How did you do in meeting your health goals in 2022?
If you’ve seen them through and made yourself healthier and happier, congratulations!
If you didn’t hit your targets, don’t worry! Now is the time to learn from what went wrong and set exciting new health goals for the year ahead.
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 being when people break them, on average.
Whatever health goals you set for yourself for 2023, don't call them New Year's resolutions! If you do, you're setting yourself up for failure from day one. Instead, play the long game by setting goals for the whole year but aiming for small wins. You’ll end the year way 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 directly or indirectly impact your health.
By committing to specific health goals, you prioritise your well-being and become more mindful of how your lifestyle affects your health.
Adopting health goals can help you break bad habits, establish good ones, and profoundly impact all areas of your life. Focusing on better health can improve your 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 must set grand aims for themselves. Yet, a health goal can be as simple as dedicating 10 minutes to exercising daily or swapping an item in your groceries for a healthier alternative. Not only are lots of small changes easier to maintain than one significant change, but they'll also probably deliver a broader range of health benefits!
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. For example, you might lose a few pounds in 2023. Likewise, if you did not exercise in 2022, taking one walk on December 31, 2023, will mean you will achieve your goal.
But neither of those things has necessarily made you any healthier.
Be as specific as possible when setting your goals. For example, if you want to lose weight, consider particular things you can do to help you lose weight. Then, focus on those smaller, specific objectives, and your desired outcome 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 you aim to exercise for 60 minutes a day.
If you 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, aim to be at that level by the end of the year.
Break your goal down to make it more achievable 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 increase the length or intensity of your exercise.
3. Give yourself a break!
We're not machines; you must 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 or forcing yourself to do things you don't want to, have a goal not to 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 in place to help you make it happen.
For example, you might set 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 exciting and pleasant.
- Find local places you can find a tasty lunch.
- If you take lunch to work, find pleasant locations to 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 2023 health goals!
Planning your goals with others can be an excellent way to mutually encourage each other. You can even turn your 2023 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 so you can be accountable to yourself.
Remember to focus on mental as well as physical health
When setting health goals, we often focus solely on physical health.
Although taking more exercise and adopting a better diet will positively affect 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 well-being 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.
If you are a Now Health International member, your international health insurance plan gives you access to our employee and member assistance programmes, depending on your plan type. These have a wealth of resources that will help you boost both your mental and physical health in the next 12 months and beyond.
Setting new health goals for 2023
In 2023, you can transform your health and make profound positive changes to your lifestyle. Keep your goals simple, and ensure you have everything in place to help you achieve them, and you're sure to have a hugely successful year from a health and well-being perspective.
What health goals are you setting yourself for 2023?