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New Year health priorities


Wellbeing expert, Jan McLeod.

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By Jan McLeod, wellbeing expert from Mad for Health.

The festive season has ended and we’re at the beginning of a brand new year. How are you feeling? Motivated, well rested, full of energy? Perhaps, despite your best intentions, you’re feeling a little worse for wear and thicker at the waistline after too many tempting treats. So, what next?

I start each new year by doing a health and wellbeing review. I sit down with pen and paper and identify one area of my health and wellbeing to improve. You may be thinking ‘I’ve been there and done that!’. You started the year focused and determined to maintain a healthy lifestyle only to have your enthusiasm fizzle out within months or weeks.

Change is challenging, and personal change is probably the most challenging. And with a modern, busy and fast-paced life full of competing priorities it’s often tricky to find the time to improve your health. So what is the secret to becoming the healthy person you want to be?

I believe it lies in the planning and doing – the what, how, why, when and if. It is about what you write on your page, how well you understand the change you want and how you go about putting your change into effect.

There are six questions I recommend you answer. Find a quiet space to think your answers through. I strongly recommend you write them in a journal. Writing things down brings a clarity, focus and accountability you simply do not get from thinking or talking about them.

1. What area of my health is of most concern to me?
Research suggests it takes 12–16 weeks to embed a new habit in our lives. Your best chance of success will come from having one clear priority to focus on.

2. If this area of my health were different, how would my health improve?
Having clarity of the potential health benefits will give you a focus. Use your list of benefits to monitor your progress. Assess the before and after. Keep the list simple, e.g. I will wake up refreshed, I will not experience bloating after eating. It’s the sum of small practical benefits that have a significant impact on our day-to-day life. And don’t forget to celebrate your success in achieving a health benefit!

3. What changes would I need to make to improve my health in this area?
It’s important to have realistic expectations of your changes. Understand the triggers or the environment that will most likely undermine your commitment to change. Is it realistic to remove, adapt or change these triggers? What changes in your day-to-day life will you need to make? How we respond to and manage stress can be a common reason for undermining our attempts to eat and live more healthily. If you experience stress, you will need to identify stress management techniques.

4. What challenges will I be confronted with in making changes?
It’s important to have realistic expectations about the challenges you will likely face. Being aware will enable you to be prepared and plan for these challenges. How will you deal with the frustrations, disappointments and annoyances you may feel along the way? Ask yourself what pace will work for you. Not understanding these aspects of the changes that need to be made may mean you’ll be frustrated with the same health challenge six months down the track.

5. What changes am I willing to make?
Be realistic and clear about wht changes you are willing to make. Not doing so can set you up for failure before you have begun. Most of us live busy lives with competing priorities, so being realistic about the changes you make will help you keep the priorities and to-do lists in your life manageable. Feeling overwhelmed with too many competing priorities can undermine your commitment to your health change.

6. Do I need support to make these changes?
What types of support will you need and from whom? Research indicates those that seek out and engage health practitioner support are more likely to make long-term change. A nutritionist and health coach can help you remain accountable to your goals, provide you will expert nutritional guidance and give you access to information, including meal plans, recipes and tools essential for achieving long term health change.