Get Your Life Back on Track

So those New Year health resolutions you made haven’t lasted? It’s not too late - the middle of the year is the perfect time to renew your vows and get back on track.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
So those New Year health resolutions you made haven’t lasted? It’s not too late - the middle of the year is the perfect time to renew your vows and get back on track.
My Reading Room

Need a boost to get your health back on track? Maybe those New Year’s resolutions went out the door quicker than you’d hoped. Well, don’t despair – midyear is the perfect time to reset your original goals and achieve them!

While it’s tempting to aim for big changes, there are simpler ways to make a positive impact on your life. Micro-resolutions are the small tweaks you can make to your everyday life that can really improve your mental and physical health.

By taking each day as it comes, focusing on no more than two areas of your life at a time, and allowing the small changes to take hold, by the end of the year you might not even recognise yourself. Go on; give one or two of these makeovers a go!

Mini Fitness Improvements
To make it easier to develop healthy habits, try ‘piggybacking’ exercise onto something you already regularly do. “Habits are triggered by specific cues, such as reading your email (habit) when you sit down at your computer (cue),” says personal change expert Caroline Arnold. “And research shows cues can be created.” So, if you’d like to walk more, think about a journey you often do already that you could turn into an energetic walk. For example, tell yourself, “I always go to the coffee shop on Saturday, so I’ll powerwalk there instead.”
My Reading Room
Tiny Tweaks to Try Today

Test the 20-minute rule Research shows the biggest health benefits occur in the first 20 minutes of a workout, so resolve to go to the gym, for a walk, cycle or a run for just 20 minutes a day. Tell yourself you only ever have to do that much; if you manage to work out longer, that’s a bonus.

Spend more time standing When you sit for long periods, significant changes happen in your body’s metabolism, tipping it from fat-burning into fat-storage mode. Resolve to look for opportunities to move, such as standing up to make phone calls or delivering some messages in person rather than by email if they’re to someone in the same office. If you travel to work by bus or train, could you stand up some or all of the way?

Squeeze in some squats Aim to do 10 squats today - perfect for when you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. Once you’ve made a habit, add 10 push-ups a day. If you listen to a regular morning radio show, make that the cue to start your new habit while you listen!

Plan ahead If you want to work out first thing in the morning, get your outfit and gear ready by your bed the night before, so there’s no time-wasting when you get up.

Simple Stress Busters

If you end each day feeling tense and exhausted, it’s easy to think you need to make big changes to how you’re living your life. That’s only partly true. Changes might be long overdue, but they don’t need to be big ones.

“The first point of call is to step back and look at what happens during the day to add to your stress,” says Caroline. Do you leave the house a few minutes late and miss your train? If so, why is that? Do you need to get up 20 minutes earlier, or take breakfast with you to have at work? By simply paying attention to the times of day when you feel your stress levels rising, you will begin to see where micro-resolutions could work to improve your life.

Tiny Tweaks to Try Today

Use your breathing Identify your personal red flag that shows your stress levels are rising – such as clenching your jaw, craving comfort food or losing your concentration – then use that as your cue to do this 16-second technique. Breathe in to a count of four, hold your breath for four, and then breathe out for four. This immediately helps you relax.

Do hard tasks first If you feel overwhelmed, commit to spending an hour on your most important task first every day, before you check your emails or catch up on the news. If an hour is too hard, try 30 minutes.

Add pleasure to your commute Resolve to make your daily commute a positive part of your day, rather than something to endure. Listen to audio books or music you love, or walk mindfully all or part of the way.

Live in the now Spend 15 minutes every day doing something you actively choose, whether that’s pottering in the garden, enjoying a mindful colouring book or simply daydreaming. It can help beat ‘time anxiety’, which is the feeling that life is passing you by too quickly.
My Reading Room
Easy Food Changes

Eating habits can be the hardest to change because the brain hates to feel deprived, so our natural instinct is to rebel. But if you reframe your change as a positive choice, you’ll be reminded of the benefits. So to support her micro-resolution to stop pre-dinner snacking, Caroline created the message: ‘I enjoy dinner so much more when I have a good appetite.’

Tiny Tweaks to Try TodayTiny Tweaks to Try Today

Leave something on your plate Make a habit of this, and you’ll naturally cut down on your daily food intake without feeling deprived.

Practise portion control Rather than resolving to never eat chips again, set a micro-resolution not to eat more than five at a time, or a full portion once every fortnight.

Slow it down If you tend to rush your food, resolve to really savour one meal today – whether that’s breakfast, lunch or snack – and note how it makes you feel more satisfied.

Increase your water intake Drink one glass of water after every cup of tea, coffee or glass of wine.

Make easy swaps Exchange one ‘white’ or processed carbohydrate you eat regularly, like white bread, rice or pasta, for fibre-rich wholegrain options.

Eat some fruit If you’d like to kick your mid-afternoon chocolate habit, resolve to eat a piece of fruit first. Tell yourself that if you still want the chocolate bar afterwards, then you can go ahead and have it.

Simple Sleep Fixes

Improving your sleep is the ultimate health upgrade. In a study, researchers tested the judgment of people who’d had a disturbed night’s sleep, compared to those who had slept well, and found the sound sleepers were much more confident about themselves.

But there’s more to it than simply resolving to go to bed early. “You could make that resolution and still get to bed later than you intended, night after night,” says Caroline. “Instead, you should observe your daily patterns and look at what’s stopping you getting to bed on time before you make any changes.”

Tiny Tweaks to Try Today

Get ready earlier Before you settle onto the sofa after dinner, cleanse and moisturise, brush and floss, don your pyjamas, tidy the kitchen, lock up the house and pack your bag for the next day. Then, when you start to feel tired while you’re reading or watching television, you can slip straight into bed.

Set a screen cut-off time Looking at a bright screen late at night can delay the release of melatonin, the hormone that makes you feel sleepy. This is due to the emitted blue light, which mimics the daylight that wakes you up. Instead of reading on your phone or tablet, take a book or magazine to bed instead.

Practise gratitude Think of three things you feel grateful for before you nod off to sleep each night. Studies showed that people who did this last thing at night fell asleep faster and woke feeling more refreshed than those who just thought about their day in general.