One of the biggest traditions at this time of year is to start thinking about your goals for the year ahead. If you're keen to introduce more healthy habits to your lifestyle in 2021 here's a quick roundup of some of the little changes that will make a big difference to your health, mindset, and fitness for the year ahead...and for life.
With more people working from home than ever before, gone is the commute to and from work, gone are the lunchtime walks to the supermarket, and gone are the leg-stretching visits to the office water cooler. So it's only natural that we're sitting more and moving less.
This isn't good news from a health perspective - it could even lead to an increased risk of death (1). That's why the NHS encourages us to sit less and move more. In fact, one study found that just 60 minutes more light activity a day could lead to a 40% lower risk of death (2). And the light activity doesn't even have to be movement traditionally classified as 'exercise' for it to be beneficial - even hoovering or unloading the dishwasher counts.
Key takeaway: Sit less, move more.
Sleep is something of a secret weapon when it comes to health and wellbeing. Not enough sleep could lead to weight gain (3), heart problems (4), and depression (5), whereas regularly getting a good night's sleep can lead to the following benefits:
• Increased energy levels and the ability to concentrate
• Helps your body recover which boosts the immune system
• Helps regulate blood pressure and insulin levels (6)
If you have trouble nodding off, I can recommend reducing your caffeine intake before bed, using blackout blinds or curtains, banning tablets, phones, and laptops from your bedroom, and sticking to a regular routine.
Key takeaway: Set the scene for sleep.
When you're busy juggling life's deadlines, work commitments, and family matters, the easiest thing to drop is the 'me' ball. Yet, taking the time to look after yourself is a vital component of both mental and physical health and wellbeing. That's why it's worth planning self-care time into your daily life.
This means taking the time to do something for yourself that makes you feel good. It doesn't have to be costly or time-consuming, it simply has to make you feel better, so be sure to introduce daily ‘me moments’ such as taking a relaxing bath, reading a chapter of a book, or enjoying your favourite food.
Key takeaway: Schedule some self-care.
So far, we've talked about introducing new healthy habits. Now, let's take a look at how to make them stick. The key thing to remember here is 'repetition'. One study found that, on average, it takes 66 days for a new behaviour to become a habit. Repeating the behaviour at the same of day also helps make it part of your daily routine - and don't worry if you miss a day as the study found that this doesn't affect the habit-forming process (7).
Here are three habit-forming top tips to get you started:
1. Start small: little changes can lead to big results so don't focus on the end goal but the small ways you can help yourself get there. This could be as simple as introducing a 'trigger' to inspire you to complete the new habit, such as leaving your gym kit out at night so putting it on in the morning becomes part of your daily routine (8).
2. Write it down: jotting down your new habits makes them seem more real and makes you more likely to complete them, so make a note of what you want to achieve, what 'triggers' will inspire you to do it, and who you're going to tell about it.
3. Tell someone else: If you tell someone about your new habit, you're more likely to stick to the routine, plus pledging to let them know whether or not you completed the task is a great incentive to stick to your new routine (9).
Do what works for you
Having won more major single titles than anyone else in the Open Era, Serena Williams knows a thing or two about winning formulas. Speaking to Vogue magazine, Serena said her pre-match habits include walking out to 'Flashdance What a Feeling' by Irene Cara, and washing her hands just before a match starts to ensure "they're nice and dry so I can grip the racquet tight enough (10).
This highlights the importance of doing what works best for you. Talking of which, have you got a top tip that's helped you create a new healthy habit? I'd love to know so head on over to my Facebook page and share the secrets to your success.
If you'd like to follow a 'get healthy' programme that you can complete from home at a time to suit you, check out my transformational online course, The Feel Look Be Formula. Getting healthy isn't about any one thing so this course is designed to help you on your way to optimum health with nutrition, exercise, mindset training and education.
(7) How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. First published: 16 July 2009
(8) 'The Power of Less' by Leo Babauta
(9) 'Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything' by BJ Fogg