By Dr Bilal Shirazi | 23 Dec 2020

Setting New Health Goals for 2021

Get 2021 off to a great start by setting yourself ambitious yet achievable health goals for the next 12 months.

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2020 has been a challenging year for us all. Whether you were able to get your health goals for 2020 back on track following a COVID-19 lockdown or the whole year was a write-off, it’s time to leave that behind

While we may still face some disruption to our lives next year, the continuing development and rollout of COVID-19 vaccines means we should all be able to do more of what we love.

Let’s be positive and look forward to 2021! Here’s why and how you should set your new health goals for 2021.

We’re not talking about “New Year’s resolutions”!

Some estimates and studies put the failure rate of “New Year’s resolutions” at around 80%, with the middle of February the average time they’re broken.

Whatever health goals you set for yourself for 2021, don’t call them New Year’s resolutions. If you do, you’re setting yourself up for failure from day one. By setting goals for the full year, but aiming for small wins, you can play the long game. End the year healthier than everyone who had a healthy January before spectacularly losing their way!

What are health goals and why are they important?

A health goal is any aim you set yourself to take action that will have a direct or indirect impact on your health.

By committing to specific health goals, you prioritise your wellbeing and go some way to being more mindful about how your lifestyle affects your health.

Adopting health goals can help you to break bad habits, establish good habits, and have a profound impact on all areas of your life. Focusing on being in better health can improve your personal relationships, your performance at work, and how you feel about yourself, among other things.

One of the biggest reasons people shy away from setting health goals is that they believe they need to set grand aims for themselves. Yet, a health goal can be as simple as dedicating 10 minutes to exercising every day or swapping an item in your groceries for a healthier alternative. Not only are lots of small changes easier to maintain than one big change, they’ll probably deliver a wider range of health benefits, too!

Five golden rules for setting effective health goals

When setting health goals, there are five golden rules you should follow.

1.     Be as specific as possible

Think about any list of popular New Year’s resolutions. What do they include? Typical goals include “losing weight” and “exercising more,” for example.

While both are worthwhile aims, they’re also very general. You might lose a few pounds in 2021. If you did no exercise in 2020, taking one walk on December 31, 2021 will mean achieve your goal.

But neither of those things have necessarily made you any healthier.

Be as specific as possible when setting your goals. If you want to lose weight, what specific things can you do that will help you lose weight? Focus on those smaller, specific objectives, and the outcome you want will follow.

Trust the process!

2.     Break big goals down into smaller aims

Remember what we said about health goals failing because they’re too big?

Give yourself ambitious goals but build up to them rather than setting yourself up to fail.

Let’s say your aim is to exercise for 60 minutes a day.

If you’re currently don’t do any exercise at all, suddenly dedicating an hour a day to it is a huge commitment. What’s more, throwing yourself into a fitness plan in such a way increases the risk you injure yourself, which is likely to discourage you from training once you’re better.

If you have such an aim, make it your aim to be at that level by the end of the year.

Break your goal down to make it more achievable and so you can celebrate success. For example, you could aim to exercise for 10 – 20 minutes per day between January and March. Once you achieve that goal, you can look to exercise for longer, or change the intensity of what you do.

3.     Give yourself a break!

We’re not machines, and it’s vital you recognise that when setting your health goals. It’s also vital your mindset isn’t one where you deem yourself a failure if you don’t hit your objective on a given day.

You will have days where you don’t feel like exercising, eating more vegetables, or spending time outside. That’s human nature.

Rather than beating yourself up about it or forcing yourself to do things you don’t want to do, have a goal to not miss two days in a row. This will help you kill negative self-talk, reduce the pressure, and give you something to look forward to when you have a “day off.”

4.     As well as setting a goal, plan how you can facilitate it

As well as setting a goal, make sure you put anything you need to in place that will help you make it happen.

For example, you might set yourself some health goals at work, such as taking a walk at lunchtime or ensuring you eat lunch away from your desk.

Both are worthy health goals. What can you do to ensure you can achieve them?

  • Plan your calendar and workload so you don’t find yourself working through lunchtime.
  • Choose local landmarks that would make a lunchtime walk interesting and pleasant.
  • Find local places you can find a tasty lunch.
  • If you take lunch to work, find pleasant locations you can walk to and eat outside.

5.     Involve others

You’re not the only one of your friends or work colleagues who might be looking to make up for lost time with their 2021 health goals!

Planning your goals with others can be an excellent way to mutually encourage each other. You can even turn your 2021 health goals into a friendly challenge!

Even if you focus on your health goals alone, consider telling others what you’re doing or keep a journal as a means of being accountable to yourself.

Remember to focus on mental as well as physical health

When setting health goals, it’s often easy to set goals that focus mainly on physical health.

Although taking more exercise and adopting a better diet will have a positive knock-on effect on your mental health, it’s always worth setting specific mental health goals, too.

We already mentioned eating lunch away from your desk. Other simple yet highly impactful mental health goals might include:

  • Spending 10 – 15 minutes per day meditating.
  • Using a digital wellbeing app to reduce your phone or tablet screen time and social media use.
  • Contacting a different family member or friend each week that you haven’t spoken to recently.

Setting new health goals for 2021

In 2021, you have the power to transform your health and make vast positive changes to your lifestyle. Keep your goals simple, and ensure you have everything in place that will help you achieve them, and you’re sure to have a hugely successful year from a health and wellbeing perspective.

What health goals are you setting yourself for 2021?

By Dr Bilal Shirazi

Dr. Bilal has more than 17 years of experience working across clinical medicine and the health insurance sector, with particular expertise in health insurance administration and operations. In addition to his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree (MBBS), he has an MBA and is an Associate Member of the Life Office Management Association (LOMA).  

See Dr Bilal Shirazi's profile