No Ka Oi Health

Set health goals for success

This article was originally published in January 2020, but then our focus shifted as we became overwhelmed with COVID-19. A year and a half later, many people have expressed being more sedentary, not eating well, and putting on extra “COVID” pounds. Now, people are expressing a desire to live healthier. I feel it’s good timing to republish these tips for setting health goals for success. COVID-19 is still around but it’s a great time to live healthier.

Are you ready to live healthier? Many health goals fail before we get started because we set goals that we think we “should” do instead of goals we are “ready” for, we try to change too much at one time or we aim for perfection rather than being realistic. Eventually, we make a mistake and give up completely.

Here are a few tips in setting health goals so you can succeed:

• Set goals you are ready to improve rather than what you feel you should improve. If your doctor has recommended that you lose weight, eat healthier and exercise more, ask yourself which of these you are ready to improve and why you want to improve it. Do you want to feel better, have more energy, look better in your clothes or prevent illness? Write down and post your reasons for improving your health goals where you will see them. Succeeding at your goals starts with setting goals you are ready to achieve.

• Keep your goals simple and only set one at a time. Start with one goal you are most ready to start. After you get one goal going successfully for a few months, you can then ask yourself if you are ready to start another. Keeping it simple helps remove stress, which will help you to succeed.

• Break larger goals into smaller steps. If you want to go from the first floor to the second floor, you wouldn’t jump there in one step. You would take the stairs, one step at a time. You can do the same with your health goals. If your goal is to eat healthier, break it down into smaller steps. Start by adding fruits and vegetables into your meals or reading labels to choose healthier options. As you succeed at each smaller step, you will continue to move forward toward your final goal.

• Keep it fun. Life is meant to be enjoyed. Regardless of which health goal you choose to improve, make sure you include activities or foods that you love. If you love what you are doing, you will keep on doing it. You can also include a friend or family member you can laugh with in your activities.

• Focus on balance, not perfection. While you are improving your health, the key word is “improve,” not perfection. If you like eating certain foods you know aren’t healthy, allow yourself to enjoy them without guilt, just less often and in smaller amounts. If you fall off the wagon and eat a lot of unhealthy foods one day, don’t give up. Just start off again where you left off the next day. Be kind to yourself and let go of guilt. Guilt works negatively against your health goals.

• Learn coping skills. Stress can trigger unhealthy behaviors. As stress is part of life, we need to learn how to cope with it in healthy ways. Breathing deep into your belly is free and easy to use. When you feel stress coming on, breathe deep in and out of your belly until you feel your body and mind relax, and take one small step toward reducing stress triggers.

• Be kind to yourself. Your health goals should focus on being a healthier version of yourself rather than striving for perfection. Living healthier starts with how you talk to yourself, since your self-talk leads to your behaviors. Choose to build yourself up with kind words. One of my favorite quotes is from Winnie the Pooh: “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”

I hope these tips help you to set health goals for success. For more information, call Public Health Education on Maui at (808) 984-8216.

* Kristin Mills is a public health educator with the state Department of Health’s Maui District Health Office. No Ka Oi Health is published monthly on Thursdays by the state Department of Health.


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