The New Year is an ideal time to set new health resolutions, but for many of us, sticking to those resolutions are troubled by fears and challenges. However, we are fortunate that science is on our side, shedding essential hacks on how to turn a goal into action and ensuring triumph. It comes down to one word: Schedules
One thing is certain: "When your schedule changes, you can lose the regular self-care routines that kept you active, eating right and managing stress - habits we need to maintain in fighting disease," says Dr Monique Tello, Harvard Health.
Before COVID-19, the pattern of daily life was fairly regular. Dreary for many, but regular. Then the pandemic inserted irregularities into our daily schedules and countless persons are still trying to adjust. Additionally, we add New Year Resolutions, which many struggle to maintain. In fact, research from University of Pennsylvania states, “After the first week of the new year, just 77 percent of resolution makers are still on track, and after six months, only about 40 percent will have stayed the course.”
Why do New Year resolutions fail?
Why is keeping a commitment to better health so tough? Researchers have identified several culprits, such as setting a goal that's too vague (I’m going to get in shape, I’m going to manage my stress) or having unrealistic expectations (lose 30 pounds by March 1st).
Essentially, it is easy to change your attitude but difficult to change your behaviour.
Outsmarting the odds, means understanding your schedule and setting doable goals (go from couch to a 5K, not a triathlon just yet) and then breaking them down into reasonable steps that you can manage without disrupting your balance.
An inconsistent sleep schedule throws off your circadian rhythm, the body's internal clock. If you go to bed before your circadian sleep time, you will have difficulty falling asleep. Stay up too late, and you will likely wake up before you are fully refreshed. Either way, an irregular schedule leads to difficulty getting sufficient sleep, causing chronic sleep deprivation, mood and critical thinking problems, and an increased risk for heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
Circadian rhythm also affects hunger and metabolism, your body's process of expending energy and burning calories. Changes in schedules, ignoring your circadian rhythm, and you could experience more hunger and slower your metabolism, impairing the ability to burn calories.
Being at home all the time can disrupt daily meal schedules, particularly for working people. "When you're home, you're closer to the kitchen and it's easy to get a snack. Eating throughout the day means your blood sugar levels and insulin will be up all the time, and it's impossible for the body to burn fat. That can lead to weight gain. You need periods of time when you're not eating to allow your body to burn fat stores," Dr Tello says.
Exercise habits often fall by the wayside when schedule changes. With work-from-home schedules being utilised more, your routine may have been disrupted and you may not form a new one yet. One result: "We've been seeing more people complaining of back pain and pain radiating down the leg," Dr Tello says. "It's from too much sitting and improper posture, which leads to weak core muscles and pain. Too much sitting is linked to premature death.”
A change in your activities may affect your ability to stick to a medication schedule. But sometimes skipping even one dose poses health risks. For example, if you have Parkinson's disease and forget to take your pill, you may experience muscle freezing and be unable to move.
Downtime is often lost with changes in work or family responsibilities. But downtime is considered a necessary part of self-care. Doing activities that keep you centred helps ward off stress. "Stress creates a cascade of events in the body leading to inflammation, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure. It can lead to cardiovascular disease and depression and other mental health disorders," Dr Tello notes.
Take stock of what’s important
Your annual resolutions may feel different than before, and it's important to take stock of what's important in your life long before the (party!) clock strikes midnight on December 31. If there's anything that we've learned in 2021, it's not to take our health for granted; in 2022, a renewed focus on your own lifestyle and priorities may be top of mind.
We're not just talking about a new diet or fitness routine — set your sights on revolutionising your mental health, troubleshooting your sleep routine or transforming your living spaces (goodbye, messy closet!).
Create a list of New Year's resolutions that are easy, attainable and can help you create a BALANCED lifestyle each and every day. You'll start 2022 with a healthier body and a richer mind mastering your SCHEDULES. Find ways to stay on track with resolutions using a planner to help you to stay accountable. This year, it's time to put YOU first.
Share to us YOUR 2022 HEALTH RESOLUTION
and how you intend to keep it!