New helpful habits for the New Year

By Tougher Minds Head of Education, Andrew Foster.

How are your resolutions going?

Cutting sugar from one’s diet seems more popular than ever and a new app launched by Public Health England aims to help people do just that. Scan the barcode of a product in the supermarket and it will inform you how much sugar it contains, often with startling results.

Knowledge is powerful and helpful, but it only is part of the solution. The app will allow people to do identify those foods that they do not realise are actually causing the diet to be unhealthy. However, the next step is to resist the temptation to eat it anyway.

If we are to form new habits, we need to use the Tougher Minds S.W.A.P cycle: we can do this by making use of the Tougher Minds Performance Planner, which can be downloaded for free here. Once we are aware what foods to avoid, we need to deliberately design habits that will result in that actually taking place.

Not many people need an app to know that chocolates, sweets and biscuits have a high sugar content and yet already people will be finding they are breaking their promise to themselves to quit or cut down their consumption.

What is required is a specific plan regarding what they will do when their new year’s resolve is challenged. Drink a glass of water; write down a reaffirmation of why they don’t want to eat the biscuit; go for a brief, brisk walk. Different things will be more suitable for different individuals but having a positive alternative will be more successful.

Further to this, metacognition offers a means of changing the narrative in one’s mind when about to cave to cravings. Thoughts can be deliberately designed and brought to mind when required. This process is increasingly used in elite professional sport, high-performing businesses and of course by Tougher Minds.

I commented on Twitter earlier this week that successful habit formation is incredibly important: changes in diet, exercise, sleep and other health-related habits can have a huge impact on the quality and quantity of life we enjoy. And I see no better time in life than one’s school days for the knowledge, understanding and techniques required to be taught.

Government bodies are right to try to increase public awareness of what actions are and are not good for them. But these interventions would be more effective if there was greater understanding of how to get ourselves to follow through with our good intentions. I’m delighted to be working with Tougher Minds, helping ever more people develop their ability to overcome their inclinations and pursue their ambitions.

Let me know if you have a resolution, whether it is steadfast or wobbling, on Twitter at @AFosterTeach.

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