Swapping your old, unhealthy habits for brand new ones that nourish and nurture your body can sometimes seem like hard work.
To stop boredom or resentment creeping in, health psychology specialist Clare Moloney 1 recommends a ‘treat system’.
‘Making plans to treat yourself when you reach a goal, such as stopping smoking for a week or losing half a stone, is a way of celebrating your achievements,’ says Clare. ‘And if you can tie in the treat with your new healthy regime, such as meeting a friend for a nutritious lunch to mark losing some weight, or booking in for a massage if you walk a certain number of miles in a week, then as well as boosting your motivation, you’re improving your wellbeing and enjoying double benefits.’
Here’s some ideas for treating yourself AND boosting your wellbeing.
- Book in for a massage. Massage may reduce your body’s levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and may give you immune system a boost. 2
- Meet up with friends. Getting together with friends for a coffee in town, a light supper, a walk in the park –can reverse the negative impact of loneliness. Research suggests that chronic feelings of loneliness can lead to higher blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. 3
- Have a laugh. Whether you watch a funny clip on YouTube, relax on the sofa in front of a rom-com, or go to see a stand-up show in a comedy club, there’s convincing evidence to show that laughter has a number of benefits for your wellbeing. For instance, researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore have found that laughter is linked to the healthy function of blood vessels and may actually protect you from a heart attack. 4
- Have a small glass of wine. The antioxidant compound resveratrol, found in the skins of red grapes, has been shown to be a potent biological agent that may offer protection against cardiovascular disease. 5 Red wines and wines made in cooler climates provide more resveratrol than white. But don’t overdo it – remember that if you exceed the recommended daily intake of one to two units of alcohol a day, you’ll end up doing far more harm than good.
- Enjoy a square of dark chocolate. Chocolate may be laden with calories and fat, but ‘a little of what you fancy does you good’. Research has suggested that polyphenols found in dark chocolate boost the body’s production of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol – the ‘good’ cholesterol that protects against heart disease. 6
Create a treat timeline
Clare Moloney says that using treats as rewards works best if you plan ahead.
‘At first, you need lots of little treats to keep you going, but once your routine is established you can make more ambitious plans,’ she says. ‘This helps to break up what seems like an overwhelming task and keeps you motivated along the way.
’Set targets for yourself, and then plan treats for when you reach the target. For example:
Month 1: At the end of each week, plan a treat when you reach your target, such as going to the cinema or out for lunch.
Months 2 & 3: After each fortnight, give yourself a bigger treat, such as a spa day, golf day or new garden tools when you’ve stayed on track.
Month 4 onwards: Save for a family day out or a weekend away.
FIND OUT MORE:
Get more inspiration to make lifestyle changes here.
1Permission to Publish: Clare Moloney, Health psychology specialist, Atlantis Healthcare
2Rapaport et al. ‘A Preliminary Study of the Effects of a Single Session of Swedish Massage on Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal and Immune Function in Normal Individuals’. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2010; 100901121319046 DOI: 10.1089/acm.2009.0634
3Valtorta N et al.‘Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke: systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal observational studies’. Heart, 2016; heartjnl-2015-308790 DOI: 10.1136/heartjnl-2015-308790
4Miller M, Fry WF. The effect of mirthful laughter on the human cardiovascular system. Med Hypotheses. 2009;73(5):636-9
5Kanavi MR, Darjatmoko S, Wang S, et al. The sustained delivery of resveratrol or a defined grape powder inhibits new blood vessel formation in a mouse model of choroidal neovascularization. Molecules. 2014;19(11):17578-603.
6Mostofsky E, Levitan EB, Wolk A, Mittleman MA. Chocolate intake and incidence of heart failure: a population-based prospective study of middle-aged and elderly women. Circ Heart Fail. 2010;3(5):612-6.