Creating lasting lifestyle change isn’t easy at the best of times – and these are challenging times.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as spending more time at home and seeing much less of our family and friends, can negatively affect both our physical and our emotional health.
This makes bringing about a healthy lifestyle change even more difficult than usual. But you can do it! Here are five strategies to help you on your way.
1. Set realistic and achievable goals
How you formulate your health goals is important. A statement such as ‘I want to exercise more’ is too vague to focus on. It’s far more effective to say, ‘I’ll go for a 30-minute walk on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays’.
Goals have to be realistic too. Promising yourself that you’ll lose 15 kilos in a month will not work. The best way to move towards your objective is to take small steps. And choose methods that you’re likely to stick with. If you want to get fitter but hate running, don’t aim to run a marathon. Choose activities that you enjoy doing, and you’re more likely to do it.
2. Be kind to yourself
It’s important to be kind to yourself on your journey to good health. Driving yourself with fear or guilt and thoughts such as, ‘If I don’t lose this weight, I’m going to be seriously ill’ is far less effective than adopting the attitude that you’re going to lose weight because you deserve to be as healthy as possible.
Similarly, punishing yourself for not getting the results you want will make lifestyle change an ordeal. Being kind to yourself throughout your ups and downs will pay off in the long run.
3. Understand the process of change
Setbacks are part of the process. They will happen. Setbacks don’t mean you have to give up, they’re simply a sign that you need to tweak your approach to find what works.
Another key point is that motivation on its own is unreliable. It will come and go. You can deal with this – and other potential obstacles, such as temptation – by having a plan. For example, if you eat takeaway food and drink more alcohol on the weekends, plan to deal with this. You could choose healthier takeaway options or schedule in an extra exercise session to make up for it.
And if you still trip up, be kind to yourself and your motivation will increase. Change is a process, not a test. What’s most important is to stay in the process, no matter how it’s going.
4. Celebrate success
Adopt the attitude that every small win is worth celebrating. And if you’ve actually met your goal? Spoil yourself! A massage, running shoes or a new book. Why? Because treating yourself well makes the process of change feel good and that will increase your motivation to stick with it.
5. Surround yourself with support
Any source of support on your journey is valuable. So get friends and family involved. People are usually delighted to help. And knowing that people care about your progress can carry you through challenging moments. Telling people that you have a goal in mind will explain why you might have to avoid some of the things you usually do, such as going out for cake with a friend or having a weekly pizza with the family. They might even want to join in!
Also, there are plenty of health professionals and programs that can help you get healthier. They’ve got up-to-date information and will know useful tips and techniques that may not have occurred to you.