Creating healthy habits helps with general wellbeing, mental health and will, most importantly, help to ease the symptoms of your condition. It’s hard to change many habits at once, so set small goals and build up from there. It might take you up to 3 months to create a new habit. Making the change part of your regular routine will assist greatly.
Ways to create good habits
1.Use events in your day to trigger a good habit
Such as when you wake up, after/before a meal or before bedtime.
2.Keep a diary or a wall planner
This will help you stay on track and give yourself a tick when it’s done!
3.Enlist a friend
Your family and friends can also be a great support and can help to keep you motivated. If you and a friend or partner both want to break an unwanted habit, try to do it together. Making changes on your own can be tough, but they might be easier to deal with when facing them with someone else. Make it a point to cheer each other’s successes and encourage each other through setbacks.
4.Leave yourself reminders
Using stickers, sticky notes, or other visual reminders wherever the habit behaviour happens can help you rethink the action when something triggers you.
Here are a few ideas:
- Want to break the habit of eating between meals? Try leaving small stickers on your refrigerator.
- Want to move more? Leave a note on your front door to perhaps walk up and down the street (or do a few laps of your driveway!) before you get in the car to go somewhere.
- Set up reminders on your smart phone with alerts – if you are not sure how to do it get a family member or friend to help you. There are also apps available that help with goal setting and new habits.
5.Start small & reward yourself
Aim to change one habit at a time and take your time. Addressing habits in steps can also help, even if these steps seem too small or easily manageable in the beginning. Reward yourself when you succeed in making change. Buy yourself a gift, plan an outing or plan something else that you enjoy.
Ways to avoid bad habits
6.Make a note of what triggers a bad habit
If you are trying to eat less unhealthy food, think about when and where you eat it. Watching TV? Find something else to do at the same time, have a cup of tea or pre-prepare healthier snacks – carrot sticks, home-made popcorn etc.
7.Avoid the trigger if you can
As an example, if you buy a soft drink at work from a vending machine, see if you can avoid the machine or buy a healthier option instead. If you use the lift or escalator, try taking the stairs.
8.Replace the habit with a different one
You might have an easier time breaking a habit if you replace the unwanted behaviour with a new behaviour, instead of simply trying to stop the unwanted behaviour. Say you want to stop reaching for the biscuits when you’re hungry. If you simply try to avoid it, you might fall back into the habit when you can’t resist hunger. But having an alternative option such as of dried fruit & nuts or carrots & celery gives you another healthier snack option.
Good habits to help with your condition
9.Improve your Diet
Healthy, delicious food is great for your whole body, including your joints. Go for plenty of whole grains, vegetables, fruit, fish, and other types of lean protein. Limit sugar and saturated fat, and avoid any foods that seem to worsen your joint problems. If you can, cook simple healthy meals and avoid take-away. If you need help to improve your diet, you can see an accredited dietitian, search for one near you here.
Read our BLOG post Anti-Inflammatory food made easy to help you get started.
Exercise helps your joints move well, and it strengthens the muscles around them. If you need to lose weight, exercise will also help with your results. As you lose weight, it will ease the stress on your joints. You’ll want to work on aerobic exercise (cardio) if possible, strength training, and flexibility. A physical therapist or a trainer with experience with arthritis can make a workout plan and show you what to do.
Also see our Exercise of the Month BLOG posts, which are a great way to get started. Scroll through them on this link.
11.Try Physical Therapy
Even a few sessions can make a difference. A physical therapist (Physiotherapist, Exercise Physiologist or Occupational Therapist) can teach you safe exercises to make you stronger so you can move better. If you’re having problems getting around or doing simple tasks, ask your therapist about tools and devices that can help. Ask your doctor to provide some options for you.
Your friends, family or employer may not realise what you’re going through, especially if you look healthy. It’s OK to share when you’re having a bad day and could use a chat or some support. As you ask for what you need, they’ll learn about your condition and what you are going through. Other resources you can also use:
Healthdirect Australia: 1800 022 222
Carers Australia: 1800 242 636
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Kids Help Line: 1800 55 1800
Though you need to be active, make time for rest, too. Arthritis can often make you feel fatigued on a daily basis. Don’t try to do more than you can handle. Take breaks when you need to. Get at least 8 hours of sleep at night, plus a nap during the day if you feel drained.
For more info, see our BLOG post on Good Sleep Habits here.
14.Try to Better Manage your Pain
Pain can affect all facets of your life. Finding ways to better manage it may also help with you the other habits you want to change. Visit our BLOG posts below to get more detailed information.
15.Give your Doctor Feedback
Talk with your doctor(s) to set up your ideal treatment plan. Medicine is a big part of it, but don’t forget all the other things that can help you feel better and protect your joints, too. For example, your doctor might suggest or you could ask your doctor about physical therapy, stress management or talking to a dietician.
You and your doctor are a team. It helps them to know how you’re really doing, so be open. If you notice side effects or don’t get the results you hope for, let them know.
For information about Working with your health team, click here.
16.Use our online resources
Arthritis NSW has a wealth of information on our website, visit here.
An example is our online booklet, 10 Steps for Living Well with Arthritis.
17.Join an ANSW Exercise Class
Our health services team develops and delivers exercise programs tailored to the needs of people living with arthritis. Learn more here or call us on 02 9857 3300.
18.Become an Arthritis NSW member & join a Support Group
Becoming a member of is one of the best ways to engage with our organisation. It provides you with a number of unique member-only benefits which will keep you informed and potentially save you considerable money, such as free delivery of our magazine Arthritis Matters, attractive discounts on all health education programs, services and kids camps, subscription to our free monthly eNews, being part of an understanding and supportive community and access to joining one of our Support Groups (where available). Learn more here.
19.Don’t give up
Remember, don’t get overwhelmed. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Be organised, give yourself time and take small steps. If you slip back into your old habits, don’t give up – tomorrow is a new day! You’ll feel better and proud of yourself when you start to see your habits changing.
If you need some help on how to make change, you can call our Arthritis Infoline number on 1800 011 041, Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm.
Arthritis NSW – we’re here to help
We’re here to help whenever you need us. We have a variety of options available for support and information.
- For more BLOG articles about managing your arthritis, please visit our News page here.
- Sign up to eNews to get information and advice on managing your condition
- Call our free helpline on 1800 011 041 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)
- Join our online community: Follow us on Facebook or Instagram
- Subscribe to our magazine, more info here
- Become a member, more info here