It’s no secret that making positive lifestyle changes is a great way to start the year but doing so can often be a little daunting. Whether you’re hoping to get fit, adjust your diet or simply want to feel happier and stress-free, the key to success is breaking down your goals into manageable chunks while building a fresh, positive way of thinking to stay on track and in tune with your body and mind.
Here, our experts reveal their top tips for creating fulfilling change at your own pace.
Set yourself up for success
Resist the temptation to set lofty targets and instead dedicate yourself to small, regular actions that you can maintain. Zack George, a CrossFit devotee and the UK’s Fittest Man, is a huge advocate of this approach. “It’s really key to make sure that the goals you set – be it in work, home life, relationships or fitness – are achievable, realistic and manageable,” he says. “And that they resonate with you intrinsically – if you aren’t 100% bought in, then they won’t happen.”
For instance, if you’re trying to reduce your sugar intake, he recommends starting by having a day where you just focus on not adding any to your hot drinks. “It doesn’t have to be complicated but accumulating mini goal wins are what make the biggest changes,” he says. “The sense of achievement boosts your mood and puts you in a positive, fulfilled place mentally.”
When goal-setting, it’s also key to take some time to check you have all the resources you need to succeed. “If you want to start writing a book, make sure that you’ve got a writing space,” says Susie Pearl, a celebrity wellness coach and author. “Do you want to start learning yoga? Then find out what classes you can do and get what you need to be able to do it.”
Building a positive mindset
It might be the actions that change your life but executing them requires dedication and motivation – which you can nudge along by staying in tune with your inner voice, or as Pearl calls it, “mind chatter”.
“Make time to check in with yourself,” she says. “Listen to your mind chatter and what happens inside your head and how talk to yourself. Some people have very negative inner self talk but we can change this. That really does make a difference to the kind of life that you have.
“Think about how you want to feel and remember that you are in charge of that emotion.”
And help is at hand with tools such as Cigna’s Body&Mind app that can provide inspiration and include action plans and challenges, along with expert tips and recommendations from wellness experts.
And don’t forget that your journey to success is exactly that. “Instead of talking about the end result, talk about how excited you are to get stuck into the process and work hard – this little shift in mindset is sometimes all people need,” George says. “Don’t let negativity into your life, actively try to block it – life is too short for that.”
When life and work get a little stressful, making time for ourselves is often one of the first things to fall by the wayside.
But resilience to stress can be built by establishing healthy habits and re-framing how you view a situation. And here technology can lend a helping hand. The Body&Mind App can provide a personalised action plan to deal with stressful situations - identifying new habits to adopt and mastering new healthy behaviours.
“Make a date with yourself in your diary,” suggests Pearl. “You show up to meetings so show up for your self-care. Make a commitment.” These self-care dates can be anything from a mood-boosting walk around the park to settling down with a good book – the important thing is that it’s something positive that you’re doing just for you.
Track your progress
Once you’ve worked out what it is you’d like to achieve, make sure you’re keeping a note of all your mini-wins. This will be a huge mood booster on days when you are feeling a little shaky.
“Journaling is a fantastic way to stay positive because it unloads the problems,” says Pearl. “We put them down on paper and they get out of your head. It helps you to understand what’s going on in your life and allows you to come up with new ideas. You’re not showing anyone, you’re keeping it private but It works on so many levels to keep you positive and healthy.”
And of course, technology is the perfect partner to help monitor progress. Wellness tools such as the Body&Mind app can help keep you on track. Through it, you can build a personalised action plan and decide which behaviours to follow – and if you’re stuck for inspiration, it suggests new habits to adopt. The app links to fitness trackers including Apple Watches, Fitbits and Garmin devices, so it will automatically monitor your fitness activity and you can track your performance against goals.