HAPPY New Year to you! As we enter another year which has begun again with significant uncertainty, I hope you are keeping well.

The new year does tend to bring about shifts in mindset for many people with the end of the year being a time of reflection.

January subconsciously makes you think of new beginnings or starting a new chapter.

For some this can feel empowering, for others not so much; there is no right or wrong way to feel.

As a GP I have observed first-hand how this pandemic has influenced and shaped people’s lifestyles.

We have all had to do some adapting of our routines and along the way either picked up or let go of habits good and not-so-good.

The focus has very much been on surviving through the pandemic and most of the health news has been around Covid, meaning that other areas of our health and wellbeing has taken a backseat.

This January, I would like you to think of your health as being the biggest priority for you this year.

Many people like to set up new year’s resolutions, most of which revolve around self-improvement – living healthier, losing weight, exercising more, reducing drinking, stopping smoking etc, but did you know that only around 8% of the population actually keep and succeed with their resolutions; statistics show us this happens usually by mid-January.

Why do most people not stick to their resolutions?

It’s because they are not specific, maybe not realistic and therefore not achievable.

People say “I want to lose weight this month”.

This is a great resolution to make if that is the desired goal but if you don’t have a specific and targeted plan for how you will achieve this, how will you do it?

You will likely feel frustrated and overwhelmed before the feelings of failure kick in and it all goes to pot.

Be specific.

Pick one small change that you can incorporate into your lifestyle and be consistent with it daily for 30 days.

I find people pick several goals and therefore struggle to keep it up, whereas if you want to lose weight make a commitment to three brisk walks a week to get you started. After a month if you have stuck to this, step it up the next month or choose to cut out processed foods for the following 30 days, feeling smug with the knowledge that you have established the habit of thrice weekly exercise.

Play the long game.

As a doctor of 16 years, I have seen the patterns of disease change with a shift to more lifestyle related diseases such as heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes, obesity, mental health and even some cancers.

Yes there are genetics and family history as well as other factors we may not be able to control, but evidence and trends are showing us that our lifestyle habits hugely inform and influence our health outcomes later down the line, hence “the long game” approach.

This is not to guilt trip anyone, we all have areas of our health that we can work on and this is my message to you, not just for this year but for the rest of your life.

Health is the biggest asset you have but the one you probably think the least about and I do feel we have got it a bit upside down in our culture.

So whether this year you want to get fitter, lose weight, cut down your drinking, stop smoking, improve your mental wellbeing, get rid of emotional baggage – whatever you want to work on, start now!

One small change every 30 days will put you into a positive feedback cycle – you owe this to yourself and you deserve it.

I see patients when they have developed lifestyle related diseases and we try to work backwards to reverse some unhealthy habits to improve the outcomes.

I say, why wait until it happens when prevention is always better than cure?