Planning New Year’s Resolutions is easy, it’s starting them and sticking to them that’s tough.
According to Time Magazine, 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February.
Many more drop off over the following months, leaving just 8% of people sticking with their goals the entire year.
Less than one in ten.
Health and wellbeing goals are some of the most common and most important goals you can set yourself for the future.
Health and wellbeing are our passion at RFMP
At Riverstone Family Medical Practice, we know that our community is family-oriented and loves the outdoors, things that go hand in hand with good health.
However, making healthy choices and sticking to them often takes help from professionals.
As such we’ve put together these six tips to help make 2024 your healthiest year yet.
1. Set some Goals
Without something to aim for you’re more likely to just go around in circles and end up frustrated and disappointed. Think carefully about what you want to achieve.
Be SMART and choose a goal that is Specific, easy to Measure, likely to be Achievable, Relevant to you at this time, and has a Time-limit to hold yourself to it.
Here’s an example of a SMART health-related goal:
Goal: Improve cardiovascular health by running a 5k race in under 30 minutes within the next four months.
- Specific: The goal clearly states what needs to be achieved – running a 5k race in under 30 minutes, focusing on cardiovascular health.
- Measurable: Completing a 5k race in under 30 minutes provides a measurable outcome to track progress.
- Achievable: With consistent training and proper preparation, completing a 5k race in under 30 minutes is achievable for many individuals.
- Relevant: Improving cardiovascular health through running aligns with the goal of overall health improvement and reducing the risk of heart-related issues.
- Time-based: The timeframe of achieving the goal is within the next four months, providing a specific deadline for participating in and completing the 5k race.
2. Record your progress
No matter what you do to bolster your health, wellbeing or fitness this year, recording your progress is a great idea.
It means keeping a record on your phone with dates and a description of what you did, downloading a fitness tracker or health app or even writing it down on paper.
You might record your time exercising or distance ran/walked, calories, junk food you replaced with healthier options, steps or similar.
Recording your progress means you can see your improvement but don’t be disappointed when it seems to stall for a while…that’s life! Keep going and your patient persistence will pay off over time. This does wonders for a sense of achievement and highlights anywhere you might be able to improve.
Also, with your progress visible, you’ll be much more likely to stick with your healthier choices.
3. Replace unhealthy options with healthy ones—and record your progress
Here, we don’t mean replacing all your treats, desserts and nice meals with vegetables, we mean once a week, once a fortnight or when you can, make healthy choices.
For example, you might replace a latte with sugar with black coffee once a week or replace chips with a healthy sandwich or even fruit.
If you drink soft drinks regularly, replace a few with water.
There are many ways to replace unhealthy choices (that we all make sometimes) with healthier ones, and even once or twice a week can make a big difference.
Just make sure to record your progress.
4. Mix social events with exercise
Did you know that a simple dinner with friends can easily clock in at over 1,000 calories per person?
Add in drinks, pre-dinner snacks, appetisers and dessert and it can easily rise to 1,500+. A glass of wine for example contains 80-100 calories, a couple of mouthfuls of dip, add another 40-80.
Here’s a few quick references:
- 1 serving of cheese and crackers: 125 cal
- Can of Coca‑Cola Classic: 139 cal
- Standard pint of beer: 210 cal
- Average pasta dish: 660 cal
- Average steak dinner: 700 cal
- Cheesecake, 1 slice, small (80 g): 262 cal
- Chocolate Cake, 1 piece (125 g): 432 cal
Sources: bodyandsoul.com.au, calories.info, taste.com.au, nutritionix.com
Since socialising in person, not on social media, has many mental health benefits like emotional support, a sense of belonging and stress reduction, there’s no need to cut down on these events.
Instead, try adding exercise to socialising.
For example, you might go for a walk together before a meal, or even after with daylight savings. Joining a gym class with a friend or sports team is a great idea too.
There are many benefits of mixing social events and exercise.
5. Get more sleep
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare highlights the following for adults PER NIGHT:
• 7–9 hours for 18–64 year olds;
• 7–8 hours for people aged 65 and over.
Most of us would not even be getting the minimum seven hours.
Firstly, the benefits of natural sleep:
- Mood: Natural sleep enhances your overall mood
- Focus: A good night’s sleep generally leads to better focus and attention
- Memory consolidation
- Higher energy levels
- Natural sleep supports a strong immune system
- Adequate sleep is linked to overall better physical health with a reduction in blood pressure and reduced risk of strokes and heart attacks
- Reduced stress: Proper sleep helps in managing and reducing stress
- Weight: It contributes to a healthy metabolism and weight management
Here’s how to see those benefits.
1. Enforce bedtimes. This means going to bed at a time that allows you to get enough sleep. We say ‘enforce’ because it’s very easy to push loose bedtimes back.
2. Set yourself up for successful sleep. It can be hard falling asleep when you want, so in the lead up to bedtime avoid any stimulants like caffeine and alcohol and sugary food/drinks, which is a no-brainer. Also beware of high-energy media like controversial TV shows or action games, and any heated discussions with other people.
3. Create an optimal sleeping environment. Ensure your bedroom is clean, well-ventilated, dark and calm as this helps with sleep. Also, investing in a comfortable, high-quality mattress and bedding can really pay off in the long run.
4. Beware having pets in the room with you…commonest cause of disrupted sleep.
5. Don’t lay in bed awake. After 30 min get up and do something boring until you feel sleepy then go back to bed to try again.
Of course, make sure to record your hours of sleep to the best of your ability. And if you seem to get your 7 hours but still wake tired every day then book in to see your GP to try to work out why. You might be surprised by how little you’re getting, and then see improvements when you pay attention to good sleep hygiene practices.
6. Beware of heat
Naturally, this one only applies in the warmer months and is particularly important now.
We all know the dangers of sun damage to our skin and the importance of proper sun protection, but how about heat itself?
As discussed in a recent ABC news article, Australia, like the rest of the world, is seeing increasing high temperatures.
In fact, 2023 was the world’s hottest year on record with 2024 predicted to take the title again.
Extreme heat in Australia generally means air temperatures from 37°C to 42°C or more.
As per the Australian Climate Service, a heatwave occurs when unusually high maximum and minimum temperatures persist for at least 3 days at a specific location.
When your core temperature gets to about 41°C your body essentially starts to cook from the inside.
What to do?
Keep an eye on the weather forecast so that you can plan your days and activities to minimise your time in the heat. Check out the Heat Watch website which will help you judge risk where you are and give more specific advice for the day.
You could also try to do your tasks in the early morning or late evenings to avoid being out in the direct sunlight which can make the air feel 10-15 degrees warmer than it actually is because of the sun’s rays touching your skin putting you more at risk. Shade and plenty of water, not alcohol or sugary drinks, are important on hot days.
If temperatures are getting into the extreme heat range, consider changing or postponing your plans.
It’s those UV rays that are dangerous, and if you’ve seen paint damage on an old car’s bonnet or roof or sun-faded buildings, imagine what it’s doing to your skin.
Skin checks are recommended every 6-12 months, regardless of your complexion, so if it’s been a while, get in touch with us.
Even small changes can go a long way in terms of health and wellbeing, and we’re not just talking about the physical improvements.
It’s well known that seeing solid progress can be a real boost to mood and sense of achievement. And it’s sustainable changes, even small ones, that help you move towards a healthier life and better wellbeing.
We again highlight the importance of record keeping, even simple notes in your phone.
Make 2024 the year that you see a healthier you.