Creating healthy habits for 2020: Health Matters – cleveland.com


Posted: January 7, 2020 at 5:48 am

Q: How can I create healthy habits for the new year?

A: Celebrating small victories is an important step toward establishing a new habit, said Megan Rochford, program director and clinical counselor at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Greater Cleveland. The organization provides education and support for people and families dealing with mental illness.

Breaking down a goal into small steps, positive thinking, setting a start date and planning rewards are all helpful, Rochford said.

If your goal is losing weight, focus on eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains rather than how many pounds you lose. Even if the weight doesnt come off, you still did good things for your body, she said. Little things add up.

Rochford and Plain Dealer reader Janice Oakley of Sagamore Hills offer more tips for establishing habits:

Dont let negative or critical thoughts undermine your goals.

Lets say you pledged to use a treadmill seven days a week, but over a month you exercised only a few times. Dont feel as if you failed, or tell yourself that the effort wasnt worthwhile.

Instead, focus on the days when you did exercise. Praise yourself for what you were able to do, Rochford said.

When you focus on small victories, your brain associates the new habit with positive thoughts. Negative thoughts get the brain stuck on whats not going well, Rochford said.

Incorporate the goal into your schedule.

If you plan to work out in the morning, set out your exercise clothes the night before. Allow yourself enough time to get to work after the gym, so you dont feel rushed. Teach your brain that good things come from changes, she said.

Additional ideas:

Setting short-term goals

Oakley of Sagamore Hills, 73, has been making New Years resolutions since the 1970s. The retired accountant makes lists of resolutions in various categories, including diet, exercise, and finance.

After losing 80 pounds in 1977, Oakley began making resolutions to exercise in order to keep the weight off. Now she exercises nearly every day.

Im just disciplined, I guess, Oakley said in a phone interview. If I make a resolution, I keep it.

In an email, Oakley shared her tips for making resolutions that stick:

I believe that too many people make resolutions that are too vague, which makes goals difficult to accomplish. Resolutions have to be specific and for a short period of time, Oakley said. Examples of my best resolutions were to cut out wine and ice cream for one month. After I saw the results on the scale, I renewed my resolution for another month.

Another example is to pledge to go to bed an hour early and get up an hour early. You can use that extra hour for another resolution exercise, housework, reading, cooking or whatever your resolution may be, Oakley said. Most people use lack of time as an excuse not to do something, so this resolution gets to the heart of the problem. Getting started is the hardest part, so just get started. Put on your running clothes and go out the front door, Oakley continued. If you don't want to run, give yourself permission not to. Or just go to the gym and then decide whether you will work out or not. I bet you will. This always worked for me when I was a runner.

In her column, patient advocacy writer Julie Washington will answer readers questions about navigating health-care systems. (She will not address individual treatments.) Your comments may be published in a future story or column. Send questions and comments for publication including your name, city and daytime phone number to jwashington@plaind.com. You can also find Julie on Twitter @JulieEWash.

Recent Health Matters columns by Julie Washington:

Pregnant women should get flu, whooping cough vaccines

Hospitals say leave meds at home; readers say otherwise

Where to get help paying your medical bill

Mens risk of breast cancer is low, but mortality is high

Tips for a smooth transition to a skilled nursing facility

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Creating healthy habits for 2020: Health Matters - cleveland.com

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