New year, new me! Sound familiar? Many of us tend to make New Year's resolutions - often related in some way to changing lifestyles or self-improvement. If the goal is to make a far-reaching change and not just "January without treats"type of thing, then according to studies, only a small percentage of people are able to stick to the changes without a clear and goal-oriented plan.
Why then is sticking to a lifestyle change such a huge challenge?
Sara Hemming's research discussed five obstacles in different areas of life that can hinder sticking to change.
1. Insufficient resources
Insufficient resource can mean, for example, a lack of financial capital. For example, you want to make changes to your diet, but you feel that healthy foods are too expensive. A missing resource can also be a lack of knowledge; not knowing how to prepare healthy food, or lack of time; there is no time to focus on the things that require change and look for ways to implement them.
2. Psychological barriers
Our attitude also plays a big role in the success of a lifestyle change, as well as how we perceive ourselves and what kind of confidence we have in our own abilities;
- How realistic goals we set for ourselves and how we deal with disappointments after the first day that went wrong.
- How do we cope with obstacles beyond our control, such as a sudden flu or a demanding situation at work.
- Can we find a healthy balance between mercy and self-discipline.
3. Social barriers
The influence of close friends is also mentioned as a key factor preventing lifestyle change. We may have fears about the impact of the change on those around us, or memories of a failed lifestyle change in the past, and thus, at worst, that fear might even prevents us from starting.
According to the study, social culture, i.e. common practices in the family, workplace and among friends, are also often troublesome factors. But if one – or at best all – of the aforementioned communities contribute to the change, reaching the goals can become easier and even enable them to be exceeded. Responsibility for others can also be a social barrier, in which case the needs of others are put before one's own needs.
4. Physiological problems
Various physiological problems, such as health problems and fatigue, are also factors that make lifestyle changes difficult. For example, in the case of severely obese people, pain and the body's lack of getting used to exercising, or chronic diseases or other physical limitations can be factors that concretely limit and prevent physical activity. In this case, it is very important to set as realistic goals as possible and plan your progress taking into account physiological obstacles.
5. Environmental barriers
Environmental obstacles experienced in lifestyle change can be physical, such as a residential area that supports unhealthy habits, or the surrounding culture and its norms. The media also plays a big role. A passive work environment can be an obstacle to physical activity during the working day. For example, in Finland, the seasons and bad weather can be perceived as environmental obstacles to physical activity. There are also areas where poor availability of healthy food - and on the other hand good availability of unhealthy food - are perceived as an obstacle to healthy eating habits.
Steps towards a healthier life - how to get started?
The first step: intrinsic motivation
Look at the areas of your life: eating habits, sleep, exercise, mental well-being. In which areas do you have the biggest challenges? What are the things that create in you the desire for a change?
The second step: setting goals
The fact is that it is extremely rare to be able to permanently change your life in an instant. The more radical changes you want to make, the more likely you are to fail. It is therefore important to start slowly and make the implementation of changes as easy as possible. Think about what your usual routines are like and start taking small, but determined steps towards the desired change. Set interim goals that are realistic to achieve. When you notice that you can stick to the changes you made and achieve the goals you set, your brain starts producing dopamine, i.e. pleasure, which contributes to commitment to the change. Once you've changed a few things and reached the interim goal, set new goals accordingly. Note that you can boldly go after big changes, but go towards it with the steps that suit you!
The third step: mercy
Be kind to yourself. Don't let failures discourage you. If, for one reason or another, sticking to the goals is too challenging, then grieve the matter for a moment, go through the reasons for the failure and move on. If necessary, change the pace of progress if you realize that you have set unrealistic goals. Keep in mind Winston Churchill's definition of success: "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm".
In the next blog, we will tell you how the Gymba® Board can help you achieve your goals towards a healthier tomorrow, and we will share an inspiring story about how Jari Saario, who rowed across the Atlantic twice, achieved his goals despite numerous setbacks. Stay tuned!