Dr Mark Winwood, Director of Psychological Services, AXA PPP healthcare shares his tips on how to regain our motivation by re-shaping our health goals to help get us back on track
“When we are tempted to skip the gym, miss a dance class or order a takeaway it can help to remember why we are doing it in the first place. Setting goals is a great way to motivate us to live more healthily and can give us a boost when we start to make progress.”
Define your goal
You may have a general idea of wanting to be healthier or fitter but haven’t thought through precisely how you will achieve this. Setting a clearly defined goal can help us to do this and can keep us feeling positive too.
Here are just a few examples of ways of making clear goals:
- Make your goal specific – it could be short or long term but be precise. For example, your goal could be as simple as eating 5 portions of fruit and veg a day or even completing a triathlon in six months’ time.
- Set small manageable goals – compare where you’re starting from to where you want to end – is it realistic? Try doing it in stages so you can see the progress your making
- Set a goal that will work around your other commitments – that way you are more likely to stick at it
“Progress can be clearly measured if your goal is clearly defined. You will get a massive confidence boost when you are able to see what you have achieved,” says Mark.
Planning is key
Focus your goals by setting a timed outcome. For example, make 5 home cooked dinners a week for 5 weeks or aim to achieve 70,000 steps each week until your holiday or try not to drink coffee after 2pm. All of these examples are more achievable if you have a date or time to aim towards.
When you have decided on the outcome you want to achieve it is important to plan it into your day. You could set a reminder to walk each lunchtime or park your car further away from work so you can more easily achieve your goal.
Mark tells us “the key is to develop healthy habits that are part and parcel of daily life ensuring you have the best chance of sticking at it.”
Use visual reminders
Write down why you need to achieve your goal, perhaps put a visual reminder on your fridge door or tell your friends and family what you are hoping to achieve so they can give you support.
It may be helpful to register for a race in 6 months’ time or sign up to do a sponsored walk for charity – that way you will have a concrete goal to work towards and you will need to prepare in order to complete the challenge.
“A strong motivator can be fear,” says Mark, “you may be afraid that you’re setting a poor example to your children or that your lack of exercise is ageing you prematurely. Turn those fears around and use that feeling to galvanise you into making a change for the better.”
Read more about using fear to make positive changes.
You may have failed in the past
Want to improve your fitness but stumble at the first hurdle? If you have developed the fear of failing from not achieving your goals in the past then you should look how you can do it differently this time around. Everyone can learn from their mistakes – it’s what makes us stronger.
Perhaps your goals were unrealistic or you may not have integrated them into your life. It may be helpful to keep a food diary, or training log which can help you to track your progress this time around. You may even wish to write down how you feel or start a blog on your achievements so far – this will help to motivate you to keep going.
Having support can help too – perhaps joining a running club or group exercise class may work better for you.
Mark tells us “leaving our comfort zone is not always easy but sometimes doing it with other people can spur us on to achieve our goal.”
Make it enjoyable
We are more likely to stick at it if we choose activities that we enjoy. Combining your wellbeing and your interests is a great way to make sure you carry on. So if you hate running but love music why not try a dance class? If you are struggling to meet your walking target but love socialising then how about joining a walking group? If you are reducing your sugar but crave cake then reward yourself with a slice once a week.
The way you achieve your goal is entirely personal and so it should be as we are all different!