I am going to be open and honest – I don’t like New Year’s resolutions!
I do have goals each year, but I don’t get to January 1 and think up resolutions; there’s so much evidence they don’t work.
Forbes posted an article which drew upon the University of Scranton’s research which states that just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions. I have seen many articles listing an under 10% resolutions success rate. So why do so many of us make them?
I made a decision last year that in order to be more effective at work I needed to have a greater focus on my wellbeing which meant investing in my health, energy and productivity.
For too long I had been on the treadmill of sugary foods and caffeine hits to get me through the day. Rather than make me more efficient this sent me on a rollercoaster of insulin highs and lows.
I didn’t start this at the beginning of the year only to give up after 2 weeks – I happened to start mid-year and read up on nutrition, exercise, and mind and body health. I then went about making small changes I could sustain and I am happy to report after about 6 months I have a lifestyle I can maintain and I am feeling so much better for it.
I am sure there are a lot of us out there that feel a career and family mean we have to opt for convenience. This just isn’t true.
What I Have Learnt
- We are capable of so much more – There’s a great feeling when you are in control. You know what you are putting into your body and, through mental and physical exertion, what your body is capable of.
- Don’t do ‘low fat’ – We are sold a lot of ‘food myths’ by retailers and manufacturers – ‘low fat’ regularly means high sugar and salt which retain body fat and make us feel bloated and sluggish.
- Treat yourself to nature – A ‘treat’ should not be something sugary, a ‘treat’ should be a nourishing meal of natural foods that leave you feeling great and with the energy to be productive. Think about how eating that packet of crisps at 3pm really makes you feel.
- Take a break – So many of us eat while working. It actually aids digestion and makes us more productive to take a break.
- Brain Fuel – Water and exercise feed the brain. Staying hydrated helps our attention span (and it reduces ageing signs like wrinkles!!), as does stepping outside for fresh air and a little bit of sunshine (increasing our vitamin D levels).
Livestrong’s article ‘How Does Exercise Improve Work Productivity’ explains why exercise is so crucial for work performance,
‘When you exercise, you are also increasing blood flow to the brain, which can help sharpen your awareness and make you more ready to tackle your next big project. Exercise can also give you more energy. Having more energy means you will feel more awake at work. Being on top of your game will assure that you perform your work correctly and to the best of your ability.’
Being healthy not only gives you a longer life to enjoy, but also improves brain function and makes us better at our jobs.
Give Your Routine a Healthy Overhaul
- Prepare for your week in advance – I see so many of my colleagues buying pre-made lunches and breakfasts. There is a rainbow of vegetables and fruit out there that come without labels and the term ‘low fat’. A carrot does not need to say low in salt/sugar! I lead a busy life, but make the time for shopping for fresh produce and planning meals in advance. Believe me, you will feel the benefit.
- Make time for food – I find it hard to eat away from my desk, but I do try to focus more on when and what I am eating; the taste, the smell and how the food makes me feel. So many of us suffer with poor digestion, make the time to chew food and give your stomach a chance to digest. Cooking can also be a family affair, get your spouse and children involved and make meal preparation fun.
- Get some fresh air and/or move – I always feel more alive and productive after a run. This isn’t for everyone, but it’s important that we all ‘move’ for good health and wellbeing. Studies have shown that exercise can improve mental health, so pick a gym class you enjoy, a walk outside with friends or any activity that makes you feel alive. The key thing is to enjoy the movement and reap its rewards.
- Ditch the labels – Try buying from the first couple of aisle of the supermarket. I see so many people with trolleys full of branded products, with barcodes and terms like ‘fat free’ or ‘low sugar’. See if you can make a meal with no barcodes, as the nutritionist Amelia Freer says don’t buy products with ‘tricks and promises to seduce you’.
Commit To Sustaining The Change
The key thing is to sustain whatever change you make.
To be a ‘healthier and happier you’ may take only one of these changes, keep these small and manageable.
A working mum or dad? Why prepare not commit to preparing your meals on a Sunday. Always rushing between meetings? Make a lunch that can be easily eaten and is easily digestible.
The most important thing is to look after yourself, no-one is going to do it for you and you will not believe the difference to your work day and home life if you just pay a little more attention to your own health and happiness.
Here’s some links for inspiration:
Madeleine Shaw’s top tips for fighting fatigue
Deliciously Ella’s advice for anyone who feels they can’t cook
Calgary Avansino’s blog – sharing a whole host of wellbeing guru’s secrets
I wish you all the best for 2016!