantly, how you feel.
Move more – a brisk walk of only 10 minutes each day can reduce your long term risks of heart disease.
For more information visit: www.nhs.uk/oneyou
If you are looking to kick a habit then remember you can also help us too by taking part in our charity’s ‘Give it Up’ challenge: https://www.bch.org.uk/give-it-up