Updated 25 January 2016

How to cultivate healthy habits

Making proclamations about the new you on New Year’s Eve is one thing; sticking to a health commitment for the next 12 months takes a little more effort.


The most popular New Year’s resolutions show that better health is foremost in our minds when it comes to change: getting trim and fit, stopping smoking, managing stress and drinking less alcohol are all on the top 10 list.

Making proclamations about the new you on New Year’s Eve is one thing; sticking to a health commitment for the next 12 months takes a little more effort. But with help from these proven success strategies it can indeed be done:

 Use your support network. Tell people in your life that you’re serious about making  healthy changes, and that you’d value their encouragement. Better yet, persuade them to join you. If you’ve resolved to lose weight, it’s harder to order that slice of pecan pie in the company of watchful friends who might take a photo destined for Facebook!

Design your environment for success. Keep your surroundings as conducive to a healthy lifestyle as possible. If you want to stop smoking, then clear your home of triggers like lighters, ashtrays…and smokers. If you want to drink less, then avoid venues and hanging out with people who like to keep the alcohol flowing too freely.

Set clear, reasonable goals. New Year’s resolutionists tend todo better if they break down a sweeping aim like “I’m going to get fit”, into definable goals such as “For the first month, I will go for a brisk 30-minute walk three times a week.”

Turn failure into opportunity.The key is to remember is that we’re changing a bad habit i.e. an ingrained, repeated pattern of behaviour acquired over a long time. We become very, very good at our bad habits because we’ve practised them so often. To kick a bad habit or forge a good one similarly takes time and re-training.

Successful change often requires some failure too, oddly enough. Failing to stick to a resolution can be turned into success if we get back on that healthy horse whenever we fall off. Most successful ex-smokers, for instance, “backslide” a number of times before they quit for good; trying again is part of the process of forming healthy habits.


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