2020 was quite a year.
For many of us, the summer break is a welcome breaker. a chance for reflection and a chance to regroup for 2021.
It is also a chance to work on improving our health. For many people it is about the "big four" of wellbeing: diet, exercise, sleep and stress. What often happens, however, is that we start with an energy boost and motivation in January, then lose the momentum and let up when February is over.
According to health psychologist Fiona Crichton, this is a typical scenario.
“There is research showing that only 4 percent of people manage to meet their New Year's resolutions. It's tiny, ”she says.
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Health psychologist Fiona Crichton believes that smart, small, and meaningful goals are achieved more quickly than epic, high resolutions.
What we do wrong, says Crichton, makes our goals too epic.
“We have set ourselves high goals. We don't set smart goals. We don't set ourselves small, meaningful goals and then look at the progress we are making along the way. "
Crichton is an expert in behavior change. But even she says we need to understand that change is difficult.
“There's a reason we do things the way we do. It's because we like to do it that way. It's hard to change even when we know we should.
“The example I use is that even if you know that if you take a drug in a certain way – the risk is that you could die – you could die – people still don't. We don't even deal well with the danger of death in order to make ourselves do something we don't want to do. "
So cut yourself a little loose. Read on for some expert tips on small, simple, and sustainable ways to change your thinking while improving your diet, exercise, sleep, and stress levels in 2021.
When you create a routine of when to drink water every day, it becomes a habit.
Nutritionist Claire Turnbull has spent her career helping people develop better eating habits.
She says that healthy eating has very little to do with what we put in our mouths – and a lot to do with what's going on between our ears.
“The difference between people who really make an effort to be healthy and people who are naturally healthy is that people who are naturally healthy don't think about it. Your behavior in relation to food is unconscious. "
It refers to two different parts of the brain.
“The limbic part of your brain is the habitual center where these unconscious behaviors are stored. Otherwise, you are relying on the front part of your brain to get tired.
“And when you try to eat well – when you are trying to make a decision about foods that are in a part of your brain that you need to remember – whenever we get busy or tired, our willpower decreases and our ability to eat well and make good choices – conscious choices – about food becomes very bad. "
To make our eating habits unconscious – to become one of these naturally healthy people – Turnbull recommends “stacking habits”.
“The stacking of habits connects a new habit with an existing habit. This is probably one of the easiest ways to do something new and positive.
“For example, if you want to drink more water, what do you do every day to reconnect with the drinking water habit?
“Maybe it's easiest to do it every morning. When you get up after brushing your teeth, have a glass of water. "
Nutritionist Claire Turnbull believes that the key to eating better is less about what you eat and more about learning why you are eating it.
Sometimes, Turnbull says, we may have to break an old habit in order to create a new one.
“One thing I have to get people to do is write down what they ate in a day. I'm not even remotely interested in what they ate. I look why did you eat that? Circle the things you ate when you weren't hungry. And then look back and say what was I then Was i bored? Was it just because it was there?
"If you can increase this [decision] second to 5 seconds, you have the ability to make something unconscious conscious."
So what is their top nutritional behavior that we could prioritize in order to eat better?
“Absolutely, it's planned. Without a plan, you often make bad subconscious decisions about food when you walk through the door and are hungry. When you have a plan, you have a pre-commitment to what you eat. "
We also have to plan for a bit of chaos.
“Schedule backup options for crazy nights. Plan busy. Otherwise, people have an unrealistic expectation and then they say, “Oh, I can't do it. I'm just getting something to take away. "
Turnbull says she schedules one omelet night at her home every week.
“It's a night that I don't want to cook, but I know we'll have an omelette or fresh pasta and frozen vegetables. So there is always fresh pasta and lots of frozen vegetables in the freezer. "
Weight loss is not a good result when it comes to maintaining an exercise program.
To get fit
It is the dream: a fit, firm body that shines with health. Or maybe we just want to be able to walk up the hill without getting puffed up. Either way, fitness can be a difficult goal.
According to Elaine Hargreaves, an associate professor at Otago University and an expert on exercise and motivation, we need to add something to our lives.
“Generally speaking, when you talk about nutrition, it changes something that you are already doing… but to be active you have to add something to your life and it has to replace something else.
“I think people start with a hiss and a roar … and then they find it difficult and other things are a priority. And so, unless you find the reason why you want to prioritize it, physical activity always subsides. "
Hargreaves says weight loss is not a good reason.
“Focusing on it is not a good outcome … and we know that weight loss is not just about changing physical activity. And so it gets to the point where people say, "I do all this physical activity, but my weight doesn't change."
