Some practical tips on getting motivated to improve lifestyle and well-being

We all know that we ought to exercise and eat more fruit and vegetables. Some of us may also need to give up smoking or drink less alcohol.

But knowing we should and actually doing things are not the same. What we need is motivation to achieve the goals we have set ourselves.

Dr Loren Mowszowski of Sydney University School of Psychology has five tips for achieving goals.

She says: Set SMART goals. That is an acronym for goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely.

“Set two types of goal – one short term that you can achieve quickly. This will give you encouragement to carry on. Also set longer term goals that will take you six months or more to achieve,” she said.

“Try to build new habits that you want to adopt into a pre-existing routine.”

For example walking further when you do the shopping or adding a salad or more vegetables to your lunch.

“Enlist help from your family and friends to give you encouragement to keep on striving to reach the goal you have set. If you want to walk more, try finding a walking partner so you have someone you are accountable to.

“Remember to measure and track your progress and use this to revise your goals so that they remain realistic,” she said.

Dr Elissa Burton of Curtin University says motivation depends on the person. Everyone is different.

“My mum hates devices while my dad loves them. He keeps track of his movements using his fitbit. He loves finding out how many steps he’s done today.

“The first thing with older people is to find out what they like doing – stuff they enjoy on a regular basis.

“My mum loves swimming and gardening. I encourage her to garden as much as she can, but when she is weeding I want her to get down on her knees. Getting up and down is excellent exercise for older people

“The guidelines for older people are 30 minutes per day of moderate intensity exercise, such as walking, swimming or cycling. You should puff a little.

“Also seniors need strength and balance exercises twice a week. There are lots of good local programs such as Living Longer Living Stronger or Tai Chi.

“Find something local and easy to get to, also someone to exercise with. Use a partner or your kids to provide extra motivation. Even a dog has been shown to provide extra motivation and if you like dogs the Shenton Park Dogs Home is always looking for volunteers,” she said.

Professor Martin Hagger of Curtin University says mental imagery can be used to provide motivation.

“Mental imagery is visualising the desired action – what you are going to do and the goal you want to achieve in real time.

“Visualise the steps necessary to get into a situation. For example rehearse getting ready for exercise and visualise the exercises you are going to do.”

“Mental images are relatively brief and self administered. The more detailed the instructions the greater the effect.

“They are most effective when they include a follow up imagery component such as text messages or maintaining a diary,” he said.

Most research points to working with other people to get motivated. Join a walking or exercise group, especially one where someone will ring up to check that you are all right if you don’t turn up.

You can also think of ways to add more vegetables to your diet with a partner or friend.

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Frank Smith was trained as an agricultural scientist in the UK, moving to WA in 1974 and shortly afterwards began lecturing at WAIT (now Curtin University) in soils and agronomy. In 1979 he joined the Agriculture Protection Board in charge of publications and media relations, studying part time for a degree in Journalism. In 1992 he spent a year as a visiting professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Later he ran a small publication company with his wife Mary-Helen. He then began freelance writing, editing and book indexing. He has written articles for more than 40 magazines in four continents and indexed more than 20 books. In 2007 he started writing for Have a Go News and gradually reduced his writing for other publications. He later took over the subediting, ensuring Have a Go News is consistent in style and highly readable. He and Mary-Helen live in a passive solar home in the Perth Hills with a varying collection of quendas and native birds.