When thinking about getting healthy, most people tend to focus on physical attributes. They alter their eating habits and create an exercise plan. While this is important, achieving optimal health is about the bigger picture. And that means giving equal importance to your mental health, or your mindset. A healthy mind is particularly crucial when challenges in your life make it more difficult to remain committed to a healthy, active lifestyle.
A fascinating study by Psychological Science on a group of women started by informing a group of women that an everyday physical activity they were doing daily was burning more calories than they had thought. The women continued as normal and without changing a thing the women experienced a noticeable decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio and body mass index (1). A simple case of mind over matter. So, before we set weight and exercise goals for 2020 – we must first learn how to cultivate a positive mindset.
1. Consider how you speak to yourself
It is not just what you say to yourself; the language you use can be just as important (2). This inner dialogue is a reflection of your mindset: if you tell yourself ‘I’m not strong enough to meet my goals’, your thoughts will help dictate your outcome and your negative mindset could hold you back from what you want to achieve. To improve your mindset, turn your unhelpful dialogue into an inspiring speech. It may feel silly at first, but just telling yourself ‘I can do this’ or ‘I can achieve’ really does work.
2. Adapt your language
Once your inner dialogue has been addressed, the next step is to change the way you speak to other people. As well as helping you to feel more positive, it has also been shown that those choosing more ‘failure’ words were linked to a shorter lifespan (3). Forget phrases like ‘I’m always doing this’ or ‘I can never do anything right’. Instead, be proud to focus conversation on the things going well in your life instead of listing out all your weaknesses and flaws.
3. Fill your circle with positive people
Part of cultivating a healthy mindset may be spending time with those who have a positive outlook. This could offer you a greater sense of wellbeing. Having positive people in your corner also encourages you to move towards your goals and be the best version of you.
4. Find joy in the little things
Daily life can be so busy, we can forget to stop and notice the little things. With all the breaking news, shopping and social media notifications buzzing away on our phones it can sometimes be difficult to spend time appreciating the beauty in life that surrounds us. Take the time to slow down and switch off. Breathe deeply. Walk in the countryside or by the sea. Stroke a cat or dog. Go to yoga.
Do more of these things as often as you can and reduce your screen time as much as possible. This is one of the secrets to true relaxation and peace of mind.
5. Focus on things within your control
Worrying about things you are powerless to change can leave you feeling deflated and depressed. As hard as it may be, switching off from these things and looking at what you can control can be a giant step towards a healthy mindset. There will forever be things in your life you cannot control. Identify it, accept it and let it go.
6. New habits for your new mindset
Introduce habits into your daily life that support your healthy mindset and reinforce your thoughts with actions. As creatures of habit, by making simple adjustments to daily life, positive habits can be formed to make yourself and those around you happier and more productive. Some habits to consider; Keep a gratitude journal; stretch every morning; avoid looking at your phone for the first few hours of the day; take up mindful breathing and stay out of other peoples dramas.
Once you have really worked on the above and are feeling mentally happier and positive you can now look to address the healthy goals you would like to achieve in 2020.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Yes, the secret to achieving your 2020 wellness goals is careful planning! And to do this you need to get S.M.A.R.T.
S.M.A.R.T. is a goal-setting technique, popular with everyone from health coaches to nutritionists to business mentors. When goal setting the S.M.A.R.T way you break your goal down into steps and small goals to get you to the end-point.
S.M.A.R.T stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Implement these steps in developing your health and fitness goals and you’re on track for success.
Start with stating the goal you want to achieve. The more specific the better. If you want to lose weight, a goal of ‘lose 14 pounds’ is more useful than saying ‘I plan to lose weight.’
Use your goal as an instruction, highlighting what you need to do. Try creating a statement – ‘I will lose 14 pounds by exercising 3 times per week, on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday and by having no desserts on a weekday.’
Adding quantifiable elements to your goal allows you to measure progress as you move towards achieving your goal. For example weight loss can be tracked on a scale and exercise can be marked on a calendar.
If your goal is less obviously measurable such as reducing stress you will need to get creative to track your progress. Try devising a stress measure for yourself, like the number of times you felt upset daily. Note it in a journal and detail each stressful reaction.
Do not set yourself for something you cannot achieve. Having a target of losing 14 pounds in 14 weeks is attainable. Aiming to lose 14 pounds in two weeks is not. It’s good to be ambitious but the goal needs to be achievable. If fitness is the main focus of your goal (depending on where your current state of fitness lies), aiming to run a 5k in two months time is likely a realistic target, aiming to run a marathon next month, before you have started training, is not.
In determining your goals you need to ensure you are being realistic. ‘Swimming in your local pool for half an hour every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning after dropping the kids to school, is unlikely to go so well if you are approaching summer school holidays for example. Be ambitious but practical.
When will you achieve your goal? Someday never got anyone to the gym at 6 am. Giving a date to your goals gives them a sense of urgency and accountability. You need to choose a timeframe that is realistic but not too far off into the future.
Template for your S.M.A.R.T goal setting
I will [your goal] by [doing, going, eating etc]. I will know I am making progress because [how it will be measured] for/in [length of time].
Start mapping out what you want to improve about yourself or focus on in 2020 and let us know if you need any help or guidance, we are always happy to help you conjure up a suitable plan.
- Crum, Alia J, and Ellen Langer, (2018) ‘Mind-Set Matters: Exercise and the Placebo Effect.’ Psychological Science,1467-9280, [Online] Available at https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/3196007/Langer_ExcersisePlaceboEffect.pdf?sequence=1 (Accessed 15 Oct. 2019)
- Kross, Ethan, et al. (2014) ‘Self-Talk as a Regulatory Mechanism: How You Do It Matters.’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 106, no. 2, pp. 304–324, [Online]. Available at http://selfcontrol.psych.lsa.umich.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/KrossJ_Pers_Soc_Psychol2014Self-talk_as_a_regulatory_mechanism_How_you_do_it_matters.pdf (Accessed 14 Oct. 2019)
- Penzel, Ian B, et al. (2017) ‘Linguistic Evidence for the Failure Mindset as a Predictor of Life Span Longevity.’ Annals of Behavioral Medicine : A Publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, vol. 51, no. 3, pp. 348–355, [Online] Available at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27837523 (Accessed 16 Oct. 2019)