Start the year with healthy habits


As we bid farewell to the holiday season and bring in the new year, many of us are drawn to the idea of making positive changes in our lives. These changes can range from eating healthy, nutritious food that fuels your body and mind to creating a regular exercise routine that de-stresses and motivates you to make healthier decisions in all areas of your life. Maybe - like others - you’re not sure where to start but know that you need to make a change.

On average, it takes around 66 days for a behaviour change to become automatic and for a habit to form, according to a 2009 study run by researchers at University College London [1].

Six healthy habits to consider:

Skip smoking

If you’re a smoker, quitting is one of the most impactful decisions you can make for your health. Seeking support from friends, family, or a smoking cessation program.

Some ex-smokers have found that building small habits like replacing the cravings for a cigarette with exercise is successful. The benefits of quitting smoking extend beyond physical health, positively influencing mental wellbeing and quality of life.

Eat nutrient-rich food

In a 2018 Harvard study, researchers identified maintaining a healthy diet as a key factor to living a long and healthy life [2]. A simple way of increasing the nutrient-rich foods in your diet is to focus on eating more whole foods including vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and fish. This variety of whole foods contain a wide range of nutrients that your body needs to function at an optimal level.

Adopting more mindful eating habits can help to improve your relationship with food, and while it can be difficult at first, focusing on foods that make you feel good can help to keep self criticism at bay. Try not to restrict certain foods but instead focus on increasing your intake of whole foods.

Improve your sleep

Quality sleep is essential for overall health and vitality. Establish a consistent sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday. Create a sleep-friendly environment, free from distractions, and consider adopting relaxation techniques before bedtime to improve the quality of your sleep.

Switch the wine for water

Reducing alcohol intake and increasing water consumption can significantly benefit your health. Swap alcoholic beverages for water or herbal teas to stay hydrated throughout the day. Not only does this aid in overall health, but it also fosters clearer thinking and better hydration for your body.

‘Drinking can have many negative side effects, including increasing the risk of certain diseases (such as type 2 diabetes, stroke, liver disease and pancreatitis). Abstaining from drinking alcohol for a month can only benefit you, even if you don’t choose to give up for good.'
Sarah West, Head of Nutrition at Teladoc Health UK

Move your body

Regular physical activity is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Find activities you enjoy, whether it’s walking, cycling, dancing, or engaging in a fitness class. Aim for at least two to three days a week of moderate-intensity exercise and remember it’s about consistency and habit forming.

Be kind to yourself

Cultivate a positive mindset by practising self-compassion. Acknowledge your achievements, no matter how small, and avoid harsh self-criticism. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer a friend.

Ways to succeed

Setting clear, achievable goals for each healthy habit you want to adopt and breaking them down into smaller, manageable steps that are easier to incorporate into your daily routine will help to set you up for success. Follow these top tips to success:

Plan ahead

Prepare for success by planning meals, scheduling exercise sessions, and organising your day to prioritise healthy habits. Having a plan in place reduces decision fatigue and increases the likelihood of sticking to your goals.

Find healthier alternatives

Identify healthier alternatives that align with your goals. Substitute unhealthy snacks with nutritious options, replace reduced movement with activities such as a walk, and explore new ways to relax that don’t involve smoking or excessive drinking.

Use a buddy system

Enlist the support of friends, family, or a buddy who shares similar health goals. Having someone to encourage you, hold you accountable, and celebrate success can significantly increase your motivation and commitment.

In conclusion, the new year offers a blank canvas to paint a healthier, more vibrant version of yourself. By incorporating these six health habits and employing strategies like planning, finding alternatives, and utilising support systems, you can embark on this journey with confidence and create lasting, positive changes for a healthier happier you.

  1. How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world, 2009, authored by: Phillippa Lally, Cornelia H. M. van Jaarsveld, Henry W. W. Potts, Jane Wardle. European Journal of Social Psychology.
  2. Impact on Healthy Lifestyle Factors on Life Expectancies in the US Population, 2018, authored by: Li Y, Pan A, Wang DD, Liu X, Dhana K, Franco OH, Kaptoge S, Di Angelantonio E, Stampfer M, Willett WC, Hu FB. National Library of Medicine.
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