How to Set Health and Wellness Goals, and Actually Achieve ThemDec 21, 2020
Are you planning to improve your health and wellness goals this year? If the past year hasn’t gone quite as you planned on the health and well-being front, the New Year is a great time to think about where you’d like to be - both this time next year and much further down the line. Here are some tips for setting some goals that will improve your health and wellness, and some of the key areas that you might want to focus on.
Setting Health and Wellness Goals
It’s not “all or nothing”. When we set health goals, it’s often on an all-or-nothing basis. You might start off with the best intentions, but it’s often unsustainable in the long term. If you don’t exercise much to begin with, resolving to work out every single day can be a bit too much. Meeting in the middle at 3 workouts per week is something you can stick with even when life gets busy. You don’t necessarily need to commit hours to workouts either, especially if the ones you do are pretty intensive.
SMART goals. SMART stands for Simple, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Keep these in mind when you’re setting health and wellness goals. Be sure to factor in your current health situation and what you might realistically be able to achieve without changing your lifestyle beyond all recognition or compromising your health.
Be patient. You won’t see significant changes to your health and wellbeing overnight, but keep reminding yourself that every little bit of progress you make will start to add up over time.
Health and Wellness Goal # 1 - Sleeping Well
How much sleep do you get on an average night? If it’s not the recommended 7-9 hours, make sure one of your resolutions includes getting a good night’s sleep - especially the deeper, more restorative stages of sleep. Ideally, you want to be spending around 20% of your sleep in a deeper stage of sleep, but this can be much lower if you wake up a lot during the night.
Lack of sleep can make you more likely to develop a host of health problems and it can also be a risk factor for cognitive decline. Here’s a scary thought. Every cell and tissue in your body benefits from adequate sleep, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity are just a few of the problems that can stem from poor sleep.
Not getting enough sleep is also a factor in weight gain. It disrupts your levels of key hormones, particularly ghrelin and leptin. These hormones control your appetite, with ghrelin telling you when you’re hungry and leptin stepping in when you’re full. When they’re imbalanced after poor sleep, it’s no great surprise that it triggers overeating. In the long run, it leads to weight gain.
If your sleep could be better, make sure that 2021 is the year that you commit to better sleep. It’ll help to protect you against the health risks associated with chronic insomnia and can be a secret weapon in keeping your weight in check.
Health and Wellness Goal #2 - Social Interaction
Do you ever feel lonely? If the answer is “yes”, it’s time to make social interaction another wellness goal for 2021. It’s very possible to feel lonely and isolated even if you have a good support network around you. Loneliness is linked to higher levels of inflammation that can then pave the way for health problems. It’s even been linked to dying earlier!
To stop loneliness from being a problem for you, make a pact with yourself to get out and meet new people as part of your 2021 wellness goals. Whether that involves signing up for a new fitness class or joining a book group, look for new opportunities for social interaction.
Health and Wellness Goal #3 - Gratitude
You might have heard of gratitude as a major trend in self-care, but you may be less aware of the potential health benefits. According to research from UC Davis, people who express gratitude on a regular basis are happier and have fewer physical health problems. It may even be able to reduce cortisol levels and biomarkers of inflammation.
Want some of this for yourself? Spend a few minutes every day thinking about things that have made you grateful or thankful. Keeping a gratitude diary has been shown to reduce perceived stress too. Practicing gratitude as one of your big health and wellness goals for 2021 could improve both your physical and mental wellbeing.
Health and Wellness Goal #4 - Random Acts of Kindness
Performing random acts of kindness for other people is another great health and wellness goal for 2021, especially if you’re committed to improving your happiness.
In a study from Oxford University, performing acts of kindness was linked to slightly higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction. Resolving to carry out at least one act of kindness per week can help with this. You can out our blog post on How to Avoid New Year Weight Gain for preparing for the new year.
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