3 good ways to stick to your fitness goals

It’s very easy to set fitness goals, but it’s nowhere near as easy to actually stick with them.

That is, unfortunately, a fact that everyone who has ever set a New Year’s resolution is probably well familiar with.

When you set fitness goals you are generally going to be in a motivated and proactive mindset, but when it comes time to actually pushing through with your workout goals day after day, week after week, and month after month, motivation can easily dry up, and it can become tricky to maintain the right kind of momentum.

 

Here are a few good ways to stick to your fitness goals, whether those involve prohormones and bodybuilding shows, or the ability to run a marathon in good time.

 

Pre-commit to some kind of competition

Often, a big part of the reason why motivation wanes for pursuing a fitness goal, is because those goals tend to be largely arbitrary.

In other words, people generally set themselves fitness goals that they like the sound of, but that they aren’t really “committed to” in a deeper sense. Such as “I will weigh X amount by Y date,” or “I will be able to lift this much weight by next January.”

A great way of keeping your goals more tangible and focused, is to pre-commit to some kind of competition at some point in the future, which will then motivate you to keep on track with those goals.

You could, for example, sign up to a Tough Mudder race or a marathon due to take place next year, and you will then be quite motivated to keep your training on track so that you don’t flounder or drop out of the event.

 

Start small, and focus on getting the habit entrenched

Any good fitness routine has to become a habit in order for it to stick, which means that you need to get used to, and comfortable with, going through the motions every day.

One mistake that people often make is to try to do too much too soon, and so they burn themselves out and stray off track before the fitness habit has been established in the first place.

Instead, start small – very small, even – and focus on getting the habit entrenched before actually “doing work.” That could mean doing a certain number of situps as the entirety of your workout for the first week, and then adding more elements as time goes on.

 

Choose forms of exercise that you actually enjoy

When all is said and done, you are a lot more likely to stick with a fitness routine, and with fitness goals, if the forms of exercise that you are focusing on are things that you actually enjoy, as opposed to just being things that you “think you should do.”

So, find ways of working out that you can feel genuinely invested in, and that you can take genuine satisfaction in. That might mean taking up a martial arts class instead of jogging, or it might mean rucking over the hills instead of cycling on a stationary bike.

 

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

Break old habits and create new ones

How to break old habits and create new ones

Did you make any new year’s resolutions this year?

If you did, and they were along the lines of quitting smoking, cutting out the late night snacking or hitting the gym 5 times a week, then there’s a high chance you’ve struggled and possibly given up altogether by now.

See the thing is, at the root of all these things are habits.

Smoking is a habit.  Reaching into the biscuit tin in the evenings is a habit.  And choosing to stay at home and watch netflix instead of exercising is a habit.

And habits are notoriously hard to break.

It can be done though, you just need to work out the best way to interrupt your brain’s old patterns and your normal routines, so you can replace these old habits with new, better ones.

 

For some people there is a really simple way to break a bad habit.

Just stop doing it.

Go cold turkey.

Make a choice that you won’t make whatever that thing is a part of your life any more.

 

For most of us though, it’s never that easy.

Partly because, as strange as it sounds, our bad habits benefit us in some way.  And partly because they’re so ingrained in our lives and our routines that half the time we’re not even really aware we’re doing them.

So you need to address those 2 factors to be able to break those habits.

 

First things first.

Look at the benefits that you get from the habit you want to break.

Take late night snacking for example.

The obvious benefit of hitting the biscuit tin is the pleasure of eating biscuits.  They taste nice.  Really nice.  And it makes us feel good to treat ourselves to something enjoyable at the end of a long day.

If you want to break that habit though, because you know it’s not all that healthy to eat a packet of biscuits a night, then you need to find other things to give you that pleasure, that sense of having a nice treat.

It could be as simple as finding a hot drink that you really enjoy that you can drink alongside just one of your favourite biscuits.

Or you can move away from food altogether and create a list of other things that feel like real pleasures to you.  A hot bath.  Curling up with a blanket and a few chapters of your book.  A phone call with your best friend.

It takes time but if you make a conscious effort to do one of these other things each time you want to head to the kitchen for snacks at night, then gradually you’ll start to replace that habit with these new ones that still bring you pleasure, but are better for you.

 

The second thing you need to do is get yourself off autopilot.

Think about the things that trigger you to indulge in your bad habit.

For late night snacking it might be a particular TV show coming on that prompts you to head to the kitchen.  Or it might be that half an hour after dinner you just really fancy something sweet.  When you know the things that lead you to snack, then you can take steps to changing things.

When that programme comes on, go and make a cup of tea instead of grabbing a pack of biscuits.  Have a fruity ice lolly or some frozen yoghurt after dinner to satisfy that sweet craving.

It’s all about rewiring your brain to do something different instead of falling back into the old habit.  Our brains are lazy and like to fall back on routines and shortcuts to free up thinking power for other, more important things.

So by recognising our triggers and interrupting that autopilot system we can replace our old habits with new, better ones.  It take conscious effort at first, but with time these new habits will start to be done on autopilot instead.

There are a few things that can help with this process though:

Don’t do it alone.

If you can, try and get someone else on board to make these changes with you.  It can be really hard to quit smoking if all your friends are doing it.  So see if one of them wants to quit with you, so you can support each other and hold each other accountable.

 

Know you’ll fail.

You will slip up.  There will be a night that you do get through a whole pack of bourbons.  You’ll have a cigarette (or 5) on a night out.  There will be a morning when you snooze your alarm instead of getting up to go the gym.

And if you know that this will happen you won’t beat yourself up as much about it.

You can acknowledge you slipped up and then choose to keep going with your new plan tomorrow.

 

Start again straight away.

When you do fail, the most important thing to do is make that choice to get right back on track with your new habits.

Missing one gym session is fine.  But if you snooze your alarm again the next day, and the day after that then you’re making it so much harder to get back on track.  Remember how lazy your brain is?  By staying in bed three days in a row you’re telling your brain that this is what you do.  The choice is being made, the shortcut is forming in your brain, to sleep in rather than get up and work out.

Don’t let that happen.  Get straight back on with building the new habits.

 

Make things as easy as possible for yourself.

If the new habit you want to form is exercising regularly then set yourself up for success with that.  Lay your gym clothes out the night before so they’re ready for you in the morning.

Of if you want to start drinking herbal tea instead of snacking on biscuits at night, put the teabags in a pretty container out on your kitchen worktop so you see it when you go out into the kitchen.

Find as many prompts as you can to remind you to stick with your new habits instead of falling back into your old ones.

 

Hopefully these tips will help you to break whatever old habits you want to move on from, and replace them with better ones that make you feel great.

What habits do you want to break or create this year?

How to calm your body and mind naturally

Essential guide: How to calm your body and mind naturally

As many of us know, stress and anxiety are rife in the UK’s workforce. In 2019, 602,000 people suffered from new or long-standing stress, depression, or anxiety according to a Labour Force Survey.

This equates to 1,800 in every 100,000 workers suffering from work-related mental health issues, which led to 12.8 million working days being lost. Although stress, depression, and anxiety are more prevalent in public service industries, it can affect anyone in any sector.

With Stress Awareness Month in April, we take a look at how best to calm your body and mind naturally outside of your working environment. 

 

Meditation

The best-known way to calm yourself is to meditate. Stereotypically, those who meditate are perceived as being calm and collective.

This is because practising meditation techniques can lower your stress levels and release any pressure you may be feeling. Simple exercises, such as taking a deep breath and holding it for a little while before you exhale, are proven to lower stress in the body.

There are many breathing exercises you can undergo to help relieve pressure, with the University of Michigan’s medicine department providing a great list.

 

A balanced diet

Most of us enjoy a pizza, a portion of chips, or a huge slice of cake. However, doing so in moderation is crucial to your wellbeing, both physically and mentally.

Studies have found that poor physical health and can affect your mental health. A review in 2014 stated that children and adolescents who have a high intake of saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, and processed food products are more likely to suffer from poorer mental health. 

We should aim to eat at least five portions of fruit and veg every day as they are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and fibre. We also know that fibre and protein are important to a healthy diet, and that all types of fat should be eating sparingly. But, if you are unsure of which foods should make it into your weekly shop, check out the NHS’s handy Eatwell Guide.

 

Gardening

If you’re fortunate enough to have an outdoor space to call your own, taking part in gardening can be a great boost to your mind and body. If not, why not look into renting an allotment space? Gardening is a less strenuous form of exercise and, according to Mind, helps improve your mood, reduce feelings of stress or anger, and enhances your confidence.

It is also a great way to provide peer support to those who you may know you need it. Why not purchase some great garden gloves or use some great gardening gifts to make it a hobby? It could be a great activity for friends or family and can be enjoyed by all ages. 

 

Journaling

One thing to consider is changing your focus. Instead of focusing on the negatives, why not bring the positive aspects to the forefront?

Write down whatever your grateful for in a journal and you can help to shift your attention away from little things that are causing stress. Well-being coaches often say that you should try to have a ‘positive’ day where you don’t complain about anything.

Doing so could enhance your positivity levels and leave you in a better frame of mind. 

 

Talk 

Never keep it to yourself if you’re struggling. If the issue is causing anxiety or stress, talking to others can be a great way to alleviate the pressure you are feeling. A great place to start is a family member or close acquaintance. Recently, in English football’s FA Cup, third-round ties kicked off one minute later than usual as part of the Head Up campaign which encouraged fans to think about looking after their mental health. 

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said: “Whilst delaying kick-off times by 60 seconds is a simple idea, it provides a powerful platform for us and our Heads Up charity partners to deliver a really important message on mental health. We know that men in particular can be reluctant to talk about the subject, so it is important that we use football as a vehicle to stress the importance of mental fitness.”

Remember, there are many other charities out there who can help too, including Mind, Anxiety UK, and Young Minds, while the NHS can also provide help and assistance. 

 

To conclude, there are many other methods to help calm your body and mind. It’s key to remember that each technique may have differing results for each individual. However, it’s crucial to look after your mental and physical health both in your personal life and workspace. 

 

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

 

Sources
https://www.awarenessdays.com/awareness-days-calendar/stress-awareness-month-2020/
https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress.pdf
https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/d/diet-and-mental-health
https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-relax-your-mind-3144475
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/50808876
ways to be luckier

3 ways to become a luckier person

There’s a scene in Titanic when Jack is having dinner with Rose and her family.

Colonel Gracie makes a comment that “All life is a game of luck”, and Cal replies that “a real man makes his own luck”.

Now, as much as I dislike Cal, you can’t argue with the point he’s making that luck is something we can all choose to create more of.

You might not think of yourself as a naturally lucky person, but that’s probably part of the problem.

Generally speaking, what we think about the world and ourselves becomes our reality.  So if you think you’re unlucky, then chances are that you won’t get many lucky breaks.

Don’t worry though, you can turn it all around!

Here are 3 different things you can do to become a luckier person.

 

1. Pay attention to the world around you

A lot of the time we’ll say that someone is lucky because they seem to always be finding amazing opportunities, or moments of serendipity.

All that’s really happening is that they’re paying attention to the world around them.  They’re always keeping an eye on the little things around them that other people might just walk right past.  So they spot the amazing job opportunity posted in a window.  They find a bargain designer jacket in the charity shop.  They get chatting to the person next to them in a queue who offers them a way into the industry they want to crack.

This idea of lucky people paying more attention to everything has been shown to be true in various studies.

The most famous was carried out by Professor Richard Wiseman in 2003.  He took a group of people who thought they were lucky and a group who thought they were unlucky and asked them all to count the number of photographs in a newspaper.

The unlucky people were so focused on the task of counting photos that they didn’t notice anything else that was printed in the paper.  The lucky people, on the other hand, noticed a sign in the paper telling them that they’d won $250, and another one towards the front of the paper saying they could stop counting photos.

So the lesson here is that while it’s good to focus on what we’re doing, if we want to invite more luck into our lives we have to be more open and observant of potentially great things going on around us.

 

2. Listen to your gut

If you get a gut feeling about something, do you tend to listen to it and trust it?

Well if you want to be luckier you should start trusting your gut more.

Professor Wiseman believes that our intuition is a result of our bodies and brains picking up on patterns that our conscious minds haven’t put together yet.  So that gut feeling is our subconscious telling us, “we’ve seen this before, it will most likely work out well/badly”.

People who think of themselves as unlucky are often quite anxious too.  And this anxiety leads them to question where that gut feeling has come from and ultimately ignore it when there seems to be no obvious, logical reason for it.

Lucky people, on the other hand, are more confident and trust their gut instincts.

 

3. Expect good luck

One of the reasons that lucky people trust their gut instincts is that it’s worked out well for them in the past, so they expect the same to happen each time.

The same goes with good luck.

If you expect good things to happen to you, then you’ll notice more potential opportunities and be more open to inviting good things into your life.

Studies have shown that lucky people are generally more optimistic and more persistent in their approach to life.  They expect things to go well, so they persevere more to get the outcome they’re after.

It might seem like they’ve just ‘got lucky’ but it’s more likely that they’ve just stuck at things long enough for them to work out in their favour.

 

I do think that there are some things in this life that do just come down to chance, but I love this idea that by changing our attitude and approach to life we can all become luckier.

So much of how we experience life comes down to our mindset, and we can all become lucky people if we make the shifts in our thoughts and outlook on life to invite more luck in.

Do you think of yourself as a lucky or an unlucky person?

If you feel that you’ve generally been unlucky up till now, try making these changes to how you see the world and see if things get luckier for you!

Fix your metaphorical broken windows

Do you need to fix your metaphorical broken windows?

There’s an interesting concept in the world of crime and law enforcement that basically states that when a neighbourhood shows small signs of the law being broken, with things like graffiti and broken windows, then the area is more likely to attract more crime.

This ‘broken window’ theory is built around the idea that people believe these areas to be easier targets for crime because these small acts are being overlooked and not taken care of.

Now, I think we can also apply this concept to our own lives.

When we let small things slip through, almost unnoticed but still always there on the periphery of our lives it’s too easy to let other, bigger things slip through too.

 

If you’re feeling that everything is slightly out of control in your life, then take a bit of time to look around and find your metaphorical broken windows.

They’re normally quite small tasks that, for one reason or another, you keep putting off.

It might be:

  • The pile of washing that you never seem to be on top of
  • A stack of paperwork needing to be sorted through and filed away
  • A folder full of photos on your computer to be edited and printed out
  • That side table covered in clutter
  • The bag of old clothes you sorted out but haven’t taken to the charity shop yet
  • A piece of clothing that needs a quick repair

None of these jobs are huge.

But they’re also not really urgent, so they get moved to the bottom of the to-do list each day.  And then moved to the next day’s list, then the next and so on.

The problem with these jobs is what they come to represent.

We see these things that we can’t seem to manage to get done and feel guilty, defeated almost.  We feel that sense of chaos and lack of control because we can’t even get these niggling jobs sorted.

So we lose motivation.  We think, if I can’t even clear the clutter off the table, how can I manage all the bigger stuff in my life?

Those broken windows lead to more and more broken things, and a bigger sense of being out of control and overwhelmed.

 

The solution?

Make fixing your broken windows a priority.

You can go at it full power and dedicate a whole day, or week if you need to, to getting all those little, niggly tasks ticked off your to-do list.

If that’s not a realistic option then you could try the power hour approach, where for one hour a week you focus solely on these broken windows.  It might take you longer to get everything done but that one hour of focus will get you started, get you moving, get you feeling that you’re back in control.

 

The first step is to grab a pen and a piece of paper and make your list.

Think about all the little jobs you keep saying you’ll get to one day.  The small things that bug you but you’ve not got round to dealing with yet.

Then get to work and start fixing those broken windows.

Stay active as a family this winter

5 ways to get active as a family this winter

In the winter months it can be so tempting to spend our evenings and weekends curled up warm at home.  If you have children though you’ll know how much they need to get out and about, to use their bodies and burn off some energy.

And really, we all know that we’ll feel better if we actually get up and get active instead of just hibernating.

If you’re not sure what to do together though, here are 5 ideas for activities you can try as a family this winter.

 

1. Get some wheels

One of the best ways to get out and active as a family is to go out for a bike ride.

Make sure everyone is kitted out with helmets and head out for a cycle together.  Here in Swansea there are some great places to go for a family bike ride, and the prom at Swansea bay is always bustling with people out on their bikes.

If you’re not really a biking family then you could go for a walk while the children zip around on scooters or roller skates.  My children were recently sent some heelys from Skates.co.uk to try out which they absolutely love.  They just need to master them properly before we head out for a good walk/skate around the park.

 

2. Visit a trampoline park

If it’s too cold and wet for you to want to head to the great outdoors, then a trampoline park is a great option for getting everyone active.

A lot of places now have kicked things up a gear and are so much more than just a room of trampolines.  You can find places with ninja warrior style assault courses, inflatables areas and so much more.

 

3. Go swimming

Another option that’s great for all ages is to head for the local swimming pool.

Depending on what we fancy at the time we either head to the LC2 which is more of a ‘fun’ pool with slides, a lazy river and a wave machine, or the national pool where we can get in a bit more actual swimming.

Wherever we go though the children love being in the water and we all feel nicely worn out by the time we get home!

And even though it’s too cold to actually swim in the sea we also love popping to the beach in the winter months for a paddle.

 

4. Set up an obstacle course at home

If you don’t even want to leave the house in the first place but still want to get everyone active then you can set up an obstacle course at home.

Put some cushions across the floor to jump across, create a ‘balance beam’ with washi tape on the floor and set up chairs and tables to climb over and under.   Games like hide and seek, and even party games like musical statues and musical bumps are also great fun ways to get everyone moving and away from screens for a bit.

 

5. Indoor rock climbing

For the more adventurous types, a home made obstacle course would be way too tame.  In that case, see if there’s an indoor climbing centre you could visit.

They’ll have qualified instructors to, literally, show you the ropes and you’ll all come away with a sense of achievement for trying something new and pushing yourself.  Most centres have different walls and set ups for every level of experience, so whether you’ve never climbed before or if you’re an experienced climber you’ll find something to suit your ability level.

 

So there you have it, a few ideas for different activities you can try this winter to get the whole family active.

What’s your favourite way to get your family moving?

 

Disclosure: this is a sponsored post

Things You Can Do To Lift Your Mood

8 things you can do to lift your mood

In our hectic, busy modern age, it can be very difficult indeed to find time for self-care.

The truth is that self-care is more important than it has ever been, but many of us simply don’t make room in our schedules to look after ourselves. As a result, we can often find ourselves tired, fatigued, and lacking the energy to do the things we love outside of work. The good news is that there’s lots you could be doing to improve your mood.

Here are 8 things you can do to make yourself happier if work and life are getting you down.

 

  1. Do something you’ve never done before

One of the things that can really get you down is adhering to the same routine day in and day out. While there are many aspects of life that improve when you implement a routine, you should be looking to add new activities and experiences into your life in order to convince yourself that life isn’t as repetitive as you think.

Go skydiving, try seeking out some psychic predictions, or join some clubs to make some new friends. Your options are limitless; all that’s holding you back is the time and effort you’re willing to put in!

 

  1. Pursue a hobby

Everyone has hobbies; if you haven’t found yours yet, there’s still plenty of time, so don’t worry. Many of us allow our hobbies to lapse as our work schedules take over our lives, so if you’ve got a hobby you haven’t been pursuing lately, now’s the time to get into it more seriously. Pick that musical instrument back up and get serious about learning it.

Got some money saved up? Why not buy some video editing equipment and become the filmmaker you’ve always dreamed of being? Hobbies enrich our lives and can quickly become passions if you let them.

 

  1. Take a break from work

You don’t owe your workplace anything but your time and your energy, so if it’s time to start winding down and thinking about taking a break, you should seize that opportunity. You could be suffering from burnout and be completely unaware of it. When this happens, it’s important to step away from your workload and take some time for yourself.

Try to detach yourself from your in-tray; somebody else will take up the slack, and if they don’t, then it can’t have been that important to begin with. Your health is more important than your job!

 

  1. Spend time with friends and family

One of the things depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems can do is to make you less inclined to socialise. Doing so can even feel more difficult when you’re depressed or even just suffering from low mood. Despite this, it’s more important to spend time with friends and family when you’re down than it normally would be. Hanging out with people you love can have a seriously positive impact on your mood. If they’re true friends, they’ll fully understand if you don’t commit entirely to conversations and will be happy just to be there for you.

 

  1. Don’t expect too much of yourself

No matter what kind of career trajectory you’ve got planned out for yourself, it’s important not to expect too much. If you haven’t quite achieved what you hoped to achieve by a certain time, then it doesn’t mean you’ve failed; you simply need to adjust your plans to accommodate these new developments.

Be kind to yourself and don’t simply assume you’re failing because things aren’t quite going as you expected them to. This goes double for tragic events such as deaths in the family or a loss of employment. Be realistic about your expectations and your accomplishments.

 

  1. Try to get more sleep and relax more

When you’re stressed out, it’s very difficult to find time to relax. However, your lack of sleep could well be the thing that’s causing your low mood in the first place.

If you don’t sleep well, it can impair your judgement, your decision-making, and your overall state of mind. Set aside some time at the end of each day to relax into sleep.

This includes not overusing your devices, as the blue light emitted by the screen can seriously damage your chances of sleeping. Instead, try reading, listening to a podcast, or simply soaking in a bath with no devices or media.

 

  1. Don’t make important decisions

During times of stress or sadness, it can be extremely tempting to make massive decisions like ending a relationship, quitting your job, or moving house. This is in actual fact the worst time to make those decisions, as your cognition is impaired by your mood.

Instead, try hard to take a step back and look at your situation. Draw up a list of pros and cons and compare them. Do you really feel that bad about your job or your marriage, or are you just letting the depression or low mood speak for you? Important decisions should only be made when you’re feeling okay.

 

  1. See a doctor

There’s definitely a right and a wrong way to explain what you’re going through to your doctor, but it’s something you should do if you’re concerned that your mood is seriously impacting your life. Your doctor isn’t there to belittle or ignore you; they want to know how to help you and make you better, so don’t be afraid about “wasting their time” (a common complaint, believe it or not).

Making an appointment to see your doctor could be the best decision you’ve ever made, so don’t put it off until you think the problem is “serious enough”; it’s serious enough once it’s affecting your life.

 

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post