10 Ways To Take Control Of Your Health In 2020
Happy New Year! As we march on into January many of us will be thinking about the changes we want to make to ensure that this year is better than all that have come before it. It may be unsurprising to learn that the most commonly cited New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, closely followed by exercising more or improving overall health. But whether you have made yourself some New Year’s resolutions or not, 2020 is the perfect chance to turn over a new leaf, a new year and a new decade and to commit to making some positive changes in your life. So don’t put it off any longer, here are 10 simple ways to take control of your health in 2020.
1 – Evaluate your current health
As a species, we humans are very good at burying our heads in the sand about issues that make us feel uncomfortable but this simply hinders our ability to make improvements and sets us up for further failure. Wherever you are on your health journey, now is the time to take stock of your current health and to face reality. Evaluating your health can seem like a tricky task, but you needn’t be a doctor to gain a measure of your overall condition. Weight, body measurements and BMI are a common way to measure a person’s physical condition and fitness tests or online quizzes can be helpful for measuring your fitness level and habits. For a more detailed look at your overall health, there’s also the option of taking a finger prick blood test and sending this away to one of the many health-tech companies who will analyze it and provide you with a report for areas such as your cholesterol, thyroid health, hormone balance, and blood sugar. In addition to your physical health, it’s also important to take stock of your current mental health by reflecting on how you have been feeling.
2 – Make some goals
Having assessed where you are currently at, it’s now time to look at where you want to go by making some clear, SMART goals. The acronym SMART stands for:
Ensuring that each of your health goals is SMART increases your chance of fulfilling them. So instead of simply saying you want to ‘lose weight’ try saying that you want to ‘lose 10lb, in 3 months’ or instead of saying you want to ‘eat more healthily’ try saying that you want to ‘keep your daily calories between 1600-2000 by removing processed foods’. Whatever your goal (or goals) may be, check that it conforms to the SMART acronym and then write it down somewhere that you can refer back to it.
3 – Kick your bad habits
Many of the most common health-related goals center around the formation of new healthy habits or the breaking of bad ones. Some bad habits to try and kick include, drinking over 14 units of alcohol a week, smoking and eating too much-processed sugar. For some people going cold turkey and cutting out a bad habit altogether on the spot is the best way to break them, but for others, it’s easier to try and wean themselves away from the bad habit and onto a better habit slowly. For example, switching high sugar products to lower sugar alternatives, or using a vaporizer instead of smoking cigarettes, or drinking non-alcoholic versions of your favorite beverages. Over time, these substitutions can be altered until eventually, you have removed the habit altogether. If you decide to take the latter approach then record and monitor your progress through your SMART goals to make sure that you don’t stagnate.
4 – Move more
Aside from helping you to burn excess calories and maintain a healthy weight, exercise is also great for your mental health and can improve your flexibility and mobility into later life. When people make New Year’s resolutions about exercise they often go in with a big goal such as to run 10k or to lift a certain weight but this can be daunting and often leads to them giving up before they’ve really got started. Instead, make smaller actionable goals and that will help you lead up to your overall resolution, this will help you to stay motivated and will reduce the likelihood of you giving up before you’ve got going. There are so many ways to move more, from rock climbing to yoga, swimming to BMX riding, even simply walking the stairs rather than taking the elevator is a good improvement, so don’t restrict yourself to lifting iron in the gym or running distance and instead experiment with lots of different types of physical activity and make being active a part of your overall lifestyle.
5 – Eat the rainbow
Alongside exercise, eating more healthily is the next most common health-based New Years’ resolution. Perhaps it’s the Christmas food coma or the clever marketing of diet and supplement companies but hundreds of thousands of people fall for fad, crash diets every year costing them a lot of money and ultimately setting them up to relapse. Instead of restrictive plans, drinking meal replacement shakes or taking fat burning pills, set yourself a goal that will allow you to eat a variety of foods, will truly nourish you and is sustainable such as to eat the rainbow. Rainbow eating simply means eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in as many different colors as possible. They can be consumed as they are or worked into delicious recipes such as a pomegranate smoothie bowl, a crunchy stirfry or a spicy curry, what matters most is filling your plate with as many colors as you can. By doing this you automatically fill your plate with less calorically dense foods whilst also filling it with the widest variety of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. To make the term ‘eat the rainbow’ a SMART goal rephrase it to ‘eating 5 different varieties of fruit of vegetables for dinner’ or ‘eating 3 different colored fruits or veggies as snacks each day’.
6 – Watch what you drink
When it comes to diet, people often focus on what they’re eating and somehow forget to take into consideration the calories that they are drinking. A creamy coffee, sugary smoothie, alcoholic nightcap, or fruity fizzy drink can contain the same amount of calories as a small meal. Try to stick to water as much as possible, or switch up your favorite drinks to lower calorie alternatives.
7 – Don’t put off visiting your GP
Although there are many aspects of your health that you can take into your own hands, it’s also important to recognize when it’s time to seek professional help from a health professional or your GP. It’s now easier than ever to access online consultations which means that you can more easily fit your appointment around any prior commitments and there’s no excuse not to book an appointment if you need one. Putting off visiting your GP can lead to simple issues becoming more serious problems and you are only doing yourself more harm than good in the long run.
8 – Educate yourself
Ignorance may be bliss but knowledge is power, and if you are serious about taking control of your health in 2020 then it’s time to get clued up about how your body works, the nutrients it needs and what you can do to achieve your goals. There’s a wealth of information out there at your disposal including ebooks, YouTube videos, blog posts, and documentaries, making it easier than ever to access what you need.
9 – Do something for your mental health
Our mental health often gets pushed to the wayside in favor of the things we can see, such as our weight or appearance but this can be damaging and ultimately stop you from reaching your goals. Don’t push your mental health needs to the back of your mind and instead give them the attention equal to that you give your physical needs. Some things you can do for your mental health include, exercising, meditating, practicing mindfulness, seeing a counselor or simply pausing to take regular stock of your emotions. I have loved using BetterHelp as a resource.
10 – Be consistent
Finally, all of the above points may be a great start but the key to taking control of your health in 2020 is to do each of them consistently. One healthy meal will not make you thin, one meditation session will not improve your anxiety and reading one book does not make you an expert on exercise. The creation of your SMART goals should make it easier to stay motivated in order to reach your resolutions, but some other things to try include having monthly check-ins and evaluations with yourself, tracking your progress with a bullet journal, keeping yourself accountable by recording your efforts in a diary or on social media and not forgetting to celebrate the little wins you have along the way. Our health underpins everything that we do and ultimately determines the kind of life we live on earth, so give it the attention it deserves and watch as you reap the rewards.