"If we can get people to focus on more immediate responses they get from physical activity, like sleeping better or having more energy, or – my favorite -" I just feel good. "They should be little motivators that take us from training session to training session. In three months: "Oh, I'm fitter, but it's not what I've been trying to do. I do it because it makes me feel really good. And I have that feeling of well-being in every session I do. "
Focusing on immediate benefits like feeling better about yourself and your life is one way to ensure that any exercise program is sustainable.
We can start small, she says, and we don't have to do all of our exercises at once. Recently published new guidelines from WHO state that we need 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week.
“It doesn't matter how you accumulate those 150 minutes. So you could work five minutes here and there during the day, and technically, that should give you these health benefits. "
Hargreaves believes that assistance is another successful strategy when it comes to keeping your workout going.
“Many people who are active have a supportive spouse who takes care of the children so that the partner can take action. Having that support and encouragement in the family is really important. "
Sleep is often not perfect – and that's okay – says sleep specialist Tony Fernando.
Weeding out sleep disorders can also begin with rethinking.
Sleep specialist Dr. Tony Fernando believes that some of us need to rethink our relationship with sleep.
“It can be very helpful to be realistic about sleep. Sleep is often not perfect. And that's okay ”.
Fernando says we can have unrealistic sleep expectations.
“I see it in a lot of my patients. The expectation that sleep should be firm. That you should sleep eight hours and when you go to bed you close your eyes and boom, you sleep. But that's not normal for everyone.
“So do I wake up in the middle of the night? It's okay. Sometimes once or twice, especially when going to the bathroom is brief. It's okay.
“What's wrong is when you worry about it, like, 'Oh my god, why am I awake? Something is wrong with me. “w you have a habit of worrying about sleep. And then it can perpetuate itself when it comes to sleep. "
Instead, it can be comforting enough to tell yourself that sleep is often disrupted, that we are fine, that it's just the natural sleep cycle we all have to send us back to sleep.
Listening to a podcast is a great way to fall asleep with one device.
There are also some practical things we can do. Take the devices off at least an hour before going to bed. That means, the blue light doesn't interfere with our melatonin secretion and the constant scrolling doesn't stimulate our brain.
According to Fernando, devices are responsible for a lot of insomnia and sleep disorders in people of all ages.
He recommends another more useful way of using them: listening to podcasts.
"This is much better than reading or scrolling … and much safer than having your face illuminated with a very bright blue light."
The other thing we can focus on is alcohol.
Alcohol makes us sleepy, he says, “which is why it's the most widely used sleep chemical out there.
“The problem is the breakdown products of alcohol that ruin sleep. Once you've metabolized it, the metabolites of alcohol can actually affect sleep. "
“I'm not saying that people should stop, but that they should be smart about alcohol. So limit the amount or drink alcohol much earlier than usual so that your body can hopefully break it down before you go to sleep. "
When you take some time out to communicate with nature, you can experience a sense of calm.
Stress is a modern curse and a badge of honor at the same time. However, we do know that it has negative effects on our health that are linked to depression and anxiety, weight gain, and cancer.
Health psychologist Fiona Crichton says we need to change the stressful conversation from dealing with stress to improving life.
“We have lived with this deficit model of mental well-being to the point where we pathologize normal experiences. We tend to think of ourselves as depressed, sad, or lonely instead of saying, “You know, it's about being human. What resources do I need to be human? "
"And if we reverse from" What do I do when I'm stressed "to" What do I do to live so I can do it, when the stress comes I can do it "we will be much better off.
“All of us as parents, as partners, as children should look at the things that fill us up so that we can be there for others, that we can be there for ourselves.
"And if we prioritize that, we'll all be productive in our lives, deal better with stress, and be better in general."
How does it look?
“Do something every day that is fun or reminds you of joy. Be curious.
“When I'm in the garden, I take a moment to look around and notice what's around me. “What can I hear? What can i see What am i touching “Bring yourself back into your body.
“What we do know is that it calms the limbic system of the brain … so we know that we are fine. And when we do that, we will experience a sense of calm. You could even program it into your phone. I take a few minutes to breathe and notice the stuff that is around me. It sounds naff, but it really works.
“These are tiny things. When you're at the lights, turn up the music. It's not about taking time for the day. It really only uses the time you have.
"It takes advantage of those little times to bring in the fun you used to have when you were five, six or seven years old. If we lived our lives like this, we would feel a lot better."
Even just cranking up the car stereo when you're at the traffic lights can be a good mood booster.
She also recommends the three good things exercise.
“It doesn't take any time. When you go to bed you say, "What are three good things that happened to me today?" I enjoyed my coffee. I had a nice walk with the dog and the woman at work smiled at me when I felt a little down.
“Again, all of those tiny, simple things that sound so naff are changing the way we live our lives and wiring the brain for optimism and hope. It makes us feel better. "