There are some essential characteristics that go on behind the scenes before we even think about changing our eating and exercise behaviours. The things that motivate us, support us, drive us, and keep us going through the tough times. Before you pop down to the local gym and sign up to a 12 month membership, I want to suggest you consider an alternative approach to tackling your health and wellbeing challenges, because these may be the difference to creating the health and vibrance that you have been searching for and being able to maintain it.
1. Purpose & reason
There is significant research that supports the relationship between a person’s life purpose, and their levels of health and wellbeing. According to a recent article from the University of Minnesota, purpose can guide life decisions, influence behaviour, strong sense of self, shape goals, offer a sense of direction, and create meaning. These things have been linked to creating behaviours that can impact our ability to improve health and wellbeing or achieve our health goals.
Our reason (the why), highlights our motivation for doing something. If you want to lose a few extra KG’s, why do you want to do it? If you don’t achieve it, how will it impact you? When you do achieve it, how will that benefit you?
What are the things in your life that inspire you? And why are wanting the things that you want?
Uncover these and you have just given yourself the motivation to set some goals to start on your journey in improving your health and keeping them.
2. Your Goals
Many people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity (Clear 2018).
Goals not only affect behaviour, but they also help mobilize energy which leads to a higher effort overall. Higher effort leads to an increase in persistent effort. Goals help motivate us to develop strategies that will enable us to perform at the required goal level and enable us to measure our progress, which in turn creates more motivation, or the realisation that we need to adjust our approach if things aren’t on track.
Most of us have more than likely heard of the SMART goal principle, but how many of us really understand what this actually means, and how to implement it for our own goals? So what is the secret to setting goals using the SMART principle? In short, find what you want, set a road map, or plan on how you are going to get there, tell someone about it (accountability), then track it.
3. Get connected
Humans are profoundly social creatures. At the root of all of our desires is a need to be loved and to belong. A sense of social connection is one of our fundamental human needs and it impacts our mental health, physical health, and longevity. What we grow up around, and the people that we surround ourselves with lead to our social expectations, and our perceptions of what of normal. This then impacts our habits and our behaviours around health.
Social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional, and physical well-being. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true for those who lack social connectedness. Low social connection has been generally associated with declines in physical and psychological health. If you are wanting to make changes in your health and wellbeing, it is important to have people in your life that will support your needs, and goals.
4. Focus on habits and behaviours.
Too often we seem to put the cart before the horse when it comes to health and wellbeing. We join a gym or start a new eating plan, before knowing what it is that we want, or why we are in the position that we are currently in.
Understanding the things that influence your current habits and behaviours are key to changing. It is hard to change your habits if you never change the underlying beliefs that led to your past behaviours. (1)
5. Wellbeing awareness.
Health and wellbeing literacy has been defined as the ‘cognitive and social skills which determine the motivation and ability of individuals to gain access to, understand and use information in ways which promote and maintain good health.’ (2) It has been described as a better predictor of health than education, socio-economic status, employment, racial background or gender. (3)
Take some time to better understand the health determinants that impact your current ability to create good health, and also understand your current state of health which can be seen through your current health behaviours – modifiable health risk factors. These are extremely important in better understanding your current habits and behaviours towards health.
So, what now? How do I integrate all this information into my life to help me? Well, before you embark on your next health and wellbeing challenge, take some time to understand how these five domains impact your life. What are the factors in your life that are hindering your ability to create sustainable change in your health, and how can you adjust or use these areas to help you achieve your ultimate health goals?
About the author.
Jason Quelch is the director of health and lifestyle consulting business, Cardea Integrated Health. He has been working with various individuals, families, communities, Olympic athletes, and organisations in Australia and overseas for over 20 years as a health and wellbeing consultant, high performance coach, and health promotion specialist. He is completing a Master in Public Health, holds a Bachelor of Health and Sport Science, and post graduate studies in psychology and health coaching.
1. Life on Purpose Victor Strecher
2. Atomic habits- An easy and proven way to build good habits and break bad ones. James Clear
1. Clear, J (2018). Atomic habits- An easy and proven way to build good habits and break bad
ones. London UK
2. World Health Organisation (2020) Health promotion- Track 2: Health literacy and health behaviour. 7th Global Conference on Health Promotion: track themes.
3. Schwartzber J et.al. (Eds) (2005) Understanding health literacy: implications for medicine and public health. American Medical Association, AMA Press, 2005, pp. 17–40.