Rule #1 of blogging on health on 1 January: talk about New Year’s Resolutions.
Public Health England got ahead of the game this year, releasing data last week – even before all the turkey leftovers had been consumed – pointing out that 87% of men and 79% of women aged 40 to 60 are either overweight or obese, exceed alcohol guidelines or are physically inactive. Accompanying this was the annual exhortation to do something about it.
If only behaviour change were easy! – but two-thirds of New Year’s Resolutions don’t even last to the end of January (according to a survey in 2015). Making a promise to ourselves – however well intentioned – can be spectacularly hard to keep when people are busy (as PHE put it in its press release) ‘with work, with families, with the daily grind’.
If we really want long-term change for all (and not just for those with exceptional willpower), the environment needs to foster making healthy choices – so that we all *just do* the healthy thing, rather than having to remind ourselves every 30 seconds to do only what is Good For Us.*
If everyone running the places where we live, learn, work and play made a conscious effort to Think Health, to build it into strategy and planning and make the ‘daily grind’ just slightly less unhealthy – that really would be a Resolution worth sticking with.
* If you’re interested in instinctive versus deliberative decisions, I thoroughly recommend Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow – the best of the books I’ve come across on the topic.