Making and keeping New Year's resolutions – advice from the experts

New Year’s resolutions can be a great motivator for healthier life style choices. But if we’re not careful, they can leave us feeling frustrated and like we’ve failed just as the year is beginning.

Health and care experts from across Morecambe Bay have given advice on making, and keeping, New Year’s resolutions to help the public start 2018 as they mean to go on.

Top tips for making resolutions work:

  1. Be realistic – set specific goals and aim to change one small thing at a time.
  2. Get support – talk to friends and family about your plans and how they can help.
  3. Treat failure as a minor blip - learn from it and start again.

Resolution 1: improve your mental wellbeing

Dr Richard Thwaites, Clinical Director for First Step, Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“Often people focus goals around their physical health (reducing drinking, going to bed earlier, etc.) and whilst these are important and can help mental health, specifically making time for your mental wellbeing is important too. Improving your mental health can help you to cope better with the ups and downs of daily life.

“Try some simple steps like making regular time for the things you enjoy or learning a new skill. Address any unhelpful habits you’ve fallen into - such as spending hours on social media, buying things online or not making an effort to do the things you enjoy. Try and work out what is important to you and helps you to feel good about yourself - e.g. friends, families, hobbies - and devote time to these.

“If you’re struggling to cope, make it your goal to get support – there’s lots of help out there and you don’t have to go it alone.”

Mental health advice and support is available through a variety of websites, find out more at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/

If you feel you need support you are able to self-refer to First step or through your own GP.

Resolution 2: stop smoking

Colin Cox, Cumbria County Council’s Director of Public Health, said:

“We hope as many smokers as possible will see the new year as the perfect opportunity to quit. Every cigarette a person smokes causes real harm and quitting smoking or switching to e-cigarettes is healthier for you and your family.

“E-cigarettes are particularly effective when combined with support from pharmacies and people who choose this route have some of the highest quitting success rates. It doesn’t matter if you have tried before and it didn’t quite work out, you can access support as many times as you need. Make 2018 the year you became smoke free."

Further support: www.cumbria.gov.uk/healthandwellbeing/stopsmoking.asp  

Resolution 3: exercise more

Exercise is the miracle cure we’ve always had, but for too long we’ve neglected to take our recommended dose.  Whatever your age, there's strong scientific evidence that being physically active can help you lead a healthier and even happier life.

People who do regular activity have a lower risk of many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and some cancers.

Research shows that physical activity can also boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing your risk of stress, depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Health experts say that if exercise were a pill, it would be one of the most cost-effective drugs ever invented.

Helen McGahon, Head of Physiotherapy at North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust explains that in Cumbria promoting exercise among older people is particularly important:

“In Cumbria almost 20% of the population are over 65 years old and only a small percentage of these are meeting recommended targets for physical activity.  Muscle strengthening in particular could help to prevent falls among older people, responsible for an estimated 95% of all hip fractures.

“The good news is most exercises to help anyone improve their balance don’t require a gym or even leaving the house. Standing on one foot, walking heel to toe, back leg raises and side leg raises can all help to improve balance and lower body strength.

“There are plenty of opportunities for people who want to improve their fitness levels such as walking groups or swimming sessions.  Exercising with others can be fun.”

The NHS website has lots of advice on exercise and fitness, whatever your age or ability: www.nhs.uk/livewell/fitness

Beat the blues in January and join the RED (Run Every Day) challenge in partnership with Mind - the aim is to get active every day: http://www.runeverydayjanuary.com

Resolution 4: take up volunteering

Volunteering can be a great way to make a difference, meet new people, boost your confidence and learn new skills. Sue Purdie explains her role as a volunteer at Penrith Day Hospice:

Why did you want to become a volunteer at the Penrith Day Hospice?

I took early retirement in 2009, a decision made after the deaths of three close family members who all died from cancer. I had enjoyed a long and fulfilling career and decided I wanted to offer some of my free time to volunteering and felt drawn to a service offering palliative care. Whilst volunteering in fundraising, I heard about the Penrith Day Hospice and it captured my interest.  I made contact with Sheena Reid, Day Hospice Manager and after following the necessary processes, I had the pleasure of joining the day hospice team.

What does your role involve?

My role is to support the clinical team and other volunteers. I help prepare the day hospice rooms for whatever activities are happening that day. The activities are varied and include armchair yoga, singing, arts, crafts, poetry and reminiscence. We also have wonderful themed days – A ‘James Bond Day’, complete with casino, ‘Desert Island Discs‘ and a ‘Fashion Day‘.

Meeting and greeting patients is so wonderful and spending time with them throughout the day is a true privilege. Lunchtime is a particularly lovely time for patients to sit together with clinical staff and volunteers to enjoy conversation over a two course meal. There is lots of good humour and not too much haste in leaving the table.  At the end of the day we tidy up and meet with the clinical team to feedback.

What are the benefits for the patients?

The Day Hospice is a welcoming, safe, friendly, trusted environment and happy place for patients and their families. For new patients, there can be a gentle introduction to the service to see how the day unfolds. Patients value building relationships with one another and always have a choice of whether they want to take part. Those who need some rest can settle in a recliner or day bed in a quiet area. Carers are also supported at the day hospice but they can also have some respite time.

What advice would you give for anyone who is thinking about volunteering?

To fully understand the nature of the environment they work in. There are many different skills required and life experiences to be shared. You can be working with patients in groups or one to one, helping with activities, and assisting in the provision of refreshments and at meal times. I would say follow your instincts, you will never know until you do.

What is the best thing about volunteering?

For me it is hugely rewarding. You know the day hospice is making a difference by the feedback you receive. It is a true privilege for me to share time with beautiful people, in a place that is vibrant, joyful and a quiet sanctuary where patients can be present but don’t have to take part in activities if they don’t want to.

Sheena is so inspirational, and inspires others. Her vision of how Penrith Day Hospice should be a wonderful place to be is demonstrated every day in her leadership skills.

Find out more about volunteering opportunities: www.cumbriacvs.org.uk or www.lancastercvs.org.uk