2021 certainly was a year to remember. It was challenging for everyone. And it’s easy to let our healthy routines slip when we’re under stress, managing change, or just needing more comfort and reassurance.
Diet and exercise have taken a backseat for many of us, as we’ve all done our best to get through the uncertainty and challenges of the past 2 years.
However, now is a great time to think about a healthy habit reset for the year ahead. So where do we start, where should we focus and how do we set ourselves up for success?
Start small and be consistent
The experts agree it’s important to start small.
James Clear says in Atomic Habits that making even tiny changes in routine will compound over time into significant results. By starting with one small new habit, you’ll be able to achieve it much more easily. For example, meditate for one minute a day instead of 30.
According to research, about 45% of our behaviours each day are ruled by habits, with the same behaviour repeated in the same location almost every day.
Rather than giving up all your bad habits at once, start slowly. Don’t try to give up drinking alcohol, quit sugar, meditate and go to the gym every day. Instead, focus on one habit you’d like to change, and start with that.
Consistency is key to making progress. No one becomes a concert pianist overnight – it takes practice, patience, and time.
Identify your triggers
Do you know what triggers the behaviour you’re looking to change?
We all have triggers – situations or feelings – that make you crave certain things or behave in certain ways.
Once you’ve identified what makes you feel overwhelmed or stressed, put a plan in place to deal with those issues first.
For example, if work is stressful, talk to your boss about managing your workload. Try to deal with the problem that’s causing the issue in the first place.
Find a new, healthier reward
Whenever your “trigger” occurs, manage the emotion by using it as an opportunity to practice your new habit. For example, do you tend to do the same habits at the same time each day?
The Australian Drug Foundation suggests alternative activities are a great way to distract and take your mind off habits we’re looking to change. For example, if you reach for a drink or junk food as soon as you get home from work, you could instead:
- Go for a walk
- Call a friend
- Take a shower or bath
- Listen to music
- Meet friends for coffee
- Meditate or practice mindfulness
- Watch a new movie or TV show
Try mindfulness and meditation
Mindfulness and meditation can also help when we’re looking to increase control and establish new habits.
There’s increasing evidence that our brains – and our behaviour – can be rewired (it’s called neuroplasticity), which can be useful if we’re looking to establish new habits. This podcast provides a good basis to get started.
Be kind and patient with yourself
No one’s perfect, and there will likely be days where you slip up.
That’s OK. Don’t try to be perfect – just try to be consistent, James Clear says. Plan around any hiccups, and if you’re pulled off course, simply focus on getting back on track rather than beating yourself up.
Where to start
So where do we start? If you’re looking for some healthy habit inspiration, these are some healthy habit goals you might like to consider:
- Eat well – follow a diet with lots of vegetables, fruit, complex carbohydrates, and protein.
- Get enough physical exercise – try to exercise on most days of the week. If you’ve been inactive for a while, start exercising slowly and build up over time.
- Moderate alcohol intake – check out the Alcohol and Drug Foundation’s interactive drinking calculator to assess your risk and set a goal that’s right for you. Their latest campaign, Break the Habit, has some great easy-to-follow steps to get started.
- Practice good sleep habits – follow a sleep routine, go to bed at the same time each night, and leave screens out of the bedroom.
- Find a balance between work, family, and other commitments
- Give yourself time to relax and unwind
Find and adopt a new healthy habit that works for you.
Ask for help – there’s lots available
If you feel as though some habits are too challenging to overcome alone, then reach out and get some help. There’s lots available.
For general information, assistance or support, see your GP or a psychologist. For support with mental health and wellbeing goals, contact a dedicated mental health service like Beyond Blue. Or for support with moderating use of substances or alcohol, contact a support service like the Alcohol and Drug Foundation.
Keep track of your health
If we’re looking to change habits and see improvements, then it’s always motivating to track, measure and see the results of our efforts.
If you’re monitoring any health indicators relating to a particular health condition, then MonitorYou services provide a great alternative to monitor and track your health at home
MonitorYou can help you test for common health conditions and monitor your health from home.