Dr Roger Henderson, UK medical director at Liva Healthcare, provides his top tips for those looking to make long-term behaviour and lifestyle health changes in 2020:
1. Set realistic goals
The first step towards making long term lifestyle changes is to set goals that are realistic for you. Goals need to be individual, measurable and able to be monitored either manually or through a device or app. That way it will be possible to track your progress and easily identify if goals are not being met.
2. Be specific
Make sure your decisions and goals are operational. It is all well and good to say ‘I want to live healthier’ but it is important to take the time to understand what that actually involves. To achieve long term change you need to lay out what your goal is and what you have to do, step by step, to achieve this.
3. Get help
Research shows relationships are key to driving long term behaviour change. Don’t try and do it alone. Consult with your GP, a health professional or even a family member or friend to help keep you on track and accountable for the changes you want to make. It’s important to get feedback from someone you trust and who you believe can help you along the way to achieving your goals. These relationships are fundamental to driving change.
4. Make small steps
While it’s great to have a long-term big hitting goal, it means nothing if you don’t understand the small steps that need to be taken each day to reach it. Long-term behaviour and lifestyle changes come from consistent small changes in behaviours that eventually lead to permanent changes in habits. It can be small levels of activity, such as walking for half an hour each day, that can tip the balance towards losing versus gaining weight in the long-run.
5. Commitment then acceptance
For behaviour change to occur you need to first commit to the lifestyle interventions needed and secondly accept any sacrifices that come with those decisions. To achieve long-term change, it is not just about understanding the benefits of making certain changes but also accepting the short-term negatives that come with those changes. For example, you may want to start exercising regularly before work. However, for this to happen you will likely need to accept that you will have to get up a little earlier in the morning. Once those ‘negatives’ are identified it’s important to assess whether you are truly willing to make those sacrifices